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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Easy DIY Chick Brooder Box Tutorial


I have tried brooding chicks in lots of things - plastic kiddie pools (they quickly learn to fly out) galvanized tubs (snakes can get in, don't ask!), cardboard boxes (they get wet and I worry about the fire hazard from the heat lamp) and finally settled on making my own brooder box out of a plastic storage tote. It's quick and easy to make, inexpensive, durable, 100% safe, easy to clean and reusable.  Here's how to make one:


What you'll need:

Large covered opaque plastic storage tote (buy the largest you can find at Lowes, Walmart, etc)
Furring strip or other thin wooden board (approximately 8 feet long)
Piece of 1/2" hardware cloth
8 Nuts and bolts
Jigsaw
Cordless drill
Box Cutter
Pliers
Screw Driver
Wire Cutters
Dowel
Small nails and screws

What to do:

Cut a window in the lid of the tote, leaving a frame of about 2" all the way around with the box cutter. I drew the outline using a Sharpie and then scored the plastic first with the box cutter before trying to cut all the way through (don't worry, it doesn't have to be perfect). Using the wire cutters, trim the hardware cloth to a size about 1" larger than the window you just cut.
  

Using the jigsaw, cut four pieces of the furring strip to form a frame the same size at the hardware cloth, then pre-drill a hole in either end of each strip.  


Sandwich the hardware cloth in between the tote cover and furring strips and then thread a bolt through each hole and secure with a nut using the screwdriver and pliers.  Here's what your lid should look like on the underside:


And from the top, your lid will look like this:




Cut the dowel to make some miniature roosts (use small nails to attach the legs) and use small screws drilled through the side of the tote into the ends of each dowel to secure them in place.


Newspaper can be too slippery for little feet and can cause spraddle leg, so I use several layers of newsprint covered with a sheet of rubber shelf liner for a non-slip surface of the brooder.  The shelf liner is easy to remove, rinse off and reuse.

Your chicks will need chick-sized feeders and waterers.  Placing small stones or marbles in the waterer will ensure no unfortunate drownings. A small dish of chick-sized grit is necessary to help the chicks grind up and digest any food you feed them other than chick starter feed.  Feed and water should be offered 24/7 for at least the first few weeks so the chicks can eat and drink as necessary. Treats such as cut grass, weeds or soft scrambled eggs or oatmeal can be introduced slowly.


A heat lamp (preferably with a red bulb) or Brinsea Eco Glow is needed to keep the brooder a toasty 95 degrees the first week and then 5 degrees cooler each subsequent week until the chicks are feathered out and the temperature is around 70 degrees, at which point they can be moved outside (if it's warm enough) or you can remove the heat and keep them in the house or garage for a bit longer if you live in a colder climate.
 ~Use the coupon code FRESH for 10% off any purchase at www.Brinsea.com~

Pine shavings or chips can be added to the floor of the brooder after the first several days once the chicks figure out what is food and what isn't (never use cedar shavings, which can be toxic).  You can also use shredded paper, or shredded newsprint, straw or dry hat. 

While you might have read it's okay and might be tempted because it seems easy, DO NOT use sand in your brooder. The chicks will eat it which can seriously deprive them of nutrients if they fill up on the sand and don't eat enough of their feed. Even worse, it can become sodden and stuck in their crops causing impacted crop which can kill them.  When they poop in sand, the sand will 'bread' the poop and there's a good chance they'll eat that also which can be extremely detrimental to their health.



Your chicks will love their brooder. Placed in a quiet part of the house - we usually use our laundry room or guest bathroom - the chicks are safe from our curious cat and playful puppy.  The opaque sides allow them to peer through the tote to get used to the big world outside their sanctuary.
  

I think the older hens somehow know what it means when the brooder comes out of the barn and gets dusted off!
~"Uh-oh.....looks like more little ones will be here soon!"`
The tote works for a handful of chicks best, any more and you might need to build them a duplex.  To make the duplex, I merely cut a hole in the side of each of two totes and then connected them using a 'chunnel', a tunnel I made by cutting the top and bottom off a clear plastic container and then putting slit rubber tubing over the rough edges once I had pushed the container through the hole in each tote.  I had a heat lamp set up over one tote and the Brinsea Eco-Glow in the other so the chicks were warm not matter which tote they were in.



