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Brooder Suggestions

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Ashley Pederson, Jan 5, 2015.

  1. Ashley Pederson

    Ashley Pederson Out Of The Brooder

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    Hello! We are picking up our 5 chicks (1 Brahma, 1 Barred Rock, 1 Wyandotte, 1 RIR and 1 Black Sex-Link) in roughly 4 weeks and want to start building our brooder. We have decided to just build it ourselves out of plywood and make a cover with wire mesh framed with wood instead of trying to convert plastic tubs or cardboard boxes because it seems like it will end up being the most cost efficient in the long run.

    My question is how big would you suggest we build it for those 5 chicks? We would like them to fit in there for at least 4 weeks until we can move them into their coup with their heat lamp. If they fit longer, then awesome! Pictures of successful brooders along with recommendations for inspiration are extra appreciated!
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Plan on at minimum 10 square feet for five chicks for 4 to 5 weeks. If you want to keep them in it longer than that, double the square footage.

    Chicks will double in size every week. Little golf balls look as if they will fit in a very small space, but people have no idea how fast they grow.

    The one single thing I wish someone had told me when I built my first brooder, a box placed on the floor with top access, is that chicks are naturally terrified of hands reaching down for them from above. I never thought about the predator instinct. My first chicks grew more afraid of my hands by the week. Six years later, I still cannot handle the three that are left from that first chick group.

    When I was getting ready for my second batch of chicks, I came onto BYC and joined a thread discussing why baby chicks are so afraid of being handled. That's when it occurred to me that everyone who had this problem had top-access brooders.

    So I went searching for a cardboard appliance box to build my brooder. I brought it home and placed it on a table. I cut an access door into the side, as well as windows that I covered with clear plastic.

    When I brought my new chicks home, they were tame and easy to handle from day one. I could sit on a stool and enjoy playing with my chicks and they happily stepped onto my hands when I wanted to cuddle them. It was a delight. And easy on the back, too.

    Ever since, I have built my brooders with side access and every one of those chicks have been tame and easy to handle as adults, completely unafraid of being picked up.
     
  3. Ashley Pederson

    Ashley Pederson Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 22, 2014
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    Thanks for your advice, azygous! It probably would have taken me forever to put that together. I will discuss building it off the ground with my husband, or at least a shape that would allow us to put it up on a table to keep it off ground level. Is this a problem others have had?
     
  4. Ashley Pederson

    Ashley Pederson Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 22, 2014
    Portland, OR
    Also, how tall would you recommend? I was thinking 2 foot tall sides (plus an inch or two with lid) as that would allow us to make less cuts on our lumber.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    The depth is up to you. Regardless, the chicks will be able to use their budding wings by age two weeks to flap their way to the rim unless you devise something to keep them in. You do not want a solid lid or roof, though. Heat and moisture needs to be able to escape. How secure you make it depends on whether you have other pets that could present a danger. I have used appliance boxes, around 30 inches deep, with netting or cheese cloth stretched over the top. It's wise to use non-flammable material, though.

    Yes, others have had problems with top access brooders producing less than tame and calm chicks. Think of your disembodied hands resembling a hawk diving into the brooder. As you access chicks from the side, they are able to see your hands and arms attached to a face, which they can recognize as a non-predator.

    People who raise chicks for meat aren't going to care if they're tame and easy to handle, but those of us who are raising egg-laying pets do care if they're afraid of us. Ask around and you'll hear that the people who lament about not being able to catch their chickens in order to render every day care have raised them in top access brooders sitting on the floor.
     
  6. Rose66

    Rose66 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Standard size chicks at 6 weeks old only need 1-2 sqft per chick. So, as azygous said, your five chicks would be fine in a brooder about 10 sqft total, for example a pen that was 3' x 3' or 3' x 4' would be plenty until they were six weeks old. The height is not that important unless you wanted to put in small roosts for them to climb on. I always put in some pieces of lumber or something they can jump on top of just to give them something to do. I know it may sound silly but I think they like it.

