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7 DIY Chick Brooder Designs [Homemade, Free, and Easy]

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Homemade diy chick brooder designs! Chicks need supplemental heating during their first few weeks. In other words? Those cute balls of fluff need special care to help stay warm. Before long, they turn into lovely pin-feathered adolescents. But in the meantime, your chicks need a chicken brooder!

(Well, a clever chick brooder design is necessary unless you get blessed with broody hens. For the rest of us? Chick brooders it is!)

The following DIY chick brooder designs and plans are quick, easy, and inexpensive. With foresight and planning, you can have your brooder box for chicks ready for use before you get them home.

Space Requirements for Poultry

As with most homestead productions, size and numbers matter! So before we start – let’s talk about chick brooder design spacing.

Chicks need about half a square foot for their first four weeks. Chicks then require three-quarters of a square foot to one square foot for the next four weeks. So – a four-square-foot brooder for 50 chicks will have them piling on each other and dying in a day. Chicks need much more space!

Colorado State University recommends the following amounts of space for growing chicks.

Chicken TypeAge (Weeks)Floor Space (Square Feet)Cage Space (Square Feet)
Brooding0-41/21/2
Growing4-1213/4
Roasters8-1221
Leghorn type21+2 1/2 – 31
Dual-purpose21+3 – 3 1/21
This chicken brooder spacing data comes from the Colorado State University website. Check out their Space and Brooding Requirements for Poultry reference for more data, insights, and tips.

7 Homemade DIY Chick Brooder Designs

We should also check out a handful of lovely DIY chick brooder designs in further detail.

These chicken brooders are cheap and easy to make. And they keep your young hatchlings warm!

Sound good?

1. Dog Crate Chick Brooder

diy chicken brooder from cardboard box with lamp
We’ve never seen a chick brooder design using a dog crate. We thought it was perfect! So – we had to share this clever dog crate chick brooder from the Propagate Happiness blog. If your dogs get jealous that you borrow their crate for a few weeks, you may have to bribe them with a few of their favorite dog cookies!

A large dog crate is around 48-inches by 30-inches by 32-inches high. A 10-square-foot floor area could hold up to 20 chicks for four weeks and 14 for the next four weeks.

Cover the bottom eight inches of the crate walls with cardboard. (Prevents escapes and messes.) Put in the feed and water, and add a heat lamp. Cover the floor with a half-inch layer of wood chips or shavings. 

One end of the crate could open right up for ease of access, and the eight-inch cardboard can help prevent escapes. At least for a couple of weeks!

If your dog crate is Pekingese size, choose another option for your DIY chick brooder.

2. Appliance Box DIY Chick Brooder

group of newborn chicks in diy brooder
We love this backup brooder! It has lovely layers of pine shavings and plenty of space for roaming baby chickens. We’ve seen similar DIY chick brooder ideas from plastic storage. The lamp lights within the chicken brooder should be sufficient enough to reach at least 93 degrees Fahrenheit during the baby chick’s first week. The brooder temperatures should then gradually decrease weekly. The Colorado State Extension blog published an excellent poultry brooder requirements guide if you need closer guidance on ideal chicken brooder temperatures.

Large appliances quite often come in heavy cardboard boxes. Lay it on its side, cut the top out, and line it with plastic. (I use a six-mil vapor barrier for almost everything.) Then add the feed, water, heat, and wood chip or wood shaving bedding. 

A regular-sized refrigerator box will give you 15 square feet of brooder space to start 30 chicks.

3. Bathtub Chick Brooder – Or Any Tub You are Not Using

how to build a CHEAP chicken BROODER

Do you have a rarely-used tub in the house? Or any large plastic tubs that you’re not using? Then this is a great way to raise chicks so your children can be part of the program. It’s arguably the most straightforward DIY chick brooder design. Most tubs should hold a dozen chicks comfortably until you are ready to move them.

If you use an old bathtub – you will likely have to construct some temporary lids to keep them inside the tub. A simple two-by-two wood frame with chicken wire is quick, easy cheap, and light.

Make sure your drain plug stays closed to avoid chicken poop-based plumbing problems.

Read More!

4. Recycled Container Brooders

FINALLY It's Here!!  The DIY, Baby Bird Brooder / Incubator Build Part 1.
Check out how Bird Squawk built a baby bird brooder using an old cooler. We think this cooler bird brooder may be too small for baby chickens. However, we thought it was an interesting idea nevertheless. Excellent creativity!

