Setting Up Your Brooder
Setting Up Your Brooder

Setting Up Your Brooder



A lot of people ask me what they need to get started for their backyard chicken farm. If you’re itching to be a chicken tender, read on!  On the Chicken Keeper’s Guide page I will teach you what you need, how to set up your chicken yard for success, and how to raise healthy chickens!  This post will walk you through how to set up your brooder (chick nursery) for baby chicks.  Let’s start with a list of supplies! There are a lot of ways to take care of baby chicks, so feel free to make changes to fit your situation accordingly!



Here’s what I use for my brooder:

The first step in setting up your brooder is to choose a location that is safe from harsh weather, predators, and germs. Many people set theirs up in the garage or in a bathroom inside the house. Our brooders at Buckaboo Farm are in a shed that has been reinforced and insulated. Chicks need to be kept warm, but not too hot, which can be a challenge in SoCal! We’ve added extra shade over the top of this shed, as well, so we don’t end up with little chicken nuggets in the summer. You may think that a shed will keep all the predators out, but remember that rats like to eat baby chicks. Gross, I know! Do your best to keep rats out! Also make sure that your brooder set up isn’t too close to where you keep your full grown chickens. If your big girls get sick you don’t want it spreading to the chickies! Disease can easily spread through dust, so our brooder shed is on the opposite side of the house from our main chicken yard. You’ll also want to keep wild birds away from your babies, because they can also bring in germs!



Step 2 is to choose how you want to heat your babies. Newborn chicks need to be kept warm…95 degrees F during week 1, or even up to 99! You can lower the temperature a bit each week, but make sure they always have access to a heat source. My favorite heat source is the little white house that has a small, adjustable heat lamp inside. Not only is it super cute, it is very practical and safe. Heat plates work well, too, but make sure your brooder is not overly packed with chicks, because they can get crushed under there. As they grow you can also adjust the height of the plate. I generally avoid using the larger heat lamps, because they require a lot of electricity and are a fire hazard. Regardless of which heat source you use make sure the chicks can move out of the heat if they want to. You’ll know your brooder is too hot if the chicks are hiding around the edges and avoiding the heat, and you’ll know it’s too cold if they huddle together in a tight ball of fluff as close as possible to the heat.

Once you’ve chosen a safe location and heat source for your brooder you are ready to put the pieces together! Make sure that your large plastic bin is clean, and place it in the spot you’ve chosen. Sprinkle a layer of pine chips on the bottom, set up your heat source, and set the feeder and waterer to the side of the heat source. I’ve given you a link for a feeder and waterer, but honestly I think that small bowls work the best! If the chicks start getting their water super messy set it up on a small cement block. Finally, cut a piece of hardware cloth to fit over the top of your brooder. Bend the edges of the hardware cloth over the sides of your plastic bin to keep rats out and chicks in! Make sure to sanitize your brooder at least once a week, and clean your feeder and waterer even more frequently!



For more information on how to actually raise chicks, check out this post. !  I’ve included links to the products I use, but do your research and decide what you think is best.  Setting up a brooder like I’ve described is definitely a lot of work, but once you have the set up you can keep using it for future generations of chicks!  If your chicks have a broody hen mama replace the heating plate with a single nesting box!  Have fun chickening!