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So you decided to start a backyard chicken flock? First you need to learn How to Build Brooder Box for the baby chicks using what you have around the house. The number and age of chicks in your flock determines the size needed. For our first two batches of chickens we have gotten 10 chicks at a time. My DIY Brooder Box is now on its second season and it is working wonderfully still and was a breeze to set back up. Keep reading if you want to see how to build a brooder box that is both simple and cheap! For a smaller batch of chicks you can go the even simpler route with a plastic tub or cardboard box but we went too big for that!
- Scrap Plywood or OSB (~24″ in width)
- Scrap Lumber (6 Chunks of 2×2, 2×4, or 2×6 around 8-12″ in length)
- 2 2x2x8′ Furring Strips for the lid
- 2 1x3x8′ furring strips for the lid crossbars
- Wood Screws 1-2″ ( I used 22 for the box and around 10 for the lid)
- Hardware Wire for the lid 24-36″ wide (2x the length of your box)
- Handful of Staples or Roofing nails
- Heat Lamp and shield
- Chick Feeder and Waterer
- Pine Chips for bedding
- Starter Chick Feed (they eat/spill more than you would expect, just get the big bag)
- Optional: Cabinet Handles for easy pick up of lid
How to Build the Brooder Box
As a general guideline chicks in the early days need ~6 square inches of space each and after a couple weeks that space requirement doubles to 1 sq ft so plan accordingly.
Find two pieces of Plywood or OSB to use as the long sides and two pieces to use as the short sides. Ideally these would be 24″ in width but mine worked fine at around 20″. Make sure the widths match so that the lid sits tighter.
Install 4 chunks of dimensional lumber as nailers 1/2″ from the ends of the long boards. Stand them upright and screw the ends on.
How to Build the Brooder Box Lid Lid
Measure your Box and build the lid to match. Cut 2 (2″x2″)furring strips for the length and 4 (1″x3″)for the width. Screw them together with a single screw on each end.
Flip the lid so that the flat side is up and Install your 1/2″ hardware wire using staples or roofing nails.
After looking over my build for the review I wish I had put the mesh on the long furring strips and just used the 1×3 strips to sandwich it down and stretch it tight. This would have saved me all the bending over my crossmembers.
Make a Home for the Chicks
Place the Tarp flat on the garage floor, set the box on top and fill with a layer of pine chips.
Set up a space for the waterer and feeder. I like to elevate mine on top of a 2×8 to help keep things clean. I arrange them away from the heat lamp so that they can huddle under the lamp. I also put 1-2″ rocks in the waterer to keep clumsy chicks from going for a swim.
For the first few weeks I install a divider using another chunk of OSB and a couple nailers. This keeps the babies in a smaller area until they get bigger.
When they get big enough to want to roost I install another furring strip or two to act as roosts. These ones I just screw through the OSB into the ends of the boards. Make sure they are low enough that the chicks can roost without being squished by the lid. And don’t put the roost over the feeding/water area.
Set the lid on top to keep the chicks in and the curious pets, kids, and varmints out!
With the tarp underneath all of the nasty bedding, spilled food, and poo is super easy to clean up. Just lift the entire box off, pick up the tarp and take it to your disposal area. With bigger birds I had to rinse the tarp off and let it dry in the sun but in the early days I would just dump it and return to apply fresh bedding.
Watch them Grow!
Our first batch of chicks stayed in my DIY Brooder the entire time I built our Chicken Tractor. We wanted them to be social so our kids handled them a lot and we took them out for exploration time in the yard when they started to get bigger.
When they were done with the brooder I just took the ends off and stacked up the lumber and lid behind a storage rack in the garage. Set up this year took about 10 minutes in total.
Be creative with what you’ve got! This isn’t the only answer but it worked for me and what I had on hand! Let me know what you thought of my How To Build a Brooder Box instructions by sharing with friends or leaving a comment, questions, or suggestions!