Are you not excited about chicks in your bathtub? You can also use an old refrigerator. Remove the compressor, motor, fins, and coolant. Replace the door with a lightweight lid made of two by two and chicken wire. With creativity, you can hinge it to the brooder. 

You can remove the divider between the fridge and freezer sections for more room or use the freezer as a safe space for a sick bird.

5. Portable DIY Chick Brooder

diy plastic tub chick brooder with red light
Amanda from Life at Cloverhill produced this perfect chick brooder using nothing but a large plastic tote, hardware cloth, and some zip ties! She also added a few handy brooder upgrades – like a thermometer and a red lamp. We think the chick brooder design is genius – and we recommend everyone check it out! Read their full chicken brooder tutorial. Or check out their epic chicken brooder instructions on YouTube!

This opaque white tote is big enough to hold a few chicks comfortably for weeks. Cut a large rectangle out of the top and zip-tie hardware cloth, chicken wire, or anything that provides light and air into the opening.

It is the perfect brooder to move chicks outside when warm and sunny. Or to a permanent home when ready. The lid stays on tight, Easy to clean and store. Make sure the bottom of the tote is as flat as possible.

6. Build Your Own Chick Brooder

The chicken brooder instructional below provides detailed information on building an easy outdoor DIY brooder. We love the spacious design – and the detailed instructions.

The chicken brooder is also decent-sized – so it remains practical (as a small chicken pen) even if you no longer need it to help raise baby chicks.

DIY Chick Brooder Design - Raise Baby Chickens Outdoors Easy

Bock Bock Bouquet’s video above teaches us the best benefit of building a DIY chick brooder. You can customize it how you want!

Everyone who has ever raised chickens from scratch has a brooder design they want to try. But remember – the best brooder is the one that works for your needs.

7. Build a Brooder for Serious Homestead Egg or Chicken Production

baby chickens in a brooder with red bulb
Here you see a lovely flock of baby chicks within a farmyard chicken brooder. We’re not sure if they’re meat birds or not – but they’re adorable all the same. Notice the lovely baby chickens hovering around the sizeable chicken brooder bulb. The photo got taken during the daytime – so the brooder bulb wasn’t on. But it looks like the baby chickens are anticipating the red bulb’s heat.

Most homestead or backyard chicken and egg operations aim for a dozen laying hens – or less. (Eight to ten eggs a day kind of adds up.) This manageable amount of eggs makes it simple to replace hens using a small brooder.

A more significant operation like the one described below usually requires more brooder space. It is difficult to cull non-laying hens and feed in new stock. (Non-laying hens do not wear an I’m a freeloader sign.)

One of the best ways to gradually change layers – and keep track of what you are doing – is to change breeds. (A six-month-old white Leghorn looks the same as a two-year-old whiter Leghorn.)

A brooder for 100 chicks will need to be close to the size of three sheets of plywood if you are keeping them in there for eight weeks. That is about 90 square feet of floor area – ten feet by nine feet. A DIY chick brooder of these dimensions can be a fair-sized construction project.

The most efficient design has the brooder attached to the chicken barn with a connecting door. Or the two chicken brooders could share a run. Herding 100 chickens or picking them up one by one is not much fun.

Build a solid brooder. Well-insulated and predator-proof. Either run electricity to it or make sure that you have power close.

Personal Chicken Brooder Design Story

When dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, and I was a kid, my parents had about 200 laying hens and delivered eggs to the egg grading station in the little town one and a half miles away. (My sister and I cleaned a lot of eggs.) Our chick shack was about 150 square feet with its run. 

Farming without electricity meant there were two coal-oil heaters – similar to the one pictured – in the shack. It held 250 chicks – 200 future layers and 50 fryers. It was an all-out and all-in program. Butcher 50 fryers one day. Butcher 200 old hens another day. Empty the chick shack into the hen house.

No, they were not superhuman. My mother had eight siblings. My father had 13. Times two for spouses, add a few friends and a hoard of cousins. They were not all there at once, but there were always enough. Whenever and whatever we butchered – the clan would give any packing plant a run for its money.

baby broiler cross chicks in brooder
We found this lovely photo when researching chick brooder ideas. Notice the small chicken feeder and water bowl for the young (and hungry) chicks. We also love how this chicken brooder looks nice and warm! We read from the University of Missouri Extension blog that developing chicks without adequate heating may develop respiratory issues. But – they also warn your brooder house should not give too much heat! (Their article advises chicken brooder temperatures exceeding 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer may be detrimental.)

