How to build a simple (and cheap) chicken brooder

A for your chickens doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. In fact, you can build one in just a few minutes with just a cardboard box.

Find a box that is a suitable size for your . Remember, the will grow and the box must be large enough for them to move around and contain them as they get bigger.

One thing to keep in mind is that as the chicks grow, they will begin to spread their wings and attempt to fly. Although most cannot actually take flight for any length of time, they can get some good air! be sure your box is tall enough to keep them inside or plan on placing a cover over it to keep them in. It is a big shock to see a small bird roaming around the house!

I found a box about 12 inches wide, 12 inches tall, and 60 inches long to start with. 60 inches is a bit long so I cut the box down to 36 inches.

Beginning of cardboard chcickenbrooder

Here I am modifying a box that was a bit too big. I need to cap off the end with another piece of cardboard. Notice the flaps are being kept…

Building a chicken brooder from a cardboard box

Here I am cutting the piece to fit the opening. Notice it is being cut a bit taller than the opening…

Building a chicken brooder from a cardboard box

The box is lain on its side and the end piece is being taped into place. Notice the flap is also being taped. This makes the box taller.

Before introducing chicks to the box, add your layer of newspaper, then place pine shaving on top of it. Do Not use just newspaper, it will cause the chickens to have leg problems. Place the food and water in the brooder. Install the brooder light and let everything warm up a day or so. This helps reduce stress on the chicks.

Cardboard chicken brooder complete with chicks

Here the brooder is complete and the chicks are in it. Notice the blocks of 2×4 the feeder and waterer are on. This helps keep shavings from getting into them.

Fouled chicken waterer

Raising the food and water helps reduce the amount of shavings that foul the feeder and waterer. Be sure to remove shavings so the chick have access at all times to food and water.

When the chicks get a week or so old, I like to add a perch. This gives them a place to rest and also gets them used to perching, something that comes natural anyway. I like to use a stick or dowel that is about an inch in diameter.

Perch installed in chicken brooder

Measure up from the floor of the brooder approximately 3 inches and poke a hole in the brooder walls. Install the perch through the holes.

And now for a few words of caution:

  1. Do not be tempted to use the typical clip on light that most homeowners purchase. Those lights have a tendency to fall apart on a good day and when the chicks start growing and attempting to fly, they WILL hit the light and it may fall into the brooder and onto the pine shavings. A chicken brooder light MUST be used for safety. Chicken brooder lights are built much sturdier and are less likely to fall apart.
  2. The brooder light should be secured so it cannot fall into the brooder. I usually clip the light onto the side of the box and place a metal rod through the metal wires that protect the bulb, but I have used two methods successfully.
Keeping the clip on heat lamp from falling into the chicken brooder

Run the metal rod through the clip of the brooder lamp and cut notches in the brooder for it to set into. Note that this brooder was set up in a hurry by my son and he could not find the metal rod we typically use. He used a piece of PVC pipe instead. I replaced the PVC with the metal rod when it was found.

Keeping the brooder light from falling into the chicken brooder

Place the metal rod through the metal wires that protect the heat lamp. This picture shows a plastic brooder. I typically cut notches into the cardboard top to set the pipe into.

One of my favorite reasons for using cardboard is the fact that when the chick grow, I can just cut a hole in the side and tape on another box to give them more room.

The biggest thing that should be mentioned is brooder lamp safety. There is an alternative to the hot brooder lamps. Check out this article about the Brinsea brooders.

20 Chick brooder 50 Chick brooder

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