What size brooder?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by coddledeggs, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. coddledeggs

    coddledeggs Out Of The Brooder

    I would like to start my (very first!) 4 chicks in a brooder that will be large enough for them until they are feathered out and coop ready. I am thinking of purchasing a rabbit cage (easy and cheap) that has 8 square feet of area. I plan to get 1 easter egger, 2 sex links, and 1 Welsumer chick, but if the purchased cage won't be large enough for them until they are coop ready, I will have a wooden brooder built to whatever size I need for the 4 chicks (sure to be more expensive, and sadly, I am not capable of building it myself). Our nighttime temps will probably be dropping into the 40's when I will be introducing them to their outdoor coop. Thanks for any advice.
  2. Ol Grey Mare

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

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    The more room you give them the less likely you are to encounter certain issues associated with chicks in a brooder -- to take them to coop ready size (fully feathered at 5-6 weeks) I would suggest you look for something that allows 1 1/2-2 square feet per bird and remember to also allow for the space occupied by any feeder/waterer you will have in the brooder. You can use just about anything - large cardboard boxes, kiddie pools, the bathtub -- so being unable to build yourself doesn't have to mean paying someone else to do construction for you.
    To help ease the transition to the coop don't keep them reliant on/accustomed to the heat lamp right up to the time you want to move them -- rather than focusing on the "rule of thumb" about reducing the temperature by 5 degrees per week let the chicks tell you what temperature they are comfortable at - doing this usually results in them showing comfort at lower temperatures than what the above equation would say they should be at for a given age. By 4 weeks my chicks are kept at ambient room temperature with no supplemental heat and, as I am preparing them to move outside I will even allow the room to cool beyond the temperature the rest of the house is at to replicate the conditions they will be in when they move outside.
  3. Jensownzoo

    Jensownzoo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 7, 2016
    Saint Louis, MO
    I took 21 chicks to almost 8 weeks in a kiddie pool with walls made from cardboard moving boxes (Home Depot, size large) and duct tape. Even cut an access door so I could come at them from the side instead of from above...secured in place when not open with a chip clip.

    That being said, if you can run an extension cord out to the coop, you may consider starting them off in a guinea pig cage then finish brooding in the coop itself once they outgrow it. I do this now--I use a heating pad cave in the cage and a homemade heat plate cave (made from a sealed outdoor kennel heating pad + wood frame) in my outdoor grow out pen.
  4. coddledeggs

    coddledeggs Out Of The Brooder

    Thanks so much for your replies and advice. It sounds like I should be ok with the cage that will give them 8 square feet of space as long as I stick with the plan for starting with just 3 or 4 chicks. One of the pluses with the rabbit cage is that it is lightweight enough that I should be able to move it back and forth from the coop to the garage or to the house when I am transitioning them. I won't have any electricity to the coop, and I would worry about fire too much if I had an extension cord going out to the coop, but I do hear you and appreciate the advice about getting them gradually used to colder temperatures.
  5. FarmerTony

    FarmerTony Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 7, 2016
    The industry standard is 2 cubic feet per adult bird. Smaller birds of course take less space. Basically you want enough room for the chicken to flap its wings without touching another chicken.
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I don’t believe in magic numbers, either space or temperatures. There are just so many different variables in all of this that what works for one person might not work for another.

    I understand you are not going to have electricity in the coop. I do and I’ll tell you what I do to maybe give you some ideas for your garage. My 3’ x 6’ brooder is permanently built into the coop. I put chicks in there straight from the incubator or straight from the post office, whether the temperature is below freezing or in the heat of summer. In winter I wrap it in plastic and use heat lamps to keep one end toasty, but there are times the far end has frost in it when it is really cold. There are plenty of different ways to provide heat but the goal is to have one area warm enough on the coldest days and one area cool enough on the hottest days. The chicks are really good at self-regulating themselves when given the option. In summer I do not wrap it in plastic and use a much lower wattage heat lamp on one end.

    As far as size goes, your rabbit cage sounds great. I used to have a 3’ x 5’ brooder. I kept 28 chicks (mostly female) in that until they were five weeks old. That’s about a half a square foot per chick. They were getting a little crowded but I did not have any problems. Another time I only had 21 chicks in that until they were five weeks old but they were mostly males. They were starting to get kind of crowded. The more chicks you have the less square feet per chick you need because they have more empty room to explore. Sex, age, and number of chicks are just some of the variables that affect how much room you need. With four chicks you will have plenty of room for food, water, and room for them to play for over five weeks of age.

    As far as temperature, one record setting hot summer I turned the daytime heat off at two days and the overnight heat off at 5 days. Their body language told me they did not need heat and they did not. They were fine. In the winter I often keep the heat on until five weeks of age. I’ve gone a little longer when it is well below freezing whether I need to or not. I have taken chicks from that brooder and put them in my unheated grow-out coop at five weeks with the overnight lows in the low 40’s Fahrenheit. I’ve had chicks go through overnight lows of the mid 20’s with no heat before they were six weeks old. These chicks were acclimated to cold temperatures by playing in the cold end of my brooder. The grow-out coop had good ventilation up high but good draft protection where they were. So some variables of when they can go out is how well they are acclimated and how well your coop is built. Ventilation is good but a cold wind hitting them is not good.

    If you set your brooder up in your house it probably doesn’t take much to provide enough heat. Whether you use heat lamps, incandescent bulbs, heating pads, heat emitters, or something else, try to provide heat in one area but let the far end cool off as much as you can. Putting some kind of barrier to provide “shade” from the heat might help. Overheating them is as bad or worse than too little heat. Putting a thermometer in there to give you an idea of temperature may help your self-confidence and ease your stress, but watching the chicks will work a lot better. If they are as far from the heat as they can get it is to warm. If they are huddling as close to the heat as they can get they are cold. If they play in different parts they are great.

    If your garage is cooler or you open and close the garage door you may have a bit more of a challenge by putting it out there. In your house with stable temperatures it is pretty easy to stabilize temperatures in the brooder. If the temperature is going up and down you cannot stabilize temperatures very well. That’s where keeping one end warm enough and the other end cool enough is really handy. If you do that and let them self-regulate that takes all the pressure off of you. And they get acclimated to cooler temperatures.

    It sounds like you are set up for success and have some options. Good luck!
  7. coddledeggs

    coddledeggs Out Of The Brooder

    Thanks so much. This is all advice I can really use! My original plan was to keep the brooder in my bathroom until the chicks are coop-ready, but it sounds like a good approach would be to move them out to the garage with their heat source when I think they are getting close to being coop ready. Then, when it becomes clear that they no longer need the heat source and are used to the colder temperatures in the garage, out to the coop they'll go as long as we aren't due for any really cold nights (below freezing is a very rare occurrence here). Again, I really appreciate the thoughtful replies.

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