Best set up for brooding?


In the Brooder
Dec 10, 2015
I want to get chicks this spring, whats the best way to brood them, I'm chill with a little chick funk in the house as long as it doesn't get too crazy. Looking for a smart set up that I can use multiple times. Any recommendations?


I Love Autumn
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Jul 16, 2015
I brood out in a shed in a home made wooden box, about 3x6, I use a heat lamp, since I get my chicks later than most, Late May into June, the weather is warming and I'm able to start putting them outside in a temporary pen during the days, the temperature gets in the 80's. I put them back inside at night and if necessary make another larger pen on the floor as they grow. I then am able to integrate them into the adult birds around 6-8 weeks without worrying about heat, and it's also dryer by then so I don't worry about cocidiosis.


Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
Consider the heating pad system of brooding. See "Mama Heating Pad for the Brooder" on this forum.

It's superior to any old fashioned, heat lamp in a little plastic box style brooding.


Team Spina Bifida
8 Years
Feb 25, 2014
Northwestern Wyoming
My Coop
My Coop
Welcome to BYC! I think my friend @azygous and I are playing tag this morning!

I applaud you and so many others who have the common sense to plan and build first, then get the chicks. <sigh> I wasn't that smart and suddenly had dusty, noisy, water-dumping chicks in my small house much longer than I planned. I swore, never again! Some folks don't mind all of that - I ain't one of them! So I assume you are going to be building your coop before the chicks arrive so it's ready - those little stinkers grow fast and will outgrow just about anything you put them in far less time than it took you to build it, I promise.

So why not start them out where they'll be living out their days? I, and many others, do this, and will never go back to a heat lamp and Rubbermaid container again. No dangerous heat lamps involved, they regulate their comfort themselves, they sleep at night in darkness and do their exploring and eating during the daylight hours. So much more natural!

Good luck with them! And again, welcome!

Folly's place

11 Years
Sep 13, 2011
southern Michigan
I haven't (yet) used a heating pad for chicks, but am EXTREMELY careful about the heat lamp as a fire risk. I use a large leaking livestock water tank, with shavings, and a hardware cloth top, in my garage, for starting chicks from the hatchery. When they are about three weeks of age they go out to the smaller side of my coop, still with the heat lamp in one corner, until fully feathered. If I do Cornishx chicks (nearly never, hate them) They go out to a hoop coop at two weeks, again with the heat lamp. Here in Michigan, early April is the very soonest in spring that I want chicks. Mary


Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
I’ll copy something I put in another thread this morning to give you a more general perspective. As long as you have a heat source, which normally means electricity, there are many different ways to go. The main idea is to keep one area warm enough and one area cool enough so the chicks can self-regulate.

My 3’ x 6’ brooder is built into the coop, the top is the droppings board for the adults. It can serve as a broody buster or a place to isolate a chicken if it is not being used as a brooder. It has a hardware cloth bottom but in winter I stick a plastic tray and cardboard in there on the floor to help keep the heat in, at least on one end. How much I wrap the brooder to keep the warmth in depends on the time of the year. In the summer I just have a small draft guard, in winter it is wrapped pretty tightly. I’ve put chicks in here straight from the incubator and shipped chicks when the outside temperature was below freezing. The end the chicks are on stays toasty but the far end may have ice in it on really cold mornings. Even straight from the incubator mine are really good at self-regulating temperatures. The key is that they need a place warm enough so they can go warm up if they need to. Some people would be amazed at how much time they spend in cooler areas, especially after they get a little age on them.


I don’t know how many chicks you are talking about or how big or what style your coop will be but it’s quite possible your entire coop could be the brooder as long as you have reliable heat out there. I have a stand-by generator just in case it is needed and have the stuff ready to quickly set up a temporary brooder in an outbuilding in case of a power outage. If an ice storm is predicted I get everything set up and ready, just in case. If I were brooding in the house and a power outage hit I’d have the same issues.

One of your issues in brooding outside is that the ambient temperature changes a lot, usually from day to night. You need a brooder big enough and set up in a way that you can always have “enough” heat in one area but let the rest cool off enough so the chicks can self-regulate. It doesn’t matter if one end is too hot while the other end is too cold as long as there is a spot in the middle that is just right.

A lot of people brood in the house and are quite comfortable doing that. Chicks and chickens in general create dust. They scratch bedding into tiny bits, they shed dander (flakes of skin and bits of down), and scratch dried poop into a dusty powder that gets onto everything. They can be noisy. Unless you keep the brooder pretty dry it can stink. Since I want to stay married I don’t brood in the house.

You don’t have to brood in the coop, even if you don’t want to brood in the house. Any outbuilding with electricity like a garage, detached workshop, or even a shed will work fine. You need an area that keeps the environment off them, like rain and wind protection and it needs to be predator proof, either the building or the brooder. If you brood in the house and have a pet dog or cat, you might need to think about them and predator protection.

A fairly common type of brooder is to take a large appliance cardboard box, refrigerator or stove maybe, and set that up in the garage, either attached or detached. If you need more room, duct tape another box to it. You are mainly limited by your imagination.

It’s easier to brood outside when the temperatures are warmer. Since I brood outside any month of the year, I have to make sure the water stays thawed in winter. Since I keep one end of my brooder fairly toasty with heat lamps I just keep the water down there. People that use other methods to provide heat that brood in the winter do different things to keep water thawed. I t can be done, people do it, but if you only brood when water won’t freeze you eliminate a potential problem.

If you brood outside and let part of the brooder cool off, the chicks will acclimate to cooler temperatures faster. I’ve had chicks raised in my brooder go through nights in the mid 20’s Fahrenheit with no supplemental heat well before they were 6 weeks old. If I were raising chicks in tropical conditions in the house I’d be a bit more nervous in doing that.

I like my brooder in the coop because the chicks grow up as part of the flock. The other chickens see them as part of the flock so integration is easier. They will still have pecking order issues they need to resolve when they grow up, but I have no problem turning my 5-week-olds loose with the adults. I have a fairly big coop and lots of space outside. If I had built tiny and tried to shoehorn as many chickens into that space as I could I’d be a whole lot more worried about doing that. Bigger is better.

Another reason I like raising chicks in the coop is that they are exposed to the other chickens. They start developing flock immunities at a very young age. This avoids a lot of medical risk during integration. I go so far as to feed them some dirt from the adult run when they are a couple of days old to provide grit and expose them to any probiotics in the adults systems as well as any possible diseases or parasites. I’m convinced their immune systems are much stronger this way. Even if you brood in the house I suggest feeding them dirt from the run to get this process started.

Wherever your brooder is, I strongly recommend you make it big enough so you can heat one end and let the rest cool down. That way you don’t have to worry about keeping the entire brooder one temperature plus they grow mighty fast. They need room as they grow.

If I were you I’d build the coop before I got the chicks. It doesn’t matter where you brood them, they grow fast and life can get in the way of having time to build that coop. Get your coop ready first.

Since you plan to do this on a regular basis, if you have power I’d build a brooder permanently in the coop. Since you plan on brooding regularly you probably need a large walk-in coop anyway. You can follow the link in my signature if you wish to get some ideas about room but you are going to be integrating new chickens. Build big enough to do the job. Even if you don’t brood in the coop I find a place to isolate a chicken or to use as a broody buster in a predator proof coop is really handy.

Wherever you have it, I suggest the brooder be predator proof and big enough so you can have varying temperatures in there. Make it big and easy to clean. Then it just becomes a matter of managing it.

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