When you raise chicks there are a couple of pieces of equipment that are going to be essential to you.
One of these pieces of equipment is a chicken brooder.
A chicken brooder is a safe container where your chicks will live until they are old enough to venture outside. Inside the brooder you will also find a heat source which will keep them toasty warm and allow them to thrive.
Some people use the term brooder to mean both the container and the heater, so we have decided to do the same as we give you the low-down on brooders.
If you are currently in the market for a brooder then keep reading to learn everything you need to know…
Contents and Quick Navigation
- The Best 5 Chicken Brooders
- What Is A Chicken Brooder?
- What To Consider When Buying A Chicken Brooder
- How To Set Up A Brooder
- Common Problems With Chicken Brooders
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Best 5 Chicken Brooders
|Best Brooder Only
|Farm Innovators 3700 Baby Chick Brooder
|Best Heating Plate
|Brinsea Ecoglow 600 Brooder
|Rural365 Chick Heating Plate
|RentACoop Chick Brooder Heating Plate
Best Brooder Only: Farm Innovators 3700 Baby Chick Brooder
The Farm Innovators 3700 Baby Chick Brooder is a very affordable brooder. In addition to the brooder container you also get an adjustable height brooder lamp hanger. This option is suitable for someone who already has a heat source and is just looking for a simple and no frills brooder. It is important to note with this brooder that the walls are thin plastic sheets. This should contain smaller chicks well enough, but they will not withstand any weight such as a dog or cat trying to see the chicks.
- Suitable for those who already have a heat source.
- Brooder is very lightweight and easy to move.
- Can be used for up to 10 chicks.
- Easy to store and reuse.
- Not suitable for households with pets.
- Does not come with a base.
Best Heating Plate: Brinsea Ecoglow 600 Brooder
The Brinsea Ecoglow 600 Brooder is a premium heating plate which comes from a high quality manufacturer. Brinsea is a well-known name so if budget is no concern then this brooder is for you. This heater comes in 3 different sizes, so it can be used for either 20, 35 or 50 chicks. The unit comes with instructions as well. It is important to note that the manufacturer states clearly that the ambient room temperature where the unit is located should be 50F.
- Original creator of the heating plate.
- Comes with a free 3 year warranty.
- Has an indicator light to confirm brooder is on.
- Plate comes in 3 different sizes.
- Helpful and responsive customer service.
- The most expensive heating plate.
- Small for the stated number of chicks.
Most Affordable: Rural365 Chick Heating Plate
The Rural365 Chick Heating Plate has received overwhelmingly good reviews. I use one of these units and I love it. It is manufactured in the Netherlands and is specifically made for small batches of chicks as there is only one size available. This heating plate is ideal for around 8 chicks. It is easy to assemble, heats up quickly and is easy to clean.
- Very reasonable price.
- Comes with height adjustable legs.
- Economical to run.
- Suitable for around 8 chicks.
- Easy to clean.
- Customer service is not helpful.
- Not suitable for the manufacturers; recommended number of chicks.
Best Value: RentACoop Chick Brooder Heating Plate
The RentACoop Chick Brooder Heating Plate is easy to setup, clean and operate. This plate is suitable for up to 10 chicks and will keep them warm and toasty. It is height adjustable so can be used with your chicks from week 1 all the way through to week 8. The product has the UL seal of approval and the other positives include the 6ft attached power cord, automatic heat control and adjustable height settings.
- Automatic heat control.
- Very simple set up and easy to use.
- 25 different adjustable height settings.
- Economical to run.
- Suitable for up to 10 chicks.
- More expensive than other plates.
- Too small for manufacturers’ recommended number of chicks.
- Does not include anti-roosting cover.
What Is A Chicken Brooder?
When researching about chicks you have probably come across a brooder – but what exactly is it and why do you need one?
A brooder is basically a container where you keep your chicks until they are old enough to be kept outside in the coop.
Chicken brooders need to do two things:
- It needs to be secure so that the chicks are protected
- Brooders also need to be warm and dry
A brooder box usually consists of the four walls, a base and a lid and they can be made out of cardboard, plastic or even wood.
One of the most important parts of the brooder is the heat lamp. Heat lamps are used inside a brooder to keep your chicks warm.
Historically this used to be a red bulb but now most people use a heating plate because they are much safer. Heating plates also use significantly less electricity than a heat lamp.
What To Consider When Buying A Chicken Brooder
Although there are a lot of chicken brooders available, you only need to know a few key things to make sure you buy the right one for your chicks.
Let’s look at what to consider when picking your chicken brooder.
- Size: Your brooder will need to be big enough for your chicks and their feed and water stations. Each chick will need 0.5-1 square foot for the first six weeks of life. Too little space can cause antisocial behaviors such as pecking and picking.
- Setup Difficulty: You will need an engineering degree to put some brooders together! Simple is better and means you will be comfortable using it again.
