Raising chicks until they are six weeks-old means creating a safe space for them that mimics the experience of having a mother hen. Hens keep chicks under their feathers for warmth and to protect them from predators.
A warm brooder is a mini chicken coop that gives the chicks the warmth, water, food, and protection they would get with a mother. If you’re looking to raise chicks, it is fortunately quite easy to make a viable chick brooder on your own.
A brooder box should allow one square foot per chick after six weeks of age, but before that, chicks need even less space. In the first few weeks, 12-inch walls should suffice. By the time the chicks are six weeks, the brooder’s walls need to be 24 inches high.
A simple brooder doesn’t even require carpentry skills. Ideally, you will need a large piece of plywood as the floor. Be sure to elevate it if your floors are cool. Create a rounded structure on top of the flooring — you can do this with cardboard boxes. Make sure the structure is high enough that the chicks can’t get out, and avoid creating any sharp corners or edges, as chicks can pile up in a corner and cause injury to each other.
An important element of any good brooder is a lamp to provide warmth. Chicks like the temperature to be about ninety degrees to ninety-five degrees for the first week. You will want to lower the temperature by five degrees every week after that. A thermometer will help you regulate the warmth.
It is important to create an area of the brooder that’s warmer and one that’s cooler. You can achieve this by shining a lamp on one side of the brooder so chicks also have a slightly shaded area to retreat to.
Brooders need to have food and water. For the chick’s health, it is important to keep their feet dry, especially in the first few days. You can put down newspaper inside the brooder and change it daily to keep the flooring clean and dry. As chicks grow, you can use pine shavings to keep the floor dry. Cedar shavings are dangerous for chicks, so stick with pine. In the first few days, avoid putting down any shavings — chicks can consume them and die from blockage.
When you set up the food and water, it can be beneficial to dip the chick’s beaks into the food and water if you have very young ones. This can help teach the chicks to eat, which is something the mother hen would teach them.
When setting up food and water, choose high-quality options for your chicks. Nature’s Best Organic Feeds 18% Organic Chick Starter/Grower Crumbles gets your chicks started with quality nutrition that’s organic, non-medicated, and Non-GMO Project-Verified. This carefully formulated complete feed contains what chicks need to thrive, including vitamins, protein, amino acids, and minerals. Check out the nearest store to get healthy feed for your growing chicks.