How to Set up a Brooder for Chicks

If you’ve recently picked up some young chicks, you’ll want to have a safe space for them to grow. Before you even take your young chickens home, have a brooder ready for them. Today, we’ll cover what you’ll need to make your own brooder at home. Plus, we’ll have a link to a video tutorial so you can follow along with us.

Parts of a BrooderBaby Chicks in a Barn brooder

The Container

The size of container you need will depend on how many chicks you plan to have. Sometimes we come home with a couple more chicks than we’d planned for, so grab a larger container than you think you’ll need. You can always use cardboard to something as a divider.

stock tank brooder

You can use just about any container to house your chicks. We use a Tarter Stock Tank because it’s heavy-duty, easy to clean, and holds in a bit of extra heat. Another great option is to use a Plastic Storage Tote.

Whatever container you decide to use, make sure that everything stays dry and clean. Moisture and messes will spread disease quickly in young chicks.

Or, you can change up your chick’s enclosure fast with this Enclosure Panel Set.

Heat Source

Your chicks will need a heat source until they are fully feathered. There are a couple of options when it comes to heating; radiant heat or the standard heat lamp. There are many pros and cons for both, so read on and see which would best fit your needs.

Radiant Heat: These heaters produce only heat and no light. If chicks are under 24 hours of light a day, they may get stressed and start picking at each other. With radiant heat, you can keep your light and heating separate. That way, your chicks are the perfect temperature without being up all night.

Radiant heaters are a bit more expensive, but they are also easy to handle, require less energy, and you’re able to set the temperature. Take a look at this 20 Chick Brooder or 50 Chick Brooder.

Heat Lamp: Heat lamps are by far the most popular heat source used among chicken enthusiasts. You can use white or red (radiant) bulbs. Just remember to have a way to give your chicks a break from the light. Also, make sure there is a way to adjust the heat lamp above the brooder. If your chicks are too hot, move the lamp further away. If they’re cold, move it closer.

Your brooder will need a heated/light side and a cool/dark side. Your chicks will tell you how they’re feeling based on where they congregate inside the brooder. Use the diagram below for reference:

Ground Cover

Pine Shavings

Your chicks are going to make a mess. While it’s important to keep your brooder clean, you can make it easier on yourself by having the proper ground covering.

Wood shavings (preferably white pine shavings) are very absorbent and easy to clean. Make sure you don’t use cedar shavings, as the smell could cause damage to the chicks’ lungs.

Newspaper, hay, and sand have also been used. As long as you keep everything clean and the covering doesn’t cause the ground to become slick, you should be fine.


Some products like the Radiant Chicken Brooder I mentioned earlier have a thermometer built in. However, if you’re using a heat lamp, you’ll want to have a thermometer close by so you can check from time to time.

Starting out, you want to keep the brooder between 90-95º F. You’ll raise the heat lamp about an inch or lower the temperature a bit each week. Your chicks will also let you know how they feel about the temperature by their actions, as seen in the image below the heat source section.

Chick Feederchick feeder poultry

Chicks need to eat! You should use a hanging feeder or place a feeder on a block so it is at the chick’s beak level. This keeps the chicks from making messes in the feed or throwing it on the ground.

The feed you use will depend on what kind of chickens you’re raising. Layer chicks, chickens raised to provide you with eggs, should be on starter feed for 16 weeks. Then, you should switch them to layer feed.

Birds raised for meat, broiler chicks, should be fed a meat bird diet their whole life.

Chick Waterer

You should treat the waterer much like the feeder. Keep it off the ground and make sure the chicks can’t get in. Make sure to clean their waterer and feeder often, as to not spread potential diseases.

If you live in a cold area, you may want to invest in a warmer for the waterer to make sure it doesn’t freeze.

Video Example

chicks huddled brooder

If you have any chicken-related questions or just want to share some of your experience with brooders and chicks, please type it in the comment section below.

For more information on how to prepare for chickens, read our Getting Started with Backyard Chickens blog post. And, as always, you can visit our Chick Days category for more information on all things chick!

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