2017 First Timer - Brooder Questions!

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Nicchick326, Jan 4, 2017.

  1. Nicchick326

    Nicchick326 New Egg

    Jan 4, 2017
    Hello everyone!! I'm pretty excited to be a part of this community, as my family & I are going to be first time chicken owners the beginning of April. We placed/reserved our order last night via Meyer Hatchery in Ohio and chose to go with Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, & Easter Eggers as we have children & want friendly, docile chickens that also tend to be good layers! We have close friends that have owned chickens for many years, who are helping my husband custom build our coop for when the time is right.

    That being said, could I get some pointers on the brooder? I am sure I will get varying opinions, but so far I have planned to use a large Tupperware box for their brooder. I really do NOT want to use anything cardboard. We will only have 6 chicks and the POTENTIAL brooder I found is 54gal size (42.5 x 21.5 x 19H) - do you all think this would be an appropriate size until able to move outdoors, or would we be looking at needing something even bigger after the first 2-3 weeks? We'd like to use something like shelf liner underneath pine shavings on the bottom, along with a heavy duty heat lamp/stand that my husband already owns! Do we NEED a rooster bar? Or when should this be implemented? We have ideas for easy construction within the brooder, but wasn't sure if it's necessary. Lastly, with feeder & waterer, are the basic "small" chick feeders sufficient until they move out to their coop, so long as we keep them filled at all times? Or will we also need to upgrade those at some point early on?

    Please be patient, I've done extensive research, but also find many varying things depending on the sites/area/person. I find myself coming back to this site most frequently, so I thought I'd just ask myself!!

    Thank you kindly!
  2. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC!!!

    Congratulations on your impending arrivals - you've chosen some lovely birds for a starter flock!
    Now, to your questions:

    That size, imo, will maybe take you to 2-3 weeks before your birds are becoming overcrowded and that can lead to a host of issues. You will have just barely 1 sq ft of space per bird in the tub and that is before you subtract space occupied by feed and water dispensers.

    That being said -- will the coop be built and ready to go when you get your chicks or within the first couple of weeks of their arrival? Is it going to be located so that electricity is available in the coop? I am asking because, as these will be the only birds you have at the time, you may want to consider brooding in the coop entirely or moving the birds into the coop at 2-3 weeks provided you can access electricity in order to provide supplemental heat until they have fully feathered (between 5-6 weeks give or take). Even with existing flocks, it is possible to brood in the coop if it is designed with that in mind.....plenty of folks prefer to go that route vs. brooding in the house.

    As to feeder/waterer -- the chick type will be fine provided you are able to keep them cleaned and filled. Those two things can be more easily accomplished (as can keeping the brooder clean and dry) by keeping them elevated off the floor of the brooder. Use small blocks (pavers, wood blocks, etc) to keep the rim of each at about chest level for the chicks, raising them as they grow. This will help to minimize the issue of bedding being kicked in and/or the chicks stepping in/pooping in the feed and water and can help to minimize feed waste.

    You don't have to have a roost bar - but chicks as young as a week or two will gladly use one if it is there -- if not for actual roosting, it makes a great distraction for them as something to play on and explore, which helps to reduce boredom related issues. I use one in my brooder, but if it isn't feasible you can introduce it when they move out to the coop.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    You’ve certainly come to the right spot if you want different opinions. We do this is so many different ways, indoors and outdoors all times of the year, and so many different things work that you can get all kinds of opinions, many of them conflicting. That’s one of the things that’s challenging about this site, if someone tells you that you absolutely have to do things a certain way, someone else will likely come on and say they do it differently and it works.

    Don’t put off building that coop too long, you’ll be surprised how fast they grow and you’ll need it. Life sometimes gets in the way of schedules.

    Knowing your location could help with some of this. In your case I’m mainly thinking about weather, how cold will it be when. Modifying your profile to show general location helps in many cases.

    Now for my opinion on your specific questions. For six chicks that size should be adequate for brooding inside in a climate controlled location but I’m wondering when you plan to move them outside? They do grow really fast. You may find you need something bigger somewhere around 5 to 6 weeks.

