If you own a poultry farm that grows chicks from day old, then you need to understand what a chicken brooder is and how to build a cheap one for yourself.
The truth is that the early age of chickens is the most vulnerable age in their life span.
You need to be very careful so that the birds survive that critical point of their growth.
A good way to prevent high chicken mortality and ensure that your birds grow past that age is by using a chicken brooder.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about chicken brooders; how to construct a brooder box and criteria for building a good chicken brooder.
To begin this conversation, let’s get an understanding of what a chicken brooder is.
What is a chicken brooder
A chicken brooder is a heated house for chicks that provides the warmth and protection which the chicks would otherwise get from the mother hen.
Whenever you see a hen sitting with its chicks under her wings, that activity is what is known as brooding.
For eggs that are hatched with incubators, the baby chicks do not have a mother hen that will brood them.
That’s why it’s important for you who buying day-old chicks to prepare a brooder for the chicks.
And you need to do this long before the chicks arrive at your poultry farm.
Hatchlings and day old chicks require consistent warmth, light, protection, water and food.
Keeping the chicks in the brooder pen helps to protect and keep them warm while they grow from little fluff balls to chickens with feathers.
Features of a good chicken brooder
As stated earlier, you need to set up a chicken brooder for baby chicks before they arrive at the farm.
Setting up your brooder is an easy task as long as your chicken brooder meets the following requirements:
1. Provide the chicks with just enough space
The goal of brooding chicks is to ensure that they maintain a consistent temperature while they grow.
This temperature will continue until they grow enough feathers that will help them to adapt to the environment.
As a result, you need to provide just enough space that will hold heat without suffocating or overcrowding the chicks.
In the beginning, you may want to use a smaller container or a larger one with a partition is to form the brooder.
As they grow they’ll need more space to move about, so you will have to move them into a bigger container or remove the partition from the current brooder.
2. Have a source of light and heat
The beginning temperature for the chicken brooder should be set at 35 – 37 degrees Celsius.
As time goes on, you will need to reduce this about 5 degrees each week until the brooder temperature is equal to room temperature.
A lot of poultry farmers use a simple heat lamp for this purpose.
The heat lamp provides both light and heat inside the brooder.
But it is important for you to secure it properly so as not to cause a fire.
Since a heat lamp attaches with a metal clamp, you can raise it higher on a regular basis to decrease the temperature as the chicks grow their feathery blankets.
You can also attach an automatic temperature guage and timers to ensure the temperature also stays consistent.
There are also radiant heat panel brooders which are very safe, more efficient, and remarkably cool to touch.
This brooder sends the heat below the panel, making that a nice cozy spot for chicks.
If you can’t get any of these heat sources, then you may want to use coal pots.
Just make sure that you cover the top of the pot so that the chicks don’t fall into the hot coal.
3. The chicken brooder must provide security
The little chicks are defenseless and may not be able to quickly run away from danger.
So, make sure that your brooder is secure.
As the chicks grow feathers, they practice flapping their beginner wings, and will begin to perch.
At some point, they will most likely begin taking flight and perch on the topmost rim of their brooder where they teeter and totter, and sometimes totter out onto the floor.
When they get to that age, it is time to add a screen across the top of the brooder to prevent them from flying over.
Also, if you have young children, curious pets, or your brooder is located in an out building, remember to take extra safety precautions to keep your brood safe!
4. Provide proper ventilation and moisture control in the chicken brooder
Make sure there is adequate air flow through your brooder but not so much that could make the chicks cold.
This is important because any sudden changes in temperature will kill them at this fragile age.
Chicken brooders kept indoors are easily kept free from drafts, but for outdoor brooders, be sure to set them up away from windows and doors where drafty air may sneak in.
Chicks will always tramp across waterers and feeders, and spill, everything they can.
So, you must ensure that you keep them dry and cozy in their brooder.
A proper bedding such as paper towels are perfect for this purpose as they are readily available, easy to replace, and inexpensive.
However, as your chicks grow, they will grow out of paper towel bedding and need a more absorbent material, such as fine wood shavings or straw.
Also, don’t forget to change the bedding as often as possible.
5. Have suitable flooring, feeders and waterers
Chicks are not well coordinated either and will need flooring in their brooder that offers a bit of friction.
So, if you are using a plastic tub or container as your chicken brooder, then cover the floor abundantly with bedding.
Make sure to only use waterers or ceramic dishes that the baby chicks cannot tip over.
Also, it should be shallow enough to prevent the chicks from drowning when they jump on it.
How to build a cheap chicken brooder for your birds
Building a chicken brooder is one good way to protect your chicks in their early age.
But you don’t need to break the bank to do so.
There are a few materials which you can easily find and convert into a brooder for your chickens.
One of such materials for building a chicken brooder is a cardboard (also known as carton).
Remember, the goal is to build a small enclosure that provides enough warmth for the birds.
Using a cardboard, follow these steps to build a cheap chicken brooder for your beds.
- First, get some large cardboards electronic sellers or furniture stores.
- Lay the boards out so that it flattens out.
- After that, use the cardboards to form a circle that is about 1 meter in diameter.
- If you have duct tape, use it to hold the cardboard in place so that it is firm.
- Next up, place some newspaper sheets on the floor of the chicken brooder to provide a soft floor for the baby chicks. You may need to also keep some extra newspapers to change them often.
- To provide heat in the chicken brooder, attach a heating lamp over the chicken brooder box.
- If you cannot get a heating lamp, use a coal pot to provide heat for the baby chicks. Make sure to maintain a temperature of about 35o C or 95o F before introducing the chicks in the brooder.
- Place a feeder and a waterer in the chicken brooder so that the chicks have food to eat and drink.
- As the chicks grow older, you may decide to replace the newspaper flooring with pine shavings.
- Wood shavings are best as the birds cannot swallow the large particles.
Where to keep the chicken brooder?
Now, you’re ready to set up your chicken brooder, where will you keep it?
Well, this should not be too difficult as there are many ways to improvise.
A spare bedroom works wonderfully for brooding, otherwise a bathroom, your garage, or an outbuilding like a garage, carport, or covered area around the side of your house will suffice.
Most importantly though, set up your brooder well BEFORE the chicks arrive.
You need plenty of time to make sure it’s in excellent working order, warm enough, and stocked with water and chick starter feed.
How to brood chickens
The chicken brooding process is quite simple really.
You just need to prepare the chicken brooder and set the temperature at 35 – 37 degrees Celsius before the chicks arrive.
When they do arrive, gently set them down into the brooder.
Keep reducing the temperature in the chicken brooder about 5 degrees each week until the temperature is equal to room temperature.
Remember during each temperature drop to observe your chicks and make sure they are comfortable.
The best way to determine if it’s warm enough without a thermometer is to watch your chicks.
If they are at the outer reaches of the box – it’s too hot; When they cluster under the lamp – it’s too cold; if they are dotted around the area you have it just right!
At around day 28 chicks can go outside for short spells as long as it is warm and sunny.
There is a need to protect baby chicks from harsh weather and predators.
The best easy to go about this is by using a chicken brooder to keep them warm until they grow old enough to take care of themselves.
This article outlines all the basic requirements of a chicken brooder box and how to properly brood your chickens.
If you find this article helpful, please share it with other chicken farmers and keep and eye for our next post about poultry farming.
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