For more on successfully brooding and raising chicks, as well as more photos of the brooder box set-up read HERE.

Join us on Facebook at Fresh Eggs Daily for more tips, tricks and cute photos!

Great References for Raising Chicks:



I don't know how it is in your household, but in ours, I'm the one who builds stuff - most likely because I'm too impatient to wait for my husband to get home from work and explain or draw out what I want built (but that's a whole 'nother story).  I have my own set of tools even. You don't need many, in fact I have built two chicken coops and a duck house using only a cordless drill, hammer, staple gun, jigsaw and circular saw.

Some suggestions for your toolbox
After your initial investment, the money you save building things yourself will pay for these tools in no time!

   

And if you want to go really 'girly'
(I'm actually kind of digging that pink drill - you can bet my husband would NEVER borrow it!)





104 comments:

  1. I just updated my blog over at Homegrown on the Hill about raising our chIcks last year and making a brooder box. We made ours out of rubbermaId tote too! Do you mind if I link this post over to my blog?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mary. Not at all. Please feel free to share and link. We get loads of questions about making these and this post was long over due! I am going to add a few more photos but was waiting for it to get light out so I can root through our tack room for a few more things. I'll check out your blog as well. Thanks ! Lisa

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    2. Thanks so much!! I'll be posting about it tonight! Yes, please do check out my blog. I just started it this year and it's just my story of how we raise our animals and gardening, canning, and freezing. Thanks again!

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  2. This is a great idea! Thanks for sharing it, we're not expecting chicks for a couple of months yet, but this is what they'll start out in this year :)

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  3. Great post indeed. I was wondering if you had pictures on how you hang or place the heat lamp, and if you might have had a couple more pictures of the inside where the food and water is...or does that even matter.

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    Replies
    1. Yes there are a bunch more photos on the Raising Chicks link at the bottom. I clamp the heat lamp to a rake handle and then wedge it in place with my husband's weights. I usually keep the feed and water at the opposite side than the heat.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Thc for the detailed directions! Sip do u just put your juvenile chicks out in gather yard with the others or keep them separate?

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    Replies
    1. Oh good point...no they stay separated in the run so everyone can gradually get used to each other. Here's how I do it: http://fresh-eggs-daily.blogspot.com/2012/04/adding-to-established-flock-pullet.html

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  6. My brooder is out of an extra large plastic storage tote, too. However, I use the lid that comes with the tote - cut about 4 inches along the inside the edge of the lid to remove the center. Then hot glue plastic screening over the opening. Works beautifully. When the chicks outgrow the tote, I move them to the permanent brooder/pen out in the coop. I use pine shavings in the bottom - and cover the pine shavings with a few sheets of paper towels for the first few days.

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  7. Thanks for the great post. That last image of the box in with the hens leaves me eager for the next chapter! What happens next?

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  8. Thanks for the great post. That last image of the box in with the hens leaves me eager for the next chapter! What happens next?

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  9. LOVE this idea! I will do this the next time I get babies!!! Thank You, Melody

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  10. This is FANTASTIC! I went to bed last night thinking to myself.."what will I put the chicks in?" Thank you for the wonderful idea and instructions! Now if the city will just publish the new chicken ordinance, I can get started this weekend on the coop and order those chicks!

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  11. We have used a tote like this also. You can buy a plastic rat wire from the hardware store that works well in the bottom also or even use that white plastic needlework canvas. All are plastic and washable.

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  12. We used the taller rubber tote and left the top open because the two ducks were under my computer desk. The waffle weave shelf liner with newspaper underneath is really good for ducklings who are so messy. When it was time to move them to their own fenced in area, the tote was transformed into their nightime coop. Now they have wintered on the pond. If you've never had ducks, try it...you will fall in love.

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  13. That's so funny raising chicks this past summer for the 1st time since being a kid I remembered my parents using cardboard boxes back then though so thank goodness for the invention of the plastic tub because we made the same thing! Worked wonders:)

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  14. I like the brooder box and we have a similar setup. However, I am a little nervous about putting a heat lamp in or near this set-up. I have moved over to using a brinsea brooder. Do the math: 20W (max) for the brinsea versus 250 watt for a heat lamp. The brinsea will pay for itself in a few months of use. The Brinsea brooder will seem priceless if the heat lamp shifts position and starts a fire. I admit I still use the heat lamp out in my larger barn brooder for my somewhat older chicks. However, I now have it hanging right out side the brooder aimed in the brooder's direction. If it shifts or falls, it hits the barn's concrete floor and there are no flammable materials anywhere near the fall zone.

