Thursday, April 19, 2012

Homemade Chick Brooder for 50

Forget FARMER, I've been a construction maniac the past two days!

I know it sounds lame, but I can't help but feel totally awesome when I use power tools.  The brooder I built this morning is (I think) the first real woodworking project I did ALL BY MYSELF.  It's crooked and uneven and ultimately just a giant wooden box, but I couldn't be more proud.  It's the simple things.

The brooder measures 5'x2.5'x1.5' and is mostly a plywood box (it makes efficient use of a standard 4'x8' sheet), with a few pieces of scrap wood for reinforcement.  The top is a thin would frame that I will line with chicken wire (which I have a roll of stored on the other side of the state) or a smaller gage wire (because I've been having bad dreams about weasels and raccoons and want these babies to be safe at night).

I wanted to build a brooder for a few reasons:

1. I will be raising the chicks in a converted horse barn that's a little drafty, so I wanted to have a smaller, draft-free space to raise them for the first week of their life.

2. I don't care for conventional brooders AT ALL.  First off, the giant sheet pan full of poop grosses me out.  Second, it's important to me the chicks learn to scratch and peck from a young age.  Third, I'm a big believer in deep bedding systems: it stays cleaner in the long run and it's a lot less work.

3. It may be a couple of weeks before the electricity in the barn is repaired, and I need to order chicks as soon as possible.  With the brooder, I can raise them under a heat lamp in the garage to start out.

4. I've raised chicks in cardboard boxes, swimming pools, and all sorts of makeshift brooders before.  This summer I'm planning on raising 500 meat birds (10 batches of 50) and wanted a sturdy, reliable place to raise them.

The supplies for the brooder cost about $42.00 and was really easy to assemble by myself (with the assistance of several hand clamps!).  I was able to construct it, prime it, and paint two coats of exterior paint all in the same day without it feeling like a chore.

I feel like I'm on a roll!  I think tomorrow I might tackle designing a table for supporting the solar charger (the electric fencing came in the mail today for the pigs and the laying hens!  all but ONE piece, of course...).  I'm also working on the design for movable chicken tractors, which the meat chickens will live in when they are out on pasture from 4 weeks old to 8 weeks (or slaughter).  The tractors will be too large to build and transport to the farm, but I would like to gather the supplies and pre-paint all of the wood.

I love getting ready!


  1. I know exactly what you mean about using power tools! Shucks, I feel like superwoman when I manage to succeed with the drill! LOL. ;) Love your color choice on the brooder! Makes me want to go paint mine now...

    1. You can't tell from the picture, but the inside is a dark teal and the outside is light blue. If I'm going to take the time to paint something, I want it to be a pretty color! Love those little sample containers at the paint store - the entire brooder took 1 sample sized container of exterior paint (well, 2 partially used containers from past projects). I hope the chicks like it! :-)