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.
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: