Chicken Brooders: Everything you Need to Know

Chicken Brooders Everything you Need to Know Blog Cover

A chicken brooder is an essential piece of equipment for you if you intend to hatch and raise chicks yourself.

The really nice thing about having one ready to go is that you can effectively hatch year round if you want to.

In this article we will explain the various chicken brooders available so you can work out which one is best for you. We will also discuss heaters, how to set up one up and much more…

What Is A Chicken Brooder?

BROODER BROODER/HEATER TYPE OUR RATING
Farm Innovators Baby Chick Area Brooder Brooder Area 5 star rating
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Chicken Brooder Box Brooder Box 4 star rating
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Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder for Chicks Heater Plate 5 star rating
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Sweeter Heater Infrared Heater Heater Infrared 4 star rating
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Premier Heat Lamp for Brooders Heater Lamp 4 star rating
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Some folks get confused thinking a chicken brooder is an incubator of sorts. Well, the unhelpful answer is – it can be!

An incubator is the place where you put fertilized eggs to be hatched. In this closed environment the egg is supplied with heat and moisture sufficient to promote growth and hatching. On day 21 your little peeps will emerge looking quite pathetic. At this point you should leave them in the incubator to dry off and fluff up. Chicks can actually stay there for 48 hours before they have to move.

A brooder is the place where you move your chicks to after incubation. Here they will spend a lot of time being fed, watered, loved on and of course, being kept safe and warm.

As you can see, the incubator was a brooder for maybe a couple of days, but it is not ideal for long term brooding.

Types of Chicken Brooders

Area Brooder

THE BEST CHICKEN AREA BROODER
Chicken Brooders Farm Innovators Baby Chick Area Brooder

  • Can easily hold up to 15 chicks
  • Adjustable light bar to set perfect temperature for your chicks
  • It has no base which makes cleaning it very easy

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This is a step up from the box. Your chicks have now got much bigger and require more space so you have moved them to an area or a coop.

Ideally, you would have the area brooder setup permanently so the chicks can stay there from until they graduate to the coop.

If you intend to keep and raise chickens it’s always a good idea to have a brooding area/starter coop ready to go. When not in use you can use it for storage of accessories.

Remember as a general rule the more expensive they are, the more durable they are.

Chicken Brooder Box

THE BEST CHICKEN BROODER BOX
Brooder Box Chicken Brooder Box

  • Has no bottom which makes cleaning it easy
  • Adjustable light bar to set perfect temperature for your chicks
  • Can be folded flat when not in use to save space

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This is what most of us have or start out with; a large container that is modified or made to keep chicks in one particular space.

This type is great when they are small and don’t require too much space. It’s usual to move them from the beginner brooder to a larger area with the same type of set-up.

Whatever you buy or make, ensure it is at least 12 inches tall to prevent escape. Also it is difficult for chicks to grip with their feet, so until their legs are much stronger, use paper towels as flooring/bedding. They should be able to be changed over to pine shavings after 7-10 days.

Types of Chicken Brooder Heaters

Heating Plate

THE BEST CHICKEN BROODER HEATING PLATE
Heater Plate Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder for Chicks

  • Safe – no need to worry about coop fires
  • Adjustable height to provide perfect temperature for your chicks as they grow
  • Can support up to 20 chicks

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There are a few types of heater for brooding purposes, but the most popular is the heating plate.

It is by far the easiest and safest to use. All you do is set it in the area, introduce the chicks to it (making sure the plate barely touches their fluff/feathers) and that’s it. Another huge advantage with these is there is minimal fire risk.

The plate maintains an even temperature and the chicks have the freedom to move away or snuggle under at will.

Brooder plates come in several sizes so you can brood 5-50 chicks with no problems.

Brooder Lamp

THE BEST CHICKEN BROODER HEATING LAMP
Heat Lamp for Brooders Premier Heat Lamp for Brooders

  • Comes with clip to hold lamp securely
  • Can support up to 250 watt bulb which is enough for 20 chicks
  • Made from strong shatter proof plastic to protect chicks

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A heat lamp, or ceramic lamp, used to be very popular before the creation of the heating plate.

Simply hang the lamp on a chain and a secondary securing method inside the brooder. You then use a thermometer and adjust the height of the lamp to control the temperature for the chicks.

It’s worth noting that heat lamps pose a significant fire risk, make sure yours is securely fixed in place and is working correctly before you start brooding.

Infrared Heater

THE BEST CHICKEN BROODER INFRARED HEATER
Heater Infrared Sweeter Heater Infrared Heater

  • Very efficient meaning it is cheap to run
  • Has automatic shut off which helps to protect your chicks
  • Uniform heating pattern meaning all your chicks stay warm

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Infrared heaters are similar to heating lamps, however the lamps are said to reduce aggression in chicks so they are usually recommended.

As they are a large panel they do a great job of spreading the heat around the brooder so you don’t get chicks bullying each other for space.

They are also thermostatically controlled, which makes them more cost effective and more efficient.

Whilst a little more expensive if you are anticipating long term use, the cost is well worth it.

Basic Requirements of a Brooder

Chicks
Regardless of the type you buy, just remember at its most basic, it is a safe, secure area that houses your chicks until they are large enough to move into the coop.

The brooder consists of several things:

  • Perimeter: Can be bought or made.
  • Heat source: There are several types (heat lamp, ceramic lamps or heat plate)
  • Security: It needs to keep out cats, dogs, mice and small children. The area should be completely self-contained and accessible by only you.
  • Food: You will need to provide a food container and appropriate food
  • Water: Again, you will need to provide a suitable drinker and clean, fresh water daily.
  • Bedding: Suitable for chicks. This can be newspaper or paper towels for the first few days, then transition over to pine shavings.

Space Requirements of Chicks

Chicks are tiny and always huddle together, but don’t let that fool you they still require a fair amount of room.

The recommended square footage is 2 per chick! In the first couple of weeks you can get away with a bit less, but once they start to grow and try to find their place in the pecking order, mischief will break out.

Toe picking, feather plucking are two manifestations of nasty habits and once these start it is difficult to break them.

At 6-8 weeks old, the floor space needs to be increased to 4 square foot per chick. You are approaching adult dimensions for bird space. Adolescence is the worst time for bad behavior, so plenty of room is advisable to prevent injury, bullying and frustration.

Chicken Brooder FAQs

Young Chicks from Hatchery

Which Brooder Should I Buy?

So what type of brooder should you buy? The answer will depend on what you intend to do after this batch of chicks and of course, finances.

If you fully intend to hatch several batches of chicks then it really does make sense to buy a kit. Make sure it has all you need and is very durable. If you don’t want all of the components then buy what you do need. If on the other hand, you have a designated space ready and some supplies ready – simply buy what you need.

How to Set Up a Brooder

Before you introduce your chicks to the brooder, a couple of things need to be done. Even if you bought all the equipment brand new, rinse it down with either some disinfectant or warm, soapy water to make sure it is clean.

Secondly and most importantly, test everything to make sure it works and have it working before you place the chicks in it.

What Brooder Temperature Do Chicks Need?

We had briefly mentioned temperature earlier, but for the sake of completeness, we will run through it again here.

  • Day 0-7 (95°F)
  • Day 7-14 (90°F)
  • Day 14-21 (85°F)
  • Day 21-28 (80°F)
  • Day 28-35 (75°F)
  • Day 35 (70°F)

Remember during each temperature drop to observe your chicks and make sure they are comfortable.

The best way to determine if it’s warm enough without a thermometer is to watch your chicks. If they are at the outer reaches of the box – it’s too hot; if they are clustered under the lamp – it’s too cold; if they are dotted around the area you have it just right!

At around day 28 chicks can go outside for short spells as long as it is warm and sunny. Also if you are hatching in winter you can drop the temperature by another 5 degrees to 65°F until they are fully feathered out.

Summary

Brooding your own chicks is always a fun and interesting time. It’s a good way to teach kids about chicks and the care they need too, it is a lesson in life and caring.

We hope this has been beneficial to you in buying brooders and assessing what you need.

My best advice is if you are thinking of hatching chicks next year, start buying stuff this year. In fact, why not ask people to get you something you want for Christmas!

Do you hatch your own or do you have a broody hen, which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below…

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  • How to choose the perfect breed of chicken for you- including our top 5 beginner picks.
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