When we decided to get chicks for the first time, we scoured the internet and our pile of chicken books for information on how to properly set up a chick brooder. This ended in terrible frustration, as we found that every book, every website, and every person had a different opinion on how to set up your chick brooder the right way.
When it finally came time to get our chicks we spoke with the hatchery owner about how to set up the brooder. He gave us some quick and to-the-point tips to make sure we found success.
The truth is, there is really no perfect way to set up a brooder, but there are simple guidelines that will lead you to success! We like to call the them the do’s and dont’s of brooder setup.
In this article, I’ll teach you to look and listen for cues from your chicks that they’re happy and healthy.
Do: Choose a safe location for your brooder
Don’t: Place the brooder in a busy place
Choosing the location of your chick brooder is likely the first step for setting it up. It’s important to put the brooder in a place that will be quiet most of the time, and will be safe. Chicks need to be protected from young children and your other pets.
Place the brooder in a mostly unused room with a door that closes completely. This room should be free of drafty windows, chemical smells, and moisture.
Chicks need a lot of sleep when they’re under a week old and really thrive in a quiet location. If you find your chicks are constantly getting startled or scared, it’s definitely time to move the brooder!
Do: Keep the brooder clean and dry at all times
Don’t: Use unsafe litter/bedding in the brooder
There are good choices for brooder bedding, and bad ones. Ideal brooder bedding is absorbent, comfortable, and safe for your chicks. Pine shavings are the ideal bedding, but straw and paper towels can also be used. Newspaper is never a good choice for the brooder, not only is not absorbent or comfortable for your birds, but the slippery nature of it can cause deformities in your chicks legs and toes.
Be sure to keep the brooder clean and dry so your chicks grow up in a healthy environment. You’ll notice quickly that chicks poop A LOT, and you may even need to change the brooder on a daily basis if you’re raising many chicks at once.
Heating the Brooder:
Do: Use a safe heat source
Don’t: Assume all brooder heaters are equal
Baby chicks absolutely need a heat source in order to survive. In nature, chicks will gather underneath their mother for warmth. In a brooder, it’s up to you to provide that warmth. But here’s the thing, not all brooder heat sources are created equal.
The best choice for your brooder is the Brinsea EcoGlow brooder heater. The chicks gather underneath the heater for warmth, much like they would go underneath their mother in nature. This brooder is safe, reliable, and will last for many years.
The next best choice is to a use a heat lamp, but with great caution. Heat lamps have been well known to cause fires, both in chicken coops and in chick brooders. This usually happens if the heat lamp falls down into highly flammable bedding.
If you choose to use a heat lamp, take every precaution to make sure it doesn’t cause a fire.
To start, make sure your brooder has a cage of some sort on top, to act as a buffer if the lamp manages to fall. Next, when hanging the heat lamp, secure it at least three ways. We like to hook the cord around the lamp stand, use the clamp that comes with the lamp, and use an extra clamp to make sure it’s tightly secured. Also be sure the lamp isn’t resting on anything plastic or flammable.
Feed and Water:
Do: Keep fresh water and food available all the time
Don’t: Feed kitchen scraps too early
The food and water requirements of chicks are really quite simple. Keep them fresh, and make sure they’re available all the time. Chicks tend to make a mess of their food and water, so it will need replenishing at least twice a day. Using a high quality chick feeder and water fount will help to keep them clean.
It’s also important to only feed the chicks chick feed for the first few weeks of their life. You technically can feed the chicks kitchen scraps and chick treats, but in order to do so you must also feed them chick grit so they can properly digest the treats.
Setting up your chick brooder truly isn’t difficult if you follow these easy tips. Make safety and the health of your chicks a priority and you can’t go wrong! I hope this post has been helpful for continuing your chicken education. As always, please leave a comment or get in touch with me via social if you have any questions or concerns!