How to Raise Healthy (and Happy) Chicks: Part 4 Brooders


Welcome to Part 4 of this article series!  If you’re just now jumping in be sure to check out parts 1, 2, and 3 for valuable information on feed and water, bedding, and heating.  In this article, we will be discussing brooders-options, size requirements, and suggested setups to help you along the way.  I will also include a link that shows what we did, as well as provide a cut list for everything you will need to build that particular brooder.

Brooder Size Requirements

You are probably wondering what exactly a brooder is, and why I keep mentioning it.  A brooder is simply a small, safe area for chicks to reside in until they have feathered out and can safely be transferred into their coop.  It is essential to have a brooder if you do not have a mama hen brooding her babies.  So, how much room do chicks need?  Well, this varies, based on age.  For the first four weeks, chicks at most only need about one-square foot of space per chick.  From four weeks to eight weeks, I would recommend at least two-square feet of space per chick.  Typically, between eight and ten weeks of age, chicks are feathered out and ready for their coop, but if for some reason yours need to be in the brooder longer than eight weeks, I would recommend at least three-square feet per chick.  I would not recommend keeping chicks in the brooder past twelve weeks of age as issues such as boredom and crowding can arise, which leads to pecking and fights.

Brooder Type

Like many things in the chicken keeping world, there are many options on what type of brooder you can choose to have, so you don’t have to break the bank raising chickens.  You could always just build one (click here to see how we built ours), or you could upcycle some items you no longer have a use for at home.  I have seen people get pretty creative with their repurposing skills, using plastic totes, baby playpens, or even metal stock tanks you can buy from stores like Tractor Supply, to use as brooders.  As long as it has the space requirements and will keep your chicks safe (this includes keeping them safe from other pets that may be in the home), then go for it!  If you do choose to build a brooder, I do suggest building it to the size needed to accommodate your chicks at the oldest age they will be there.  What I mean is if you have six chicks and plan to keep them in the brooder for eight weeks, then in order to avoid having to rebuild to prevent crowding, you should initially build the brooder large enough to provide each chick with at least two-square feet of space.  Now that we’ve got the sizing squared away, let’s look at some suggestions on how to set up your brooder.

Setting up Your Brooder

No matter what you decide to use as a brooder, keep in mind you will need to set it up to accommodate your chicks the best way possible.  For the first couple of weeks, I would suggest keeping food and water no more than a foot away from the heating source, if you are using a plate heater or a panel heater.  This will allow your chicks the ability to eat and drink without straying too far from the heat and getting too cold.  Placing pebbles or marbles in the waterer(s) will also help prevent chicks from drowning, should they happen to decide to take a nap while visiting the watering hole.  Also, slightly elevating their waterer(s), by using something such as a wooden block, may reduce debris that ends up in their water (just be sure not to elevate it too high).  As your chicks begin to grow, and require less heat and more space, you can gradually move their food and water further and further away from their heating source and continue to elevate their waterer(s) based on their height.  For enrichment, after two weeks of age, you can add toys, a small roosting bar, a dust bath, or even a feather duster to simulate a mama hen (a feather duster can be added on day one).  These enrichment tools will help keep your chicks comfortable and entertained and will ultimately reduce pecking or fighting behaviors.


Keeping your chicks safe and happy is of the utmost importance, but it doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Although I’ve provided a few examples, there are many more out there.  Remember, there is no one-way only of doing things, so you have to find what works best for you.  I hope this series of articles have been helpful, and if you would like some tips and pointers on what to do when unboxing your chicks, then click on the button below to read the final article in this series!



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