DIY Chick Brooder Designs Basics and FAQs

All of those chickens were a ton of work! And over the years – we encountered a handful of DIY chick brooder designs and questions.

And – we penned the following chicken brooder FAQ section to help you.

What Temperature Should My Chick Brooder Be?

Colorado State University Extension recommends the following brooder temperatures.

AgeBrooding Temperature
0 to 1 week93° to 95° Fahrenheit (33.9° to 35° Celsius)
1 to 2 weeks88° to 90° Fahrenheit (31.1° to 32.2° Celsius)
2 to 3 weeks83° to 85° Fahrenheit (28.3° to 29.4° Celsius)
3 to 4 weeks78° to 80° Fahrenheit (25.6° to 26.7° Celsius)
4 to 5 weeks75° Fahrenheit (23.9°Celsius)
5 to 6 weeks70° Fahrenheit (21.1°Celsius)
6 weeks and over50° to 70° Fahrenheit (10° to 21.1° Celsius)
This chicken brooder temperature data comes from the Colorado State University Extension. Visit their excellent Space and Brooding Requirements for Poultry article for more pertinent chick brood design tips and information.

You can accomplish this temperature for up to 100 chicks with a 250-watt brooder bulb. Smaller flocks can be kept warm with 60 or 100-watt incandescent bulbs.

Ideally, you have a thermometer about two inches from the floor of the brooder for temperature readings. And your bulb height is adjustable to change temperature. You can also tell by watching the chicks. If they huddle together under the lamp, they are too cold. If they scatter away from the heating lamp, they are too hot.

Chick Brooder Water Requirements

Cackle Hatchery (since 1936) recommends a one-quart waterer per 25 brooder chicks. You will need to change to a gallon waterer within two weeks. Keep the water clean, fresh, and pure.

chicken brooder caring for young chicks with heating lamp
We’ve seen chicken brooder designs ranging from luxurious to rustic – from kiddie pools to plastic totes. A simple brooder around your chicken coop doesn’t need to be fancy. If your brooder house keeps your baby chickens warm, safe, and clean? Then you’re in business. We’ve read from multiple trustworthy sources that your baby chick brooder should warm your baby birds to around 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit during your chick’s first week.

What Type of Feed Should My Chicks Have?

24% (twenty-four percent) protein chick feed to get them started. Almost any decent quality chick starter will get your chicks growing fast. 

Another personal note. Check the label! Some chicken feed from different parts of the world may contain arsenic. We’re probably being paranoid. But always double-check to ensure you provide healthy, nourishing chicken feed to your flock. And say no to arsenic in your chicken feed!

How Often Should I Change Brooder Bedding?

Large shavings are the best bedding for your brooder. Stay cleaner longer. Easy to clean when necessary. Will compost or burn.

You can clean them out every three to four days during the first few weeks. After that, trust your nose, and clean it as required.

Another note. The only thing dumber than a chicken is two chickens. They will try to swallow anything. Stick with large shavings. They will live longer.

newly hatched baby chickens in diy brooder box
A lot of our homesteading friends confuse chicken brooders vs. chicken incubators. Chicken brooders help to keep your newly-hatched baby chickens warm. Incubators help to keep eggs warm – and hatch them. We’ve also seen adult birds enjoy brooder heat lamps if they get too cold during winter! They’re more than welcome and don’t bother the chicks. But – keep an eye out for your barn cats!

Conclusion

Throughout this article, I have ranted about brooder size. With good reason! Those cute fluffy yellow chicks need plenty of space for a healthy upbringing. They stretch, flap, and waddle around more than you think!

So – ensure they have enough room, a clean chicken brooder, clean water, plenty of food, and heat.

Otherwise, you might be witness to a fair-sized murder spree.

Finally, I (Elle, the editor – not the author of this article) wanted to share this ultra-cute video of my baby chicks with you! We’ve loved watching their journey from momma sitting on the eggs to the chicks pecking their way out of the egg.

The day they were brave enough to go outside was amazing! The momma chickens are incredible. They stay with the babies the whole time, showing them how to dust bath, how to scratch… It’s awesome.

Ultra cute baby chicks!

What about you?

Do you have any fun and unique DIY chick brooder designs that we have yet to discover?

If so – we would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks again for reading.

And – have a great day!

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