Setting Up a Chick Brooder

what is a chick brooder? and what must it contain to keep chicks safe, warm and healthy?

It's important to have a brooder set up ready for your chicks as soon as they hatch, if you're incubating your own, or from the moment they arrive if you're buying locally.

Chicks aren't able to regulate their own temperature nor find their own food and drink. So unless they're being brooded by a hen we need to provide that warm environment for them. And chicks chill very easily.

So, as with most things chicken-related, you need to plan in advance. Have it ready and warm before your chicks arrive.

"A brooder is a place of safety where baby chicks are kept warm, fed, watered and cared for until they are able to care for themselves".

Setting Up a Brooder 

A Pop-up Chick Brooder is often the easiest option for a few chicks raised indoors, with the advantages of being Easy to clean, reusable and fully enclosed to prevent jail breaks.

you should always keep waterfowl in their own brooder tub.
Ducklings and goslings grow much quicker and they’ll need a lot more room per bird earlier and they make a huge mess in the brooder. Seriously, the whole thing will be a soggy mess from week 3 on.

It’s essential to keep the brooder clean and change bedding frequently.
Pine Shavings are a great base for your brooder and mask smell and keep your chicks clean and dry.
Make sure your intended brooder is roomy enough. While all the chicks should be able to congregate under the warmth of the Heat Plate/ Heat Lamp , there must also be an unheated part of the brooder where they can eat, drink and exercise.

Bear in mind, too, that wobbly little chicks grow surprisingly quickly into lively, energetic young birds and will need space to move around freely as they develop. Raising chicks in overcrowded conditions leads to disease and stress-related problems.

Where to put the Brooder

For a small hatch, a quiet indoors room will probably be the best bet. Ideally, this should be where the temperature is reasonably constant, without lots of comings and goings to cause fluctuations.

As long as it isn’t draughty, the room doesn’t need to be incredibly warm and shouldn’t be too hot – be careful about using a conservatory in summer.

Chicks need light – either natural or electric – to develop correctly. They should also have some hours of darkness at night.

When choosing your site to raise your chicks, bear in mind that they produce quite a bit of dust and mess.

What heat do chicks require?

A chick’s body cannot regulate its own temperature, requiring external heat to keep warm. We must provide this from the start of brooding until chicks are fully feathered (usually around 5-6 weeks) and gradually reduce the heat.

Start the brooding temperature at 35°C (95°F).

Reduce the temperature by 3°C (5°F) every week as the chicks grow bigger and start to develop feathers.

If you are raising a lot of chicks, they will also huddle together for warmth.

Heat lamps

A traditional heat lamp consists of a powerful bulb with a metal shade suspended from a chain. Heat is increased by lowering the lamp and decreased by raising it.


Two different size heat lamps, both need to be hung securely with a chain.

Although chicks need light, if a white bulb is used for heat, they have no period of darkness to rest – this can lead to pecking problems caused by stress. Infra-red bulbs are better

The heat lamp must be fixed securely above the brooder – it would be disastrous for it to fall on to the chicks! It should be hung from a chain, attached to a ceiling hook.

Heat lamp bulbs get extremely hot and can pose a fire hazard, so make sure it is well away from cardboard and bedding. There should also be a wire guard around the bulb to protect the chicks (and the handler!).

One 250 Watt infra-red heat bulb can provide enough heat for up to 25 chicks.

a popular choice for raising chicks is to use an infa-red Bulb for the first four days, which provides the most heat and 24-hour light for chicks to start feeding and then switch to a ceramic Bulb that provides slightly less heat and gives them darkness overnight to rest.

While the chain can be adjusted to lift the heat lamp as the chicks get older, and need less heat, if you want to be more environmentally friendly and save your electricity costs, you can also use lower power ceramic bulbs as your chicks get older. I have 250, 150  that I use to cut the heat down and keep my energy bill down!

Whatever you choose, always keep a spare bulb handy.

 A more up-to-date option is the Comfort Heat Plate which consists of a heated plate with legs. The chicks go under this for warmth, as they would with a hen.

Comfort Heat Plates

When you are raising chicks in small numbers, a comfort heat plate is often a better solution. It is especially true indoors, where it is more challenging to secure a heat lamp, or you worry about fire hazards.

 Apart from offering the closest alternative to natural brooding, there are several other advantages to this type of heater:

  • Running costs are considerably cheaper than with a traditional heat lamp.
  • The unit doesn’t get anywhere near as hot as a bulb, making it much safer
  • The heater stands on its own legs and doesn’t require hanging – this can be more convenient, especially when brooding chicks indoors.
  • If brooding different sized chicks, the unit can be adjusted so that one end is lower than the other.
  • The chicks have the added security of a hiding place where they can rest In a small brooder a lamp can provide too wide an area of heat, but a panel heater only warms the space underneath it.

    Drinkers and Feeders

    Buy a Chick Nipple Drinker to prevent chicks from soiling their water, getting wet or drowning – all of which can happen with an open container.

    A small feeder Trough , keeps the chicks out of their food and stops them from scratching it into the bedding.

    Standing the drinker and feeder on tiles, or suspending them just above floor level, helps keep water and food separate from the bedding. Please don’t make them too high, as stretching can cause the chicks developmental problems.

    Always place the feeder and drinker outside the heated area.

    Feed and Bedding

    Chick Starter Crumble a complete feed for young chickens providing nutrients essential for lean growth and skeletal development. Chick Starter Crumble is a balanced feed designed to promote early bone, frame and feather development, rapid muscle deposition and a high health status in young chickens.

    Pine shavings make good bedding, although there is the danger of small chicks eating them until they work out where to find their feed. For a small hatch, a thick layer of paper towels can be used in the critical first few days, and this has the advantage of being very easy to keep clean.

    Newspapers may seem a practical solution, but it is too slippery at first and can lead to chicks with splayed legs. However, they can be useful for lining the bottom of the brooder, as long as you cover it with plenty of bedding.

    Preparing the Brooder

    Get everything ready in good time so that you can check it will all work correctly.

    If the brooder has previously been used, it should be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and allowed to air .
    Cover the floor of the brooder with a good layer of bedding. 

    Set up the heat lamp or Comfort heat plate heater. A digital thermometer can be used to check the temperature, although the chicks will soon show whether they are comfortable.

    Cold chicks huddle together, cheeping loudly, while too much heat causes them to move as far away from the lamp as possible. If they lay there panting, they are too warm, and overheating can cause fatalities.

    Keep an eye on heat levels if the outside temperature is exceptionally high, remembering that things will cool down considerably at night.

    Make sure the feeder and drinker are clean and ready and stock up with Chick Starter Crumble.

    Now you are all ready for your chicks! Happy Brooding!

     

Pop up chick brooder