All About Brooders For Your New Poultry

One of the most important things that you need before you get your first baby poultry is a good brooder set up.

What is a brooder, you ask? A brooder is an area for baby chicks, turkey poults, ducklings and goslings to be given their best start in life. A brooder provides warmth while the babies grow their feathers. Until they have their feathering, they are unable to regulate their body temperature, which makes them susceptible to death if their temperature drops too low. Most losses during the first few weeks of life are due to body temperatures falling below the needed level for life. We recommend you keep your brooder at a steady 95-100 degrees for the first week of life and dropping 5 degrees each week following.  Learn more about brooding here.

Considerations for a Good Brooder Setup

Amount of space

Is there ample space for the number of chicks? This will be their home for their first few weeks. How much space needed depends partially on what breed of chicks you buy.  Cornish Cross meat birds will outgrow brooders quickly while small bantams can be content for a while. They need access to clean water and feed 24/7. Make sure that the heat source is not next to the water, as a chick can end up being chilled or even drowned when attempting to be close to that warmth and falls in the waterer.

For 25 standard breed baby chicks, using a plastic tote that is about 18 inches wide by 30 to 36 inches long is a great brooder option. This amount of space typically keeps them happy and healthy for the first 3 weeks.  Around that time adjustments will need to be made because they begin to jump out of the brooder.

Draft protection

Protection from drafts is very important as any cold breeze can reduce the temperature of the air around your chicks, causing them to chill. You may not feel the draft during the day time, but if you lay your hand on the ground at night you might be surprised at the draft that goes through. This draft can be quite deadly and must be prevented.

Flooring dryness

One important aspect of brooding chicks is to keep the flooring both dry and not slippery. Slippery floor surfaces can create leg issues in baby chicks. A dry brooder allows the chick to keep its feathers puffed out which aids in staying warm. Moisture build-up combined with a heat source can quickly become a biological nightmare. Coccidia is a protozoan parasite that loves a moist, warm environment. This can become an issue and result in high mortality as well as stunted growth, especially in meat chicks. A clean and dry brooder greatly reduces the risk of a coccidia outbreak. In an area where chicks have been raised previously it is also a good idea to properly disinfect to prevent build-up.

DYI Brooder Options

Now that we have gone through the three most important parts of a good brooder, we can look into some great DIY brooder ideas. 

Plastic totes are a great temporary brooder for use indoors. They are easily cleaned and disinfected. You also have many size options available at your local Wal-Mart or hardware store. In the offseason, you can easily and safely store your other brooder materials in them until next year. 

Brooder Panels are a great option to customize the brooder size and space. You can purchase any number of panels you need to build the perfect size brooder, as the panels interlock with connection slots. Another nice feature of the panels is they are easy to clean and store when you are finished with the brooder phase.

Livestock watering troughs are used often at your local farm store. They work similar to a plastic tote but can be repurposed later for use as a watering container for large livestock. They can be made of aluminum or rubber. As chicks get older, they can jump out, so consider adding a mesh cover – hardware cloth or chicken wire works nicely.

A Horse Stall (or corner of a barn) is another great option! To use a horse stall, you’ll want to use a smaller corner section of the stall. Use solid boards to create the second two sides. It is still important to reduce drafts and make sure that your heat lamp is able to be properly and securely fastened. Be sure to check out our blog on turning a horse stall into a chicken coop

Be sure to check us out on Pinterest for different designs for building your own brooder. If you are not following us on Pinterest, be sure to do so for other great ideas! 

Have you ever used something else as a brooder that worked really well? Leave a comment below!

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