Every spring people across the country excitedly welcome the newest members of their home: baby chicks. This is an easy DIY chick brooder you can put together in just a few minutes.
If you are lucky enough to have your chicks be cared for by a mother hen then no need for a brooder, but usually they are separated from the general flock for protection. Otherwise, many people buy chicks from Tractor Supply or other breeders. We decided to buy the day old hatchlings from mypetchicken.com. We decided on 4 (the limit here in the city is 5 hens) Easter Eggers and welcomed them on April 4th!
To give them a good beginner home, I put together a homemade brooder to live in until they’re old enough to live outside. Here is how I did it.
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DIY Chick Brooder
I asked a friend for their large dog crate. This provided a sturdy frame and an over top cover in case a curious cat got into the room to keep my chicks safe. My house does not have a garage or basement so they had to live in an empty room in the back. I had tarp for other home improvement projects and put that underneath to control the bedding and dust issue a little bit
Zip tie cardboard around the inside. Like many people, I order things online plus (as you can see) I have boxes from diapers that are perfect for a barrier. I cut them up and zip tied them to the inside, prevent any drafts and keep the bedding and mess inside the cage. It is not full proof, some shavings do get out of the crevices, but only very little.
Lay down newspaper. The inside of the kennel has a plastic bottom with about an inch lip. I worried the chicks would slip on the plastic if they got past the shaving and I wanted another layer of absorption, so I put newspaper down.
Lay down pine shavings. Next I got pine shavings from Amazon and put about a 2 inch layer on the newspaper. This seemed to be plenty for the chicks, at least at first, and they did not move it much.
Put in heater. I made sure to get a radiating heat plate brooder heater for the chicks as I was warned in several ways against using the bulbs due to the risk of fire. I work sometimes long hours and did not want anything to happen while I was away.
Put in waterer and feeder. I got a kit from amazon that even included an enrichment ball for the chicks, though I have not used it yet. I purchased the food from Tractor Supply. Its easy to fill and both the feeder and waterer lock onto the base.
That’s it! Pretty simple. Be sure to check the heater and put it on the lowest rung (level 1) for the first week. I added supplemental heat (an oil room heater) for the first week as well because the house is old and drafty and there was a late cold snap.
As they have aged, I have added a bamboo piece for them to perch on as well as a block of wood to raise up the waterer and feeder. Finally, I added a peat moss dust bath, small container of chick grit and a few small pieces of kitchen scraps.
Total materials cost: $79.97 (not including food and bedding which are ongoing costs)
I counted the crate, newspaper, cardboard, zip ties and tarp as free since I already had them on hand or borrowed. I also have small cat crate for my cats and use that to put the chicks in when I clean the brooder. A large amount of that total is the heater because I did not go with a cheaper lamp.
Hope this helps! I have seen so many good set ups and mypetchicken.com has some good deals on a complete set up for you to purchase with your chicks. What has worked for you?