Brooding Our Little Flock

By GardeNerd · Jan 11, 2012 · ·
  1. GardeNerd
    Brooding Our Little Flock

    My family and I are backyard chicken keepers that can only have a few hens at time because we live in a big city with lots of restrictions on keeping poultry. We do not plan to be hatching chicks regularly, so we needed something cheap and easy. I looked around for anything that could be either recycled, re-purposed, or collapsible. There really aren't any construction photos of my brooder set ups, since it was mainly a matter of getting the things out of the garage. Set up instructions come with most dog crates.

    Stage 1 Stage 2
    The terrarium and fish tank brooders. The dog crate brooder

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Brooder temperature
    Our chicks started in a glass terrarium so there would not be as much fluctuation in the temp as the dog crate. We used a red light bulb with a reflector for heat in the terrarium to keep the temp around 95 degrees at first. We kept an old thermometer/ hygrometer on the floor to make sure the temp was correct at the chicks' level. Later, rather than always raising the bulb and reflector, we switched to the ceramic heat bulbs our tortoise had used. The two were rated for different temperatures. We reduced the temperature about 5 degrees each week or two, until they were ready to go outside.

    We did try a number of homemade waterers, but eventually I purchased two chick water bases. I used my own glass mason jars on top. We placed marbles in the basin for the first few weeks to prevent drowning. They had to be cleaned a few times a day. As the chicks got bigger, we propped the waterers up on a block.

    We tried substituting an old ice cube tray as feeder in one brooder. It worked okay, but needed frequent cleaning because the chicks would stand on it. Again, the store bought version was better in preventing this problem. I only purchased the bases of the round feeders and used my own mason jars. A mayonnaise jar could work too.

    We covered the bottom of the brooder with shavings and changed them as needed. Until the chicks figured out what was food, we covered it with paper towels. The paper towels were changed a couple of times of day due to the droppings. Also, since we were raising the chicks on non-medicated feed, cleanliness of the bedding was even more important. The bedding and chicks made a lot of dust, so a vacuum was also necessary pretty regularly in the room the chicks were in.


    Pictures of the coop our chickens are now in:

    Supplies we had on hand:
    • Fish Tank
    • Terrarium
    • 2 Reflectors (one from the tortoise, one from the work bench light)
    • 2 different wattage ceramic bulbs
    • Dog crate- fold up metal
    • wooden bar for roost
    • 2 extension cords

    Supplies purchased:
    • red brooder bulb
    • white brooder bulb
    • bedding- pine wood shavings
    • 2 chick waterers
    • 1 chick feeder - new
    • 1 chick feeder - vintage
    • paper towels
    • hardware cloth (used scraps from the coop project)
    • zip ties to hold on hardware cloth on dog crate lower sides
    • feed - organic starter grower crumbles (We ran it through a burr mixer while the chicks needed mash sized food.)

    Alterations to the crate

    • I added hardware cloth around the bottom of the dog crate to keep the cat from reaching in and to keep the chicks from squeezing out when they were still small enough. It was held on using zip ties. When we were done with the dog crate, I just snipped the ties to pack it away.
    • For the roost, I slid the old wooden curtain rod and a scrap of wood through the gaps and then secured it with wire so it would not move when the chicks hopped on top.

    Some things I would want to change when we do it again:
    • I don't recommend trying to use a terrarium for brooding for the whole 8 weeks. Even with just 6 chicks, they quickly out grow it. Our chicks were only in the terrarium for about two weeks, until the dog crate was utilized for the second phase. The dog crate would be sufficient.
    • Make it easier to clean the dog crate. The door is on one end by a wall so I would have to pull it out and sort of climb in.
    • Put a different material around the bottom to keep the shavings in, (but I liked seeing in.) The dog crate allowed shavings to spill out the sides when the chicks were big enough to scratch them out. The spillage can be seen in the photo below.


    Some things I really liked about our brooder

    • I liked that it was in the house on the floor of the bathroom. The kids could close the door to the room and open the brooder door. The chicks would come out on their own to play. Some chicks were shy and this worked better for them. It also kept the dust confined to one room, rather than everywhere.
    • I also liked that when we finished, the dog crate folded flat and went back the garage for next time. Nothing was wasted or disposed of in a landfill. It is not really taking up much space in our tiny house or our little city lot.


