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Building your Brooder Box: How to and How Much

Two week old Cornish Cross Chicks
Chickens in Brooder Box
Our beautiful ladies this year. They are now almost four weeks old and have grown tremendously since we brought them home.

Spring is in the air and it’s the perfect time for starting a flock of chickens. I wasn’t originally planning on adding to our flock this year, but we lost a few ladies this Winter so we’ll be adding a few new baby chicks. If you’ve never owned chickens before Spring is the perfect time. Co-op’s and farms are full of baby chicks with the biggest selection of breeds available in March and April.

Brooder Boxes are surprisingly easy to put together, you only need a few items.

The box itself. You can use anything from a cardboard box to a plastic pool for your chicks. As long as your box has high enough sides to keep the chicks from jumping out. We’ve used an old storage container, an empty fish tank and an old toy box for our brooder boxes and they’ve all worked great. So as long as you get creative you shouldn’t need to buy your box.

Water and feed containers: You’ll need a screw on water base and a screw on feeder base. the water base is $1.49 and the feeder base is $3.29 at our local co-op. You will also need a jar and water feeder, which are $1.89 at our local co-op. The feed and water bases will also screw onto regular mouth mason jars and that’s what I used instead of purchasing feed and water holders.

Feed and Water Containers

A heat lamp is also essential for your brooder box. Chicks don’t have their adult feathers in and can’t regulate their own temperature as well as adult birds do you’ll need to keep them warm with a heat lamp. Heat lamp bulbs are $3.99 for a white bulb or $7.99 for a red bulb and the lamp domes run between $8.99-$12.99 depending on the type. Make sure to buy a lamp dome specifically for heat lamps. I put our heat lamp dome in our coop when it started to get cold and used a house lamp with a heat lamp bulb for our brooder box. Big mistake! The heat lamp bulb burnt out our regular lamp and ruined it.

Heat Lamp and Bulb

Chicks like clean dry bedding so make sure you have pine shavings or hay for them. I buy hay directly from farmers at $3 a bale and change the brooder box bedding every week. One bale of hay lasts through at least a dozen changes. Water and feed containers should be refilled daily, even if there is still water in the container it’s important to give your chicks fresh, clean water daily. Every batch of chicks I have ever had likes to stand in their water containers and sometimes roost on top of the mason jar, if they’re not provided fresh water they can make themselves sick.

It’s also a good idea to put some branches in your brooder box to give your chicks something to practice perching on.

So buying the essentials for your brooder box will look like this.

Box, free or re-purposed
water and feed containers – $8
Bedding $3
Heat lamp and bulb $17

Depending on where you buy your supplies and how frugal you go setting up a brooder box should cost between $25-$35, and everything except the bedding can be used over and over again so you’re not reinvesting each time you get new chicks.

When the chicks start jumping out of their box you can put netting or a lid on top.

We got Amerucana, White Leghorn and Rhode Island Red chicks this year. What kinds of chicks are you planning on getting?