Once you’ve determined that backyard chickens are right for you, the next step is to set up a brooder for baby chicks. A brooder is a little box or tub with just the right temperature for your baby chicks. It’s doesn’t have to be fancy at all. Your chicks won’t notice if it’s an old box or a metal tub that usually holds sports equipment like ours. It does need to have a cover for it. We don’t want any chicks escaping! Ours had a screen sitting directly on the top of the brooder until the chicks got to be too tall and we had to go with tall sides instead. When the chicks start to brush their heads against the top, you know it’s time to raise the ceiling a bit!
Our brooder is set up in our basement and I’m not happy about this location. The brooder is next to my laundry area where all of our clean clothes hang to dry. Chicks create a lot of dust – their downy feathers are flying and it’s super dusty. Dust with damp clothes? The clothes are a magnet for the dust storm I’m sure of it! That’s my warning. Our garage is too cold otherwise these chicks would be out there.
How to set up a brooder for chicks
- Tub or large cardboard box
- Red heat lamp bulb (250W) and light – make sure you get one with a metal guard on it so that bulb can’t come into contact with anything.
- Adjustable chain for light – we bought our chain used at the ReBuilding Center and they have lots of used items for assembling brooders and building coops.
- Water dispenser – you’ll want to figure out how to keep this from being knocked over. I used a piece of stretchy fabric and tied this onto the tub.
- Food bowl for chick feed – they’re growing babies and they eat – lots!
- Bedding – pine shavings and newspaper. These can be composted and you don’t need too much of either. Do not use cedar shavings which are poisonous for chickens.
- Screen – to go around tub or box and perhaps over the top. You won’t believe how quickly baby chicks will begin planning their chicken run!
- Roosting bar – stick or wood dowel for chicks to sit on. They love to roost.
Nice to have but not necessary is a thermometer – we have never used one of these but I mention it because you do need to keep chicks warm. You can tell if they’re warm or not by their behavior. Too cold – they’re huddled together directly beneath the light. Too hot – they’re as far away from the light as possible.
Are backyard chickens right for you?
Good and bad of backyard chickens – pros and cons
Fall in love with backyard chickens
A home exchange turned into us getting chickens – find out how here
How to hold baby chicks is here