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Recent User Reviews

  1. ronott1
    "Nice Brooder!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 23, 2018
    Good article for small scale brooding
  2. Anonymous
    "Good article."
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Aug 17, 2018
    Good article with description & pics. My only concern would be how hot the tank got? Doesn’t seem to be enough room for the chicks to get out of the heat.
  3. Hope Hughes
    "Nice job on the article"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jul 28, 2018
    Everything was explained well. Why how and what you did or didnt like about it. This will help others when considering the same brooder set up.


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  1. Paws and Claws
    Love the dog crate idea! Thanks for sharing it! also the comments about the screen, fabric and newspapers! I feel like I have a head start now (having all of those supplies on hand!) and I will get started and start looking for my girls!
  2. Tadkins472
    This is exactly what i have to do when i get home, My 2 week old EE's are growing like crazy and now they have to be transfered.
  3. sck279
    Garage sales are a great place to find ALL these items for just pennies! Love the 'guard cat'...
  4. FlosRdChicks
    I think we over-simplified things at our house. We purchased a couple of very large/tall moving boxes for $2.50 each and put newspaper in the bottom and wood-shavings. When the box got dirty, we removed only the newspaper and shavings and the bottom of the box stayed clean. We have a small bathroom with a 2' long electric baseboard heater that we turned on only at night-time. They chicks never jumped out of the box at all, and they were cozy, and we gave them some exercise time outside with the kids to give them a change of scenery now and again. When the chicks out-grew one box, we put two side by side and cut a door between the two. I should post some photos. Keep it simple. The chicks don't know the difference and you can save yourself some time and money. Put the money into your feeders and coop instead. Just a thought!~
  5. new2chicks74
    can i put the chicks in the dog crate from the begining or do i have to use the aquariam too? thanks!!!
  6. new2chicks74
    cool i'll think about this brooder!!! :)
  7. sbriant
    how big was your dog crate brooder?
  8. allygb99
    i am gona buy eather a rabbit huth or a wire dog crate, i am thinkin more towards the wire dog crate!
  9. TabbyG
    we did the exact same thing with regards to the dog crate - my husband made a boarder around the bottom perimeter so that prevented SOME shavings from getting out. they sure are messy, daily vaccuming was a MUST! love how cute they are :)
  10. hiddenchickmama
    This is exactly what I was planning on using. Thanks for tips for keeping bedding in the kennel, should really help a lot. We're getting our chicks Saturday straight from the farm. We'll just have to keep them warm on the drive back.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences!
  11. Winyari
    I think I'm going to need to get a dog crate in a couple of weeks. This is such a great idea!
  12. kane0312
    awesome idea! im totally gonna use a dog crate!!!
  13. rosewood4
    I get my chicks in the mail tomorrow! I am using a dog kennel for the same purpose of it being able to fold down, and not having to spend to much money. iI have placed fabric around mine, so we will have to see how it works out at keeping the bedding in. I have placed a layer of newspaper down about four sheets thick and then covered that with shredded scratch paper from our paper shredder. Its free and it can go in the compost pile.
  14. Henpencker
    I used window screening on the outside of the crate it was still messy. So I moved it to the inside .....much better.
    Now if I could just keep the water and feeder clean of all of the shavings that they kick around....
  15. Henpencker
    I have 3 chicks that are a month old. They have feathered out and are too big for the bin i have them in. I have a dog crate downstairs. That is where they are going tonight or tomorrow. Thanks really great info
  16. abdeali mh
  17. tweetysvoice
    This is most excellent to see! I was planning on using our old dog crate (exactly like yours!) for the second stage of our chicks life and it's wonderful to see that it will work great! Good ideas on putting a bit extra around the bottom so the bedding doesn't make as much of a mess. We were going to use an old rat cage for the 1st stage, but I have an old 20 gallon long terrarium with the same screen setup and if that works, then it might be easier! Thanks for sharing!

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