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    Replies
    1. Interesting comment because I feel safe using the heat lamp in the house since we're here, have fire alarms, etc. but would never use one in our barn since I feel it would be 'unsupervised'. But you're right on a concrete floor no harm would be done were it to fall...but you might end up with a brooder full of dead chicks if it falls or the bulb burns out.

      My greatest worry with the heat lamps is the bulb burning out in the middle of the night and the chicks being too cold! I agree tho for many reasons the EcoGlow is a win-win.

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    2. Well, they did not go to the barn brooder until they had a layer of feathers (4 weeks) and the barn temp does not go below freezing so I think they could make it in a chicken pile until we got out there early in the morning. In fact based on how they bounce off the walls, they think it is time to go outside but I'm holding out for a warmer day.

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  15. That is a great design. I placed mine in my glass enclosed rarely used shower last year. They could see us coming and going and the cats could not jump into the shower. Worked perfectly. Yeah for chicks!

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    Replies
    1. Oh I love that idea! I would totally do that if we had doors instead of a curtain! Thanks for sharing that. So creative!

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  16. This is great! Nearly the same method we used two years ago when we raised our four hens. I won't be able to raise another batch of chicks until we move and have more space, but it sure was fun!
    http://justawhimsicalworld.blogspot.com/2011/05/creating-brooder-box.html

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  17. We did this also. It works beautifully.

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  18. How many chicks can you fit in there? I'm getting my first batch of 6 chicks at the end of March. Will that setup be large enough to hold them until they can go into their coop/run? Thanks!

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    1. Six should be okay, depending on where you live and how quickly it gets warm. I often am able to get mine outside during the day on nice days and then back into the brooder at night when its cooler. Another thing you can do is put them in a dog crate as an interim step once they grow out of this and are big enough they can't slip through the grate.

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  19. Wow! This is a great idea and I really like it! Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  20. We made one a few years ago out of a plastic tub also, it works great with a heat lamp. We usually have at least 25 chicks, so used a longer plastic tub. I love the little roosts, what a great idea. Will have to add that to our brooder. I love reading your blog, it's so interesting. Keep up the good work.

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  21. How many chicks do you brood in there - and how long can they stay in there? Would 15 be too many?

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    Replies
    1. I had 18 chicks last spring and ended up splitting them into two totes and then making a 'chunnel' for them to go back and forth. You have to use your judgment and move them into something larger, like maybe a dog crate once they start to grow.

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  22. I LOVE this! Creative and practical..not sure if it would work for 100 birds though?

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  23. I LOVE this! I especially love the little teeny tiny roosts!!

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  24. Thanks for posting Lisa. This is exactly what I need for our Ameraucanas we are driving 5 hours to get from a private breeder. This is our first time at this and your blog has been so informative. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  25. after your done brooding ... re-purpose this container, at least temporarily. this design would work great for transporting one or two pullets/hens, etc to and from show/sale. I typically use pet carriers ... but this would be great as well, especially when it's available and not in use.

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  26. We used a similar set up but my husband cut out the bottom of the tote and replaced it with hardware cloth, so clean up was really easy. He then set the tote over a large bin of pine shavings so the poop could fall through, and every couple of days I would just stir the shavings to move a clean layer to the top. When we had the chicks out in the yard in their play pen we could hose the whole tote out and it stayed very clean and odor free, and kept their floor cleaner in between. Worked great!

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  27. What a great explanation of how to make a brooder. I'm not sure if we'll get this fancy, but I am looking forward to getting chicks soon! (Trying to put it off longer so we don't have to have in the house so long, but getting excited.)

