I think it depends on how big the brooder is, not how many chicks you'll have. From what I understand, you'll need some sort of heat. I'm using a plastic storage bin as a brooder for 2 chicks. I bought a heat lamp and 250 bulb, and 250 was way too hot and would have charbroiled the chicks and burned up my little plastic brooder. I put in a regular 50 watt lightbulb in the heat lamp and the chicks are nice and warm, and my house isn't about to burn down.
First... caps lock hurting my brain... We'll still answer to lower case...
Second, yes, putting a high wattage bulb too close to a cardboard box filled with wood shavings is indeed a fire hazard. You either need to make sure it is touching no part of the brooder, or have a metal screen for the lamp to sit on, making sure it does not become too hot near the edges. Depending on brooder size, I'd just go with a regular bulb. Mine are fine with a 40 watt. I also used a box to start with. Safer for everyone involved. Just pay attention to them, if they look too cold, move it closer, too hot, move it further away.
I would advise against using newspaper with chicks--no traction for them, becomes slippery and it's not uncommmon for them to end up with leg issues (splay-leg). Sand or wood shavings are a much better idea. If you are using a cardboard box to start with shavings probably make the most sense due to the weight of the sand, but the sand is much safer with the heat lamp.
As prior poster mentioned a plastic storage container would be a good brooder for 3-4 chicks and sand would alleviate the concern with potential fire hazard. Wouldn't cost $10 (tub and sand) if you didn't have one already. Good luck!
Yes...some sand might get in the water and feeders (unless you use the nipple waterers...I'm going to explore those next) but have the waterer up on a couple of bricks after the first week or so, and then I've hung my feeder from a bar across my brooder (I have a wood box that is 4'x4'x2'high with a 'doorway' that I can slide up and down in a channel on one side, and a cover of 2x4's with hardware cloth so I can easily hang stuff). And the chicks love to take "baths" in the sand, the same as they would in shavings--hilarious to watch them go to town.
I rigged up a scoop to clean and it is a lot easier than when I used shavings--I bought a jumbo cat litter box scoop at Meijer for $3.50, and then took a chunk of old screen and wire tied it to the scoop--then I just sift it away.
Do a search on BYC for "sand as bedding, or in the brooder,etc" and you will find a ton of info. I used two bags of sand for the 4'x4' brooder and that was too much--didn't
need to be that deep. The sand was about $3.50 a bag at Home Depot.
Also check out "ChickenChick" online--she's got some awesome tips...
(PS: Also do a search on using newspaper for bedding--you'll see why it is highly discouraged...)