- Security: You should check how secure it is. Can a dog or cat chew through it? If it is made of cardboard or plastic then it needs to be placed in an area that cannot be accessed by rodents or predators.
- Ease of Cleaning: Can it be cleaned out daily? Chicks can make a lot of mess and they need to be kept clean to prevent sickness and disease.
- Heat Source: Most brooders still come with the old style heat lamps; however, most people want to use heating plates these days. Make sure your brooder is compatible with the heat source you intend to use.
- Heating Plates: If you decide to use a heating plate then make sure it is height adjustable. You will need to raise it as the chicks grow. You will also need to check the size. Be aware that your plate may cover 15 one day old chicks, but will it cover them as they grow? Most will not so bear this in mind and buy a larger plate if you need to.
How To Set Up A Brooder
Most chicken brooders are fairly easy to set up.
The sides should fit together snugly to exclude drafts and the panels should be tall enough (18+ inches) to stop chicks from hopping or flying out.
You should set up your brooder somewhere quiet and out of the way. The area you put it in needs to be dry, clean and warm. A cold garage is not going to be ideal from a couple of perspectives. The ambient room temperature needs to be 50°F or hotter. The room will also need to be safe from possible predators.
Once you have picked the perfect spot you need to put their shavings, food and water inside the brooder.
Now onto the topic of setting up your heat source.
A brooder plate could not be simpler to set up.
All you need to do is adjust the legs to the required height. The plate should be low enough for the chicks to sit comfortably underneath it.
Plug in and you are done.
Heat lamps are a bit more involved.
You will have to adjust the height of the bulb and reflector to maintain a temperature of 95°F. This can be done by placing a thermometer on the floor of the brooder under the hanging heat lamp. You may have to adjust the height of the lamp a few times before you get the right temperature.
If you have a hanging heat lamp then make sure it is secured and cannot fall into the brooder. Every year, sadly, there are fires caused by faulty or improperly attached heat lamps.
Your brooder and heat source should be set up before your chicks hatch so that it is ready to go and you can quickly get them acclimated.
What Brooder Temperature Do Chicks Need?
The brooder temperature for layer chicks should be set at 95°F for the first week of their life.
At the start of the second week the heat can be reduced by 5 degrees to 90°F. In the third week the temperature will be 85°F and so on.
The heat can be turned off when the chicks’ brooder temperature is within 5°F of the ambient air temperature.
Keep in mind that at night and during cold spells the chicks may need some additional heat for a couple of weeks. Also if you are raising chicks during the winter months then the heat will need to stay on a little longer to help them thrive.
You will know your chicks are warm enough if they are scattered all over the brooder and happily peeping!
If all your chicks are huddled together under the lamp then they are too cold. If they are all scattered to the edges of the brooder then they are too hot.
Also, remember that if you are using a heating plate, then the guidance above does not apply. The temperatures are preset on these units and cannot be altered so your chicks will huddle under the plate when they need to keep warm.
Common Problems With Chicken Brooders
The most common problem with brooders is that most do not come with a base.
This means that you need to clean up the surrounding area often. If you want a base to your brooder then something home built would be better. If you are inventive, perhaps you can use some cardboard under the brooder sides and attach it loosely. From experience I can tell you the bottom will not be reusable!
Another problem is that most manufacturers use lightweight plastic or cardboard to make brooders. While the lightness makes for easy handling and plastic means easy cleaning, it also means they are easily knocked over.
You also need to watch out for optimistic advertising. Check the amount of floor space they say is available – each chick requires a minimum of 0.5 square feet. If you are using the product for the maximum number of chicks stated, you should know that you will need a larger brooding space very quickly.
As for heat sources, the most common problem is fires from heat lamps. This is why most people now use a heat plate instead. If you do decide to use a heat lamp then make sure it is absolutely secure. When I have to use a lamp I tie the clamp to a stable secure point and then I add a couple of zip ties.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do chicks stay in a brooder?
Your chicks will be in the brooder for about 6 weeks (or until they have all grown in their feathers). At 6 weeks they should be able to handle ambient temperatures of 60°F.
During the winter they may need a few extra weeks in the brooder.
How big should a chicken brooder be?
Each chick will need between 0.5-1 square feet of space. So for 6 chicks your brooder should be 3-6 square feet.
How often should you clean your brooder?
Your brooder should be cleaned every day.
You should remove any soiled or wet bedding and change the feed and water. You will also need to rinse and wash the container with warm soapy water.
Hopefully after reading this article you found the right brooder for your chicks.
If you are shopping on a budget then remember that homemade brooders are cheaper and usually much better. A discarded cardboard watermelon box is a cheap and serviceable brooder, as is any other large deep cardboard box.
Heat sources however are essential and reasonably priced.
Heat plates are really the best choice.
Although they may seem expensive at the time the money is very well invested and you should have years of use out of it.
How did you make your brooder? Let us know in the comments section below…
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