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  28. Wow! This is really creative. I love the duplex and I bet your chicks do too. :) Thanks for sharing it on Wildcrafting Wednesday. :)

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  29. Lisa -
    I love the way that brooder turned out! Great idea and thanks for sharing! I currently have (a few too many) chicks in a similar setup... but I couldn't find the lid and just have some ugly bent welded-wire over the top - LOL. Yours looks much better. I should get out to the storage barn and find the original top and fix it up properly. Also - love the perches!!! So cute and I know the chicks love having things to perch on!

    Great post!
    Leigh
    Natural Chicken Keeping

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  30. Great idea! I am using a wooden brooder that I built a few years ago. I picked up 6 chicks on Sat and due to the cold weather we had over the weekend here in Florida, the chicks are in the brooder in the guest bathroom tub. Hopefully this weekend I can move them to the screened-in porch with a heat light.
    Thanks for your great articles.
    John
    Oviedo, FL

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  31. I built my brooder out of a plastic tub too, but I like yours MUCH better--especially the tiny roosts! My girls quickly got big enough to hop on top of the water dispenser and hop out! We ended up putting cookie cooling racks over the top for a while!

    Thanks so much for sharing this at Farm Girl Blog Fest #21!
    ~Kristi@Let This Mind Be in You

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    1. Cookie racks are a good idea. We just have a nosy puppy who likes to investigate so the 'locking' lid really works well.

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  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. ^ Mom was trying to let you know that she loves this too :)

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  33. love this idea!! never would have thought to use a container. I an hoping to get four new hens in the spring.

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  34. My boys and I made one of these a few years back before we purchased chicks to start our flock. They are so easy and cheap to make. Since we've used it for bunnies & ducklings.Blessings! Lara

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  35. Your brooder is great! We have used galvanized tubs (tall ones) and 33 gallon containers (all our chicks brood inside the mudroom... so no fear of snakes and such..) But this one with the screen lid is perfect! Thanks for sharing this with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Hope to see you again today! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/bunnys-bento-box-eco-kids-tuesday.html

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  36. Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop!!! Can't wait to see what you share this coming Thursday :) Here's the super easy link to the next hop!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-homeacre-hop-8.html

    If you haven't checked out Wildcrafing Wednesday yet, please do! :) It's a hop I co-host for herbal remedies, natural living, real food recipes, and self sufficient living. Here's the link for tomorrow's hop:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/wildcrafting-wednesday-10.html

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  37. This is awesome! If I had a chicken I would make one. :) I do need to share this with my friends son, I think he will like it.
    Hugs,
    Marcie @ I Gotta Try That

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    1. Yes please share! It's really easy to make and the chicks are nice and warm and safe in it.

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  38. Now that is just fantastic! I am book marking this post for sure!

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  39. How long does the brooder box work? I have two chicks in a brooder box I made using your directions. I'm not sure how long they'll be happy in there. We live in Wisconsin so I can't let them outside for quite a while.

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    1. Just two should be fine in there for awhile. Maybe when they get really big you could move them into larger cardboard box or something for the daytime and then they can sleep in the covered brooder where its safer? I know someone who puts their chicks in their shower during the day - they have a frosted glass door on it! I thought that was a great safe place for them.

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  40. Thanks for the directions, by the way. :)

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  41. How many chicks would be comfortable in the single brooder? I'm getting 7 next week and was hoping that the single one would be fine.

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    1. 7 should be fine in one.I had 16 in two connected last spring and they were okay in there for a few weeks until I put them in the larger pen (like a rabbit hutch) in our garage.

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  42. I got six chicks two weeks ago at the co-op (five Silver Wyandottes and one who apparently is a Brown Leghorn) and built a brooder box following your instructions above--easy, and it worked great! The chicks are quite pleased with the Ecoglow heater, as am I. By this weekend, however, my 66qt box was just too crowded. So, today, we built a larger brooder from a 45-gallon tote box! The waterer and feeder are up on a half-height concrete block to keep the babies from scratching shavings into them, and the Ecoglow is sharing the other end of the box with a perch for the chicks to practice on. So much better than the dog crate I was contemplating having to move them into in this unseasonable cold! I'll save the smaller box for the next batch of babies. Thank you for your guidance!

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  46. The problem I'm having with my chicks is a constantly dirty waterer. I have a small one that's for chicks, but they scratch around and fill it with shavings, food, and poop almost as soon as I bring them fresh water.

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Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily
www.facebook.com/FreshEggsDaily