Ask a Poultry Farmer

Advice from a man with sixty years of experience with chickens, turkeys and waterfowl. With community blogger Dale Wheelock.

Ask a Poultry Farmer: How do I build a brooder for my chicks?

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Dale Wheelock
March 2, 2015

Now that you've picked out your chicks, it's time to get their new home ready.

Consider how you will keep them warm and away from drafts, fed and watered, and safe from predators.

You don't have to spend a lot of money creating their new digs. Up to twelve chicks can live comfortably in a cardboard box. The size and shape of the box is not too important as long as it provides enough space for the chicks and the equipment to feed and water them.

For example, a 2x2 foot box that's 12-15 inches high should work just fine. Place an old screen or wire mesh over the top to reduce handling. The chicks will be so cute--you just want to keep picking them up! But excessive handling can also stress out your new buddies. The screen can also keep out the family cat and other predators, and comes in handy when they start to test their wings.

Make sure the sides of the box provide protection from drafts. A gooseneck study lamp with a 60- or 75-watt bulb (standard, not energy-efficient or LED) works well. The neck of the lamp can be adjusted to provide more or less heat. Otherwise, basic utility lamps work well, too.

The first week, keep the temperature at the level of the chicks at 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. Reduce the temperature about five degrees per week until room temperature is reached. It is best to use a thermometer to measure the temperature, but the actions of the chicks can also be a guide. When the chicks are cold, they bunch up and give a distressed "cheep." When they are too warm, they stand apart with their beaks open, and their throats may have a pulsating or panting motion. In most rooms, a light bulb placed over the box will provide enough heat.

About two inches of litter material give the chicks better footing and help keep the box clean. We recommend wood shavings, shredded paper or straw.

Congratulations! You've made a safe and warm home for your new chicks. It's time to make or buy waterers and feeders.

Dale Wheelock has been raising chickens, turkeys and waterfowl since he was a farm kid in the 1950s. He owns and operates the Wheelock Family Farm in Walworth County with his wife, Barb, and has been an agriculture leader in the community for decades. Read more about poultry farming at askapoultryfarmer.blogspot.com. Dale is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management. Have a question for Dale? Send him an email at [email protected].

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