Got a brooder ready?
Building a brooder is as simple as you want to make it. What you need is protection from drafts, a warm area, and an area for them to cool off. Food and CLEAN waterers and feeders must also be readily available. Let's break these features down individually.
A large cardboard box, stock tank, big Rubbermaid container, plastic swimming pool, or just a ring of cardboard on the coop floor will do well. The brooder box has to incorporate two important elements.
1.) A non-slip surface on the floor. Newspapers alone are the worst floor covering you can use. The chicks need to be able to get traction for their legs to develop properly, and newspaper is like ice to baby chicks. Just cover the newspaper with paper towels for the first 4 or 5 days, and you have what you need. Wood shavings are okay, but again, need to be covered with paper towels for the first 4 or 5 days until the chicks' legs get strong.
2.) Protection from drafts. The sides should be high enough so that the warmth from the heat source will not be wisked away by a draft. If your brooder is in a well protected area, short sides will be fine. If you are brooding in a barn, or outside, the sides should be high, and the top covered.
A heat source can be achieved by use of a simple shop clamp lamp, or any kind of lamp with a shield that will concentrate and direct the light and heat down to the floor of the brooder. The light should be raised or lowered so that the heated spot under the light is 95 degrees. The light can be raised a little every week for the first 5 weeks, so that the area underneath is lowered by 5 degrees. Or... you can decrease the wattage of the bulb to produce the same effect. The entire brooder does not need to be, and SHOULD NOT be all the same temperature. The peeps have to get out of the heat. If they can't, they stand a good chance of cooking. Peeps will lay in a ring around the circle of light, and situate themselves to get exactly how much heat they need.
If they are peeping loudly, they are cold. If they are laying to one side of the light in a huddle, there is a draft. If they are pushed away from the heat source as far as the brooder allows, they are too hot. Too hot will kill your peeps. Too cold, they will tell you. Worry about too much heat, instead of not enough.
Waterers and Feeders
Here's a place where a little common sense can go a long way. Food can be thrown on the floor, in a low dish, or in a commercially prepared feeder. Any are fine.
Waterers can also be most anything. They need to be shallow, and preferably filled with marbles so the chicks can't drown. We use $2 mason jar waterers. They work terrific. Sometimes we do the marble thing, sometimes not. It depends on the chicks. Quail and pheasants will drown if they just look at a water dish, while chickens are much smarter. The type of water dish will dictate how safe it is.
Want to see my brooders???
I've posted pictures of some of my brooders.
Prepare yourself before you enter. Just follow the link to Brooder Pics.