    I’m not sure why you want to use shelf liner, that Tupperware should cleanup pretty easily afterwards. You don’t want them on anything really slick, they can injure their legs, but the pine shavings should take care of that. Anyway, the shelf liner should work well.

    I use a heat lamp. Like any tool there are right ways and wrong ways to use them. One of the dangers of a heat lamp is that it can fall down and start fires or cause burns. I throw away the clamp that comes with it so I’m not tempted to use it and wire the lamp in place so it cannot fail. That’s risk #1.

    Risk #2 is that chicks can easily be cooked in something like that. You do not need to keep their entire universe some perfect temperature, they need a place that is warm enough so they can warm up if they need to while they also need to have a place cool enough. Too hot is as much a danger as too cold. Indoors with a steady temperature you can set that up so the lamp shines in one end, maybe just so part of the lamp shines in the brooder so all the heat doesn’t go inside. You can adjust the height of the bulb, the higher the bulb the cooler it is, but you may find a 125 watt or 75 watt bulb is plenty of heat. Lots of chicks are raised in brooders that size or smaller with heat lamps, it can be done, but I’m always a proponent of something bigger. That’s not because of some square inches per chick number but so they can get further away from the heat source if they need to.

    I’ve seen 2-week-old chicks fly several feet when broody hen told them to fly. You probably need a cover on that. I suggest some kind of wire mesh.

    I see you emphasized NEED so I think you understand. No they do not NEED a roost bar, lots of chicks are raised without them. If you put something even a couple of inches above the bedding they will play in it, but civilization as we know it does not end if they don’t have something to perch on. I do provide one from the start, it doesn’t hurt.

    There are a lot of different kinds of feeders and waterers. They will work for several weeks, probably until you are ready to move them outside, but I don’t know what age you plan to move them outside. They do like to perch and can fly and a lot of those are made from pretty light plastic. They are usually not that hard to flip over, especially when they get close to empty. I use one of those long red feeders with all the holes in it and built a frame for it so they cannot flip it over.


    Those waterers that depend on suction to hold water and feed on demand have to be extremely level or they leak all the water out. Keeping them level can be a challenge. Also, the chicks will scratch a lot of bedding in them and actually poop in them. Those chicks have absolutely no manners when it comes to where they poop. Setting it up about the height of the chick’s back will reduce them scratching bedding in it. They are also pretty easy to knock over when the chicks get bigger or when they are fairly empty. I don’t use this anymore, I use a pet bowl filled with rocks so they can’t drown, set up on a platform they can stand on but it gets it above shavings. But you can see how I used wire to hold this upright and screws around the base so they couldn’t knock it around.


    Personally I don’t brood in the house, I have a 3’ x 6’ brooder built into the coop. The biggest thing about brooding outside is that you get big swings in temperature. That’s why I said that brooder is OK indoors. Outdoors you need more room so you can keep one area warm enough in the coldest temperatures and another area cool enough in the warmest temperatures. I don’t know what time of year you plan to get them or what your weather will be like, but if your coop is finished they can go in there at any time if you have electricity to it.
  4. Nicchick326

    Nicchick326 New Egg

    Jan 4, 2017
    Wow, thank you to you both for the wonderful responses! Very helpful & informative.

    To answer some questions, our coop has already started being built, with the experience of the man helping my husband, it won't take long, so it will be ready in plenty of time! We live in Ohio, so temperate/seasons is always an issue. Our chicks are due to arrive early April, however, we don't plan to move them out to their coop until the temp/weather is steadily at least 65 degrees, or close enough that a small lamp will supplement until a bit warmer. We have a very large room in our basement that they will be kept in prior to moving. The room is definitely large enough for something much bigger than the 54gal tub I spoke about. Is there anything you would recommend for a more qualified size for the 6 chicks prior to being moved outside? If we can avoid needing 2 different sizes in those weeks, that'd be great obviously!!

    I really like that long feeder with the slots & the fantastic idea of keeping it in place like that, may have to steal that idea! [​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2017

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