Brooder questions

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by SDR, Mar 19, 2011.

  1. SDR

    SDR In the Brooder

    Mar 19, 2011
    After threatening to raise chickens for a couple years now, I bought 6 chicks from TSC yesterday. (very helpful staff by the way considering all the bad things I've read on here)

    Been lurking here for quite some time. Have even read the more popular books on raising chickens. But now that I have them I believe I'm making this harder than it needs to be. So I have some brooder questions that I can't find the answer for in a search.

    Right now the chicks are in a box (labeled Eggs, no less [​IMG] ) in the pole barn. They are warm, happy and have everything they need, but not to say is was an easy process on my part. Last night I kept checking on things to make sure the the temp stayed just right, but as the temp in the barn dropped I had to keep modifying how close the lamp (reflective with 100w bulb) was, adding cover to the box etc. Didn't want them to get cold and I wanted make sure I wasn't going to wake up to roasted chickens either.

    The plan was/is to make a brooder that will keep the birds until they are ready live in the coop full time. I was thinking of making something out of plywood that will be expandable length wise as the birds get bigger. So here's the first question to all this. For 6 birds, a mix of Ameraucana's, Buff Orpington's, and Barred Rock's what is the minimum sq ft size I can get away with so the birds will still be comfortable at their largest during this period?

    Second question, Once I get my brooder made and get a radiant heat bulb. Will they still be able to stay warm enough under the heat lamp, with essentially an open top brooder, in a unheated barn with spring temps fluctuating here in Michigan? I'd like to bring them in the house but I'm just asking for trouble with the dog no matter how secure.
  2. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    They should be fully feathered and ready for the coop by 8 weeks, if not a little sooner. I've read from one to 2.5 sq ft per chick for 8 week olds. I would imagine you can keep them warm enough in a plywood brooder in your barn. I know you'll check at least the first night or two; you can always add a board or something across part of the top. It will need a top of some sort, by the way, after a week or two, if only an old weindow screen or a piece of plastic bird netting or the like, as they will fly out. They fly a lot higher as chicks than they can when full grown.

    Good luck!
  3. *DuckLuvR*

    *DuckLuvR* In the Brooder

    Feb 24, 2011
    Coweta, Oklahoma
    This is my brooder with removable partition. I currently have 6 ducklings on the left side and my 7 chicks will go on the right. The ducklings have shavings & the chicks have sand for bedding. It's 3x5 and took 2 days to build. The ducks will be out off it in about 2-3 weeks, then I take the partition out and the chicks will have it all to their self until they are ready for the coop.


  4. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    You are on the right track with a plywood box. Since my utility trailer is essentially a plywood box, that's what I use. 5x8. It's a tad big for a dozen chicks, but perfect for 24. My brooding batches vary from time to time. Big is great!!! They need a lot of room at 5 weeks, believe me. If you build it big, next time, you'll brood a larger batch, and usually, there IS a next time.

    Some of the photos above are wonderful.

    Oh, and I'd use a red light. The white lights don't allow them proper rest, imho. Red also masks any pecking target zones as well.

  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    We are slated for a very cold week ahead here in Michigan, so it wouldn't hurt to have a red, 250 watt bulb available, should you find you cannot keep the temps around 85 degrees or more. You can raise it should it be too hot, lower it if you need to. Just be sure the shroud is over the bulb for safety and do NOT rely on the clamp alone. Enjoy!!!!
  6. SDR

    SDR In the Brooder

    Mar 19, 2011
    Thanks for all the replies, the 2.5 per sq ft is just the number I was looking for, so my plan of making one 4' x 4' will work just dandy. I did get the infrared bulb yesterday which the birds seem to be much happier with. I also picked up a dimmer switch to plug the lamp into. Figured this would be a heck of a lot easier adjusting the temp than playing the game of raising and lowering the whole lamp assembly.

    Fingers crossed on this project. I imagined getting into keeping chicken by starting with adults.[​IMG]
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I once kept 28 chicks in a 3' x 5' brooder until they were about 5 weeks old. That is about 1/2 square foot each. They were starting to get a little crowded. If I were going to keep them in there much longer, I'd want more room. Mine are fully feathered at 4 to 5 weeks, so I don't provide supplemental heat after that, but I brood them later in the season and it is a little warmer here than in Michigan.

    I keep one area of my brooder in the right temperature range and let the far corners cool off quite a bit more, usually 20 to 30 degrees cooler. The first couple of days they tend to stay under the heat light but by the 3rd day they are running and playing all over the brooder. They just go back to the heat when they need to warm up, which is really not all that often. They do sleep in a pile under the lamp, whether they need the heat or not. They just like to be together when they sleep.

    To be honest, I don't worry about measuring the temperature under the light. I set it so it will keep the area under the red light warm enough even at night, keep the rest of the brooder at a lower temperature, and let them find their own confort zone. I do raise the light some a couple of weeks later, but I would find it very stressful to try to keep the temperatures perfect 24 hours a day. Let them manage that. I think the danger is when the entire brooder is either too hot or too cold. Then they cannot find a comfort zone.

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