chicken brooder : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I'm planning to buy 100 chicks to raise for meat. Half for me and half for the Asian market. I would like suggestions for a brooder that would accomodate this many. Our climate can still be quite cold in the Spring, so we will need to insulate it. I don't want to spend a lot of cash, but would prefer it not be a hideous structure either. The hubby is a perfectionist and experienced at building. He's concerned about how to do the floor so it's easy to clean. I think just a smaller version of a chicken house will do with proper heating/insulation. I've raised smaller amounts of chicks in boxes and they did fine, but we can't do this many that way. Do you suggest buying the heater or just the infared lights? Interested in tips to avoid problems and whats worked for you. Thanks Countryside friends!

-- Nancy in CA (, January 08, 2001


Nancy, my experience with the meat birds is that they produce huge amounts of heat. As chicks I put 50 at a time in a very large cardboard box with a heat light type fixture with a 100 watt bulb in it. That has been enough even when water was still freezing. If it is really cold I might take a couple sheets of cardboard and cover the top of the box, leaving room for ventilation. I save my newspapers all winter and go through quite a few of them keeping the birds clean the first week or ten days. (I put papers and all out on the garden for mulch and fertilizer) As they got bigger I just put them in a stall in the barn with the same light and they could get under it it they wanted. As they got bigger I had much more problem keeping them cooler as opposed to warm enough. If you are not raising meat types, then you can leave them in the boxes longer. Meat types eat and make manure and little else. Hope that helps. diane in michigan

-- diane (, January 08, 2001.

Initially we usually use a child's wading pool, one of the types that roll up (soft floor but straight sides -- hope you can figure out what I'm talking about -- sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words!!). It will hold quite a few chicks for the first couple of weeks, with a heat lamp or a hover-type brooder over it. By a couple of weeks old, they'll be starting to hop up on the side of the pool, and then out of it. Then, in the past, we've used a home- built outdoor brooder still with heat lamp, depending on the weather. Now we have one chicken tractor built, and will put together a couple more. With very young chicks, you don't want to put the tractors right out on grass. We'll be keeping them near the house for a few more weeks, with the wire sides covered and a heat lamp as needed. By the time they are six or eight weeks old, they should be able to go out on pasture in the tractors, without the sides covered unless it is unusually cold and windy. However, we aren't going to raise the Cornish X meat birds. They tend to grow so fast they aren't well covered with feathers, and will have more trouble staying warm than slower growing types. We want them to be on pasture for a while before they are butchered, anyway. And primarily we'll be raising layers this year, which don't have that problem. Chicken tractors and home-built brooders can be as fancy or thrown-together as you want -- or can afford! -- as long as they meet the basic requirements of keeping the young birds safe from predators, out of drafts, dry, and warm.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, January 08, 2001.

We will definitely be building something as inside space is unavailable for this many. I had 50 in a large box before in an unheated room in the house, (they had lights). They did fine, but when they outgrew it I moved them to a cage hanging in the chicken house. The house is insulated some and the cage had three 100 watt bulbs and was surrounded with a cover. I lost a couple every few days, because they were too cold. I probably lost a dozen altogether. It was freezing outside that April. It can be warm some years, just unpredictable. Thanks for the suggestions!

-- Nancy in CA (, January 09, 2001.

We have chickens both for meat and eggs and usually get day old chicks to start with. Here in Central Illinois the middle of March can be quite cool for the chicks. For 100 chicks 2 heat lights would be better set 18 to 24 inches above the floor. Infra-red bulbs will retard cannibalism. Make sure to have a layer of good insulating bedding under the papers so their feet won't get cold. If you had a layer of shredded newspaper, DRY wood chips (with no dust) etc. I see no reason not to put them on the ground with no "floor". No drafts are a must. On size, our brooder house is 8 feet square and will do 50 to 75 chicks to 12 weeks, normal butchering size. We tried 100 chicks last year and with feeders and waterers etc. they were too crowded in short order. This causes cannabilism really bad. Its difficult to do but a round structure works better than a rectangle as there are no corners to bunch up in. One other item, we use electrolytes in the chick water til they start feathering good. This gives them a real boost especially if they are mail-ordered or shipped a long way. Good luck.

-- Ruth Comer (, January 13, 2001.

I raise 3 batches of Cornish Rock X of 100 birds each every summer. We keep 50 and sell the rest. I get day-old chicks from the hatchery. My brooder is in a safe (predator proof) building, insulated but ventilated. The brooder is very simple...a square piece of plywood about 3 ft. square with a hole cut in the center for an infra-red bulb which I can raise or lower depending on the temp. required by the chicks. For the first week or two I hang ordinary feedbags around the outside of the brooder, stapling them to the wood just so the bags hit the floor. This way they cannot pile up into a corner. Make sure you staple the open end of the bag shut so a chick does not wander in and get trapped. I leave about half a side of the brooder open and put the water near the opening but not blocking it. After about 3 days, the feeders and waterers can be moved further from the brooder. It is more natural for the chicks to be going out into the cooler air to feed and drink and then go back to the brooder to warm up again. Watch the birds...they will tell you if they need to be warmer or are too warm. If they are around the outside edges of the brooder to sleep they are too warm, raise the light...if they are bunched up, lower the light or add another one. I lost only 3 babies in the first four weeks of life out of all 300. This method works very well, even here in Wisconsin! After 3 weeks, they are allowed to go outside during good days, locked up at night. At 4 weeks, they go outside in a moveable cage. One cage holds the birds for the remaining 4 weeks. They dress out between 4.5 and 6 pounds. Hope this helps...Please feel free to E-mail direct. Good luck!

-- Deb in WI (, January 14, 2001.

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