Chick Brooder Setup | Raising Baby Chicks

Chick Brooder Setup | Raising Baby Chicks

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If you’re expecting chicks this spring, you’re going to need a chick brooder to house your fluffy friends before they go outside. Some key things you need to keep in mind as you design your chickies home are:

·      Chicks grow extremely fast

·      Cleanliness is key to a healthy chick

·      Adequate space is necessary and chicks need the ability to escape heat


1. Brooder Structure

Depending on when you purchase or hatch your chicks, your chicks will likely be living in the brooder for about the first 7 weeks of their lives. Chickens grow quickly so you need to account for this when you pick your housing structure. Below are some popular options: 

  1. 40 Gallon Plastic Container

    This option is a really popular option I see online. The common problem I see with plastic containers is that the chicks outgrow these spaces really quickly and the chick owners end up having to build a second brooder. If you plan to move your chicks out sooner, this may be a viable option.


    •   Readily available

    • Easy to transport

    • Easy to modify for owners needs

    • Cost effective


    •     Small and chicks will quickly outgrow

  2. 100 Gallon Metal Stock Tank

    This is what we use, and we absolutely love it. It works great. It is large enough for the number of chicks we typically raise, and they don’t outgrow it too quickly. We were able to find one on sale for over 50% off at Tractor Supply.


    •    Large enough to house chicks in for the entire duration they are inside

    • Easy to clean

    • Can be used for other purposes throughout the year


    • More expensive option (unless you can find it on sale!)

    • Difficult to transport with chicks inside

  3. Camping Tent

    This is something I recently saw on YouTube and thought it was worth mentioning. I think this could be a great option if you’re working on a budget and want to use something you already have. Cleaning may be difficult and you need to think about how you will maintain the brooder properly and effectively.


    •  Readily available (may already own)

    • Large enough to house chicks for entire duration they are inside


    •  Difficult to clean and maintain

    • Difficult to transport with chicks inside


  4.  Recycled Shipping Container Box

    This is an option we considered exploring before we found a 100 gallon tank on sale. Call around to local manufacturers to see if they might have a wooden shipping container you can repurpose into a brooder. 


    •   Cost effective

    •   Large enough to house chicks for entire duration they are inside


    • Difficult to transport with chicks inside

  5.  Custom Built Structure

    The last option is to build something completely custom. Get creative! Use materials you already have on hand and keep in mind these key features:

    1.     Easy to clean

    2.     Large enough to house chicks as they rapidly grow

2. Heat Source:

Your chicks need a source of heat in the brooder. There are two popular options below. Make sure your chicks have enough space in your brooder to escape the heat if they want/need to!

Heat Lamp

This is an affordable source of heat for your brooder. The one downside to using a heat lamp is that there is an increased chance of fire in the case that the lamp were to fall and catch any of the bedding on fire. 

Heat Plate Brooder

We use a heat plate brooder with a cover for our chicks. We chose the heat plate because of the reduced risk of fire. Adjusting the height of the heat plate is really easy and you do this as the chicks grow! We like to set ours up so that one side is higher than the others. This allows the chicks to decide how much heat they would like.

If you choose to go this route, we highly recommend purchasing a cover to go on top of the heat plate to prevent the chicks from perching on top and making a mess!



3. Feeder:

You can feed your chick out of a special container designed for chicks or out of a container you already have on hand. The benefit of using containers built for chicks is that they can’t scratch out the feed and they also are less likely to poop in it.

We use the feeder and water set shown below but you can also purchase a feeder base attachment that will connect to a standard mason jar!


4. Water Container:

Continuous access to water is essential to the growth and health of your chickens. Make sure to keep it clean and refresh it regularly. When you receive your chicks for the first time, you will need to dip their beaks in the water to teach them where to find the vital resource! We recommend purchasing a bulk water container that is specifically meant for chicks. Below are some popular options.


Chick Waterer with Nipple

This is a great option for chicks! The benefit to using a waterer with a nipple is that the chicks can’t kick their bedding into the container which means less cleaning for you. You will need to “teach” the chicks how to use it. This is a simple process of tapping the nipple until the chicks learn how to drink!

Water Base for Standard Mason Jar

The water base option is great for someone looking for a container specially built for chicks but also wanting to use a jar they already have on hand!


Feeder and Waterer Set

This is the feeder and waterer set that we have for our chicks! We’ve been really happy with both containers. They are easy to clean and maintain.

We also recommend adding electrolytes to the water for the first 2 weeks. If you are receiving mail order chicks, the babies will arrive at your house dehydrated and hungry so make sure to be prepared!


5. Bedding: 

Pine Shavings:

Pine shavings are readily available at most feed stores and they are cost effective. The biggest negative about using shavings as the bedding is that it is extremely dusty. Chickens have very sensitive respiratory systems. 

We used pine shavings our first time raising chicks and had issues with the chicks sneezing. We spoke with a local vet and they said to try a less dusty bedding.

Hemp Bedding:

This year we are using hemp beddingThe bedding as essentially NO dust and has worked out great for our brooder! We recommend purchasing from Eaton and Pasture. They are a farm in upstate NY!

Hemp Bedding - Use our code MASONDIXONACRES20 for 20% off your first order!

Paper Bedding:

Paper bedding is another option. We tried a version of this called Roost by PittMoss and it didn’t work well for our chicks. The texture of the bedding was extremely soft which was great but unfortunately it kept getting stuck the the chicks feet and then would harden. We found ourselves having to clean off their feet regularly so we decided to switch the chicks over to hemp!

It might be worth trying another paper bedding that is shredded instead of a soft texture.

6. Feed

Chicks require feed that’s specially formulated for chicks. Avoid feeding them the same feed that you would feed a full grown layer hen. We recommend purchasing a high quality, organic and non-GMO feed. We highly recommend Scratch and Peck Feeds Organic Starter Crumbles.

Scratch and Peck Feeds is organic, non-GMO, family-owned, and sourced from all North American farms!

Use our code “MASONDIXON15” to get 15% off!

Organic Chick Starter Crumbles

You can also source your feed locally at a local feed store such as Tractor Supply or from another local feed mill.

7. Grit

Grit is necessary for the proper digestion of feed. Providing chick grit helps develop the gizzard at a young age. We sprinkle it on top of their food for the first few days and then move it to a separate container where they can eat it as desired.

Similar to the feed, make sure to purchase grit that is sized for chicks! We recommend Scratch and Peck Feeds Chick Grit!

This is our exact set-up:

1. 100 Gallon Stock Tank (from Tractor Supply)

2. Heat Plate Brooder

3. Heat Plate Brooder Cover

4. Feeder + Waterer

5. Hemp Bedding

6. Scratch and Peck Feeds Organic Starter Crumbles

7. Scratch and Peck Chick Grit