The brooder should be/have:
- Warm/Draft-free: The temperature should be 90-100 degrees for the first week or so and can be reduced by 5 degrees each week thereafter until the chicks have their feathers or the temperature reaches room temperature. A thermometer can be helpful; however, you can tell what the chicks need by their behavior. If they are all huddled together under the light, they aren't warm enough. If they are farthest from the heat lamp, it may be too hot.
- Large enough for the chicks to move around and to lay down to sleep. It also needs to be large enough for a feeder and waterer. Our brooder (pictured above) is 16 sq/ft. We allowed for almost 1 sq/ft per chick. The sides should be a minimum of 12" high if you don't plan to have a cover on your brooder.
- The bottom should have a layer of clean pine shavings or something similar. Do not use cedar shavings as they have been known to cause respiratory infections in chickens that can lead to death.
- If the brooder is in a place that is pet accessible (dogs, cats, etc...), be sure to make a cover to protect the chicks from these predators.
- Water: Chicks drink alot of water. It is important to have fresh, clean water for them at all times. Use waterers designed for chicks. Using dishes that you have around the house may put the chicks at risk of drowning. Add 1/4 Tbs. molasses to 1 quart of water for the 1st 24-hours to help pep them up from their trip; then, switch to regular water.
- Food: It is important to keep their food full and clean as well. If you are using a non-medicated feed, cleanliness is even more vital. There are also feeders designed for chickens that will help keep the feed clean and in one place.
- Roost: When the chicks are about a month old, a low roost (about 4" off the floor) can be added for them to perch/sleep on. A small tree limb or wooden dowelling works great! Do not place the roost directly under the heat lamp.
Travis built our brooder in about 2 hours. He used wood leftover from other projects that we scavenged from my parents house. It didn't cost us a penny!