    I do agree also with azygous' thought process of chicks being less stressed when accessing the brooder from the side rather than the top. When I order chicks from a hatchery, I immediately put them in my outside brooder which is a waist high 4' x 4' side access pen. They do great in this size pen until about 3-4 weeks old. Then I move them to a bigger pen on the ground still with a heat lamp.

    When I hatch chicks in my incubator, I use a cardboard box from Uhaul called a Grand Wardrobe box. It's $11.95 and comes with a metal bar that is perfect to hang the heat lamp from. The size of the box is 24" x 21" x 48" (8sqft). I do something like what azygous does; I put the box on a four foot long adjustable height table and I cut two side access doors in it. Then like she said, I can sit on a stool or chair and visit with my chicks without killing my back. I keep my home hatched chicks in this box in my extra bedroom for maybe a week at the most because I cannot stand the smell of them in my house after that. Then they go to the outside raised brooder and follow the same path my mail order chicks do. I then throw away the wardrobe box and whenever I need another inside brooder, I just go buy another box. It's much easier for me to buy a box each time rather than try to store a wooden brooder in between hatching chicks. So if you have extra space to store your permanent wooden brooder, then by all means build away! But if you're like me and extra space is at a premium, you might think about using something you can dispose of after you are finished brooding your chicks. Whatever fits your situation.

    Good luck with your chicks!! I'm sure they are all going to be adorable!!
     
  7. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    When it comes to brooders, sometimes you can use other things, such as a window box. Eighteen months ago, when I was getting my most recent chicks, I started hitting the stores for boxes, when I decided to turn on my brain and think of an alternative to brooding in the house with all the mess. That's when I looked at the grow windows in my garage and saw they'd be the perfect size for a brooder. I cut out a cardboard insert with a high lip at the back to keep chicks and shavings in, and rigged netting above that. The heat lamp hung from a plant holder above the window. The water hung from a wooden stick supported on the vent windows on the sides.

    I draped a shade cloth over the top on the outside, but it was otherwise bright and sunny, and the chicks could watch the entire world go on around them. These guys were so tame and unafraid, I can't even compare them to anything. It was easy to clean and care for them and play with them, and when the chicks were big enough for the coop, I just vacuumed out the shavings, cleaned the window, and it was a plant grow window once again.

    The imagination is a wonderful thing. It can be the source of great freedom.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    What a fantastic idea for a brooder. I wish I had a grow window like that, but if i did, I don't think i'd be able to give it up for chicks! One thing to keep in mind is the location of the light in the brooder box. I have deep reflector units, so if they're INSIDE the box, they get too hot. So, they stay outside the 24" high box, and require a lot of adjustment to keep the temp just right. B/c I brood in the garage, it's crucial that I have good temp adjustment, as when I brood, the garage temp can get down to freezing at night. I keep my brooder tractor well wrapped with cardboard and heavy blankets, and often check the temps repeatedly during a cold night. I use a 3 x 6 tractor. while it works well, I like Azygous recommendation for a raised brooder. This spring I'll be brooding outside in the old coop with a waist high loft 4 x 8 which will be perfect, and won't require as much adjustment of the heat lamp b/c there will be plenty of room for them to scoot in and out from the "circle of heat".
     
  9. WashingtonWino

    WashingtonWino Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Although I see that you are not going to be using a plastic tub for your brooder, take a look at the heat lamp assembly I built out of 1" PVC. The chain can be adjusted to raise and lower the light, to make it warmer or cooler as the chicks grow up. The only joints that need to be glued are the ones at the base, so it can be taken apart and stowed in a closet without taking up much space. Good luck with your chicks! Mine are arriving in about a month as well!

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  10. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    How many chicks are you expecting? Do you have children or 4 legged pets? If so, you might want ot secure that set up from above as well. Even though it's sturdy, an exuberant child or pet could possibly tip it.
     

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