In this series, I’m going to break down the five most important parts to setting up a quality brooder for chicks.
The brooder, heat supply, bedding material, food/water containers, and all the extras. With so many great options out in the stores today it can feel pretty overwhelming picking out the supplies needed to create a good working brooder. Farm stores are lined with amazing products that all serve a purpose. The first thing to keep in mind is your budget. Even with limited funds, a quality brooder can be designed. Have a higher budget? Let the fun begin with the latest technologies in chicken brooders. So, let’s get at it, time to pick the brooder.
The choice in brooders is only limited by the imagination and creativity used. I’ve seen so many amazing ideas over the years. I’ve tried out a dozen or more brooders in the last five years. Trying to accomplish both ease of care and comfortability for the chicks, remember the chicks will live in their brooder for around six weeks.
The tote was my debut brooder. The tote was extremely easy to keep clean. The lid was easily retrofitted by cutting large areas out and attaching screen over the cutouts. The screen allowed for easy viewing while keeping the chicks from jumping or flying out as they became larger. The major downfall was the chicks scratched and kicked the bedding allowing the plastic bottom to be uncovered. The plastic was rather slick for the chicks to walk upon, the spilling of water from the drinkers exacerbated the effect. We had a few chicks that acquired splayed legs do to the slick conditions. Average price range ten to thirty dollars depending on size and brand.
A box is a great cost-efficient option. During the fall, many grocery stores toss out their pumpkin display boxes. These boxes work great! Appliance boxes are another option, if you ask appliance dealers they will normally give them to you free. There easily retrofitted into great disposable brooders. If you are short like me the tall sides make it a little harder for clean outs. The tall sides also make it harder to grab and coddle the chicks. On the other hand, it makes it more difficult for children to annoy the chicks as well. The best part when the brooder season is over you can simply throw away or burn the box.
These are amongst my favorite brooders. Commonly found at yard sales and second-hand stores for a small cost. Most of the ones I’ve picked up have been under ten dollars. If you can find the ones that have the built-in bassinet option they work best. Easily cleaned and to store in the offseason. The mesh sides allow for amazing viewing and if you’re lucky enough to find one with the bassinet feature or mosquito net it keeps the chicks from flying out. Heat lights easily attach to the sides allowing for an easy heating option. On the other hand, if chicks are going to be kept in a drafty or unheated area the mesh sides make it a bad choice.
You can also use animal or children outside foldable play enclosures. I use these both for brooding and introducing the chicks to outside as they become closer to coop age. They get the chance to scratch for bugs and eat in the grass which they love.
Rubber Livestock Tanks
Livestock Tanks are another of my personal favorites. Once again easy to clean and maintain without the extreme slipperiness of the plastic tote bottom. The rubber has a rougher feel to it giving it grip for the chicks. As the chicks become larger a piece of screen or top of some sort will be needed to keep the chicks from flying out. A safe estimate is anywhere between forty and hundred dollars depending on size and condition. You can also use metal livestock tanks just watch the slippery bottoms. I have found if you put no-slip cabinet sheets and place them on the bottoms of the brooders it takes away the slip and fall aspect. You can buy the rubber backed slip sheets in rolls at the dollar stores pretty cheap.
They work great as long as kept in a heated area. Make sure to place no slip matting down on the bottom to protect those little chick legs. Also, a critter lid for the top is a great option, works great to keep the chicks in. The metal critter lids can take the direct heat from a heat lamp as well. The view could not be better! It becomes true Peep TV. This is a great option for teachers who are placing them in a classroom. Be ready to clean the glass on a consistent base little fingers must touch. Readily available for free or low cost through friends, family, or yard sales. Average cost depends if acquired new or used, free all the way up to a couple hundred dollars if purchased new and fancy.
When picking your brooder, be creative and stay within your budget. Keeping chickens can become extremely expensive if you let it. Do your best not to allow all the bells and whistles to break the bank. Remember it’s only being used for about six weeks, therefore, save the extra money for the coop. In part 2, I will be discussing the most popular heating options for brooders. Want to know where brooders can become so expensive? Just wait to see the heater choices. Part 2, will be out in just a few days.