The time is finally here and you will be having some baby chicks arriving soon! Whether you ordered chicks or eggs by mail, are picking them up from a local farmer or your local farm supply store, it is essential that you properly prepare for your baby chicks by setting up a brooder. In order for your chicks to thrive, they need the following list of brooder box supplies.
- Preparing for Your Chicks -Frequently Asked Questions:
- What is a brooder box?
- 10 ESSENTIAL BROODER Box SUPPLIES
- What do you put in a brooder box?
- Essential Brooder Box Supplies
- How big should my brooder box be?
- Do’s and Don’ts of Setting Up Your Brooder
Preparing for Your Chicks –Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a brooder box?
A brooder box is a heated enclosure for your new baby chicks that are not being raised by a mama hen. Your brooder will be taking the place of the mother hen. A brooder should provide a warm, safe place for your chicks the first few weeks of their life.
10 ESSENTIAL BROODER Box SUPPLIES
What do you put in a brooder box?
A chick brooder box should contain all the essential supplies necessary for your chicks to thrive. This would include a heat source, bedding, thermometer, perch, electrolytes, proper food and water containers as well as food and water. See important details for each supply in the following list.
Essential Brooder Box Supplies
Home Made Chick Brooder | DIY Brooder Box
A safe enclosure is one of the most important of your brooder box supplies to have!
I made this chick brooder out of spare wood and chicken wire that I had on my property. It’s large enough to keep several chicks in until they are feathered enough to be outdoors, approximately 6-8 weeks.
Make sure that the brooder you choose will protect your baby chicks from predators such as cats, dogs, racoons etc.
Store Bought Enclosures. Tubs from your local thrift or home improvement store are ideal for the first week or two, but make sure that you have a larger enclosure ready for them after about 2 weeks because your chicks will outgrow it quickly.
How big should my brooder box be?
A brooder box should give enough room for about 1/2 square foot per chick from 1-4 weeks old. When they get a little bigger, 4-8 weeks, you should increase the space to 1 square foot per chick.
So a brooder box that is 4 feet long x 1 1/2 feet wide is big enough to raise 24 chicks from 1-4 weeks old. But will only be large enough to raise 12 chicks from 4-8 weeks.
There are several pretty good chick enclosures that you can find on Amazon for decent prices.
2. Heat Lamp for Chicks
Without having mama hen to provide warmth for her chicks, you will need to provide a heat lamp for them to provide an external heat source.
This can be done with a heat lamp or radiant heat source. Chicks need to be provided with 95 degree temperature their first week.
I recommend getting the infrared incandescent reflector lamps from Amazon. It is always good to keep a spare one on hand, just in case one goes out!
Check out my article New Chicks Temperature Chart – Weeks 1-6. This is a must-have guide if you want thriving chicks.
3. Water Container
Chicks need to have access to fresh, clean water at all times.
The level of the water should be between chicks eye level and their back.
Chicks can easily drown in their water, so it is essential that you invest in the proper type of chick waterer for them.
They are pretty inexpensive at Amazon and you can use an emptied mayonnaise jar for the container.
Place marbles inside of the water so the chicks do not drown.
Place a funnel on top to deter chicks from perching up top and pooping in their water.
Chicks kick up their bedding often and walk inside their water, making it dirty. Replace your water as often as you need to throughout the day to keep it clean.
You can also check with your local Tractor Supply Company for all kinds of good quality baby chick assec
4. Food Container
I have found that the round, little chick feeder with several holes for the chicks to eat out of works best the first few weeks. The nice thing about these is that you can screw either a mason jar or a large mayonnaise container on top to fill with the chick feed.
It’s a good idea to place a small funnel on top of the jar to deter the chicks from nesting and pooping in their food down below!
I prefer this 28 hole flip top plastic chick feeder on Amazon when the chicks get bigger, after 2 weeks. It is great if you have a large amount of chicks too, so the chicks don’t have to trample over each other to eat. It is long lasting, durable and so easy to clean out.
By far the best bedding for baby chicks is pine shavings or wood chips. This can be picked up at your local feed or tractor supply store. Try to avoid cedar chips or any scented shavings as these can be toxic to chickens.
Many people also use newspaper shavings or hay, but I have found that the brooder doesn’t smell as nice when these are used and easily can become slimy and slippery if you don’t change it frequently.
It is important to make sure that the the surface is not slick because the chicks can develop splayed legs if they cannot grip the surface properly.
Chicks need to be provided with warmth until they can do it on their own. For most chicks, this is about 6 weeks. As they are growing their feathers, it is up to you to provide the proper temperature for them. Keep a few thermometers handy and place them in different areas of the brooder to monitor.
I created a New Chicks Temperature Chart- Weeks 1-6 for your reference. Keep this handy as a chilly chick can become stressed, ill and die.
For more information on how to raise your chicks the first 6 weeks, read my article 6 Week Guide – How to Raise Healthy Baby Chicks.
I always keep a pack or two of Sav a Chick Electrolytes hand for my baby chicks. You never know if you are going to have a chick that will struggle after hatching. Electrolytes work the same for chicks as they do for humans. It helps to provide necessary minerals and to “rebalance” the chick.
One packet of electrolytes is enough to provide one gallon of water for your chicks. I usually mix only a small amount at a time and provide it for my new chicks. This can be given to chickens of any age. It is also good to keep on hand for your flock during extreme heat.
Fun Fact: New born chicks do not need food or water for the first 3 days, 72 hours! The reason why is because just hours prior to hatching they absorb their yolk, providing enough nutrients to get them through their first few days, including the energy consuming task of hatching. This is why it is ok to ship day old chicks in the mail.
Make sure that the water you provide your new born chicks is not cold. Provide water that is about 98 degrees for the first couple days. By the third day, it is ok to provide them with room temperature water.
Water is the first thing you should introduce your chick to when you place them into their brooder. This can be done by gently dipping their beak into the water and placing them into the brooder.
Remember, chicks need to be provided with fresh water throughout the day.
For more information on how to keep your chicks and chickens cool during extreme heat, read my article 17 Tips – How to Keep Chickens Cool in Extreme Heat.
I highly recommend giving your chicks the Manna Pro Medicated Chick Starter Grower feed. It contains Amprolium which is acoccidiostat. It will help them to develop an immunity to cocciodosis by reducing the growth of the coccidia oocysts.
I usually start them with two bags of this before switching them to the regular chick crumbles that I buy in a 50# bag from our local feed store.
Make sure that you provide chick feed for them and not feed for older chickens. Chicks feed has a higher protein content. They need this because they are growing very quickly and growing all of their feathers.
Just don’t wait until the last minute to buy food for your chicks.
In the first few days you may find that your chicks aren’t as much interested in a perch as they are nuzzling into their pine shavings. After the first few days they will begin to explore more and may hop up onto a perch if you provide one for them.
I made my own chick perch out of an old 1″ x 2″ that I had laying around. You can also use a small tree branch from outside, no larger than 1 1/2″-2″. Your local pet store and Amazon have a large variety of perches for your chicks to choose from.
Do’s and Don’ts of Setting Up Your Brooder
- Do make sure that all of your supplies are cleaned prior to introducing your chicks to them. Apple cider vinegar has many uses around your chick brooder and chicken coop.
- Do read my article: 12 Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar Around Your Chicken Coop- How to Make Your Chickens Happy, Healthy and More Productive
- Don’t wait until the last minute to set up your brooder. Gather all the essential supplies ahead of time.
- Don’t place your food or water containers directly under the heat source.
- Do make sure that you do not have any corner or tight spaces in your brooder that a chick can get stuck.
- Don’t use water bowls designed for older chickens. Chicks are likely to walk in it, poop in it and can easily drown. Take the time and invest in a properly designed chick waterer.
- Do make sure that your water source is not a drowning hazard for the newly hatched chicks. You can do this by placing marbles in the water.
- Do place the waterer on a slightly raised, flat surface. This way, it is less likely to fill with bedding.
- Do place a light, plastic funnel on top of the food and watering containers to discourage young chicks from perching on them and pooping in their food and water.
- Do make sure that you choose a safe place to house your chicks. Make sure that they are protected from cats, dogs, mice, racoons, etc.
- Do make sure that your lighting/heat source is secure, not a fire hazard and will not fall on top of the chicks.
- Do be prepared to change your chickens water at least daily and more frequently if it is filled with bedding or has poop in it. (this will happen a lot!)
Raising baby chicks can be a very positive and rewarding experience if you are prepared. Make sure that you educate yourself and have the essential brooder box supplies BEFORE you go out and get your little chicks.
Let me know in the comments below if there are any other supplies that have made raising your baby chicks a little easier.