Tuesday, April 7, 2009

chicken brooder construction

Jun6-09: Note you will find an updated version of this post with more photos and text, here.

I've been brooding hundreds of chicks each month in the past few years, and I've been looking for a better way to do it. I ran across an article that had chick brooder plans in it on Robert Plamondons' site. I looked at it and decided I'd give it a try.

Note: this brooder will cost you around $40 in parts, and about 3 hours of labor. It'll brood up to 300 chicks at a time, or a couple if that's all you have. I relate my experience and thoughts on building this, but it's up to you not to burn down your house or electrocute yourself, ok?

Ceramic bulb sockets, metal lamp boxes, switch box, switch and plate, box nuts (the things in the top right hand corner) and a cord end.

I had originally planned on buying some romex (standard household wire) for the wiring, but then realized that the plug wanted stranded conductors, and then, after looking at the price per foot of the wire that I could buy a cheap extension cord, cut off the end, use part of it,a nd have a ready-made plug at the end -- for about half the price of the plug I show here. So just buy a 25' light duty extension cord and use that.

Here are the tools I used. I use a nailgun because I have one.

Parts list:

qty 3 8' 2x4

1 sheet of 1/2" plywood (cheapest grade, chickens aren't picky)

2 ceramic light bases

2 metal light boxes. Do not cheap out with plastic boxes here. This can get hot.

1 switch, switchbox, plate

1 25' light duty extension cord

about 60 1 1/2" vinyl coated nails

handful of 3 1/4" framing nails

about 30 5/8" wood screws, bugle head

5 box nuts (fits into punchouts on box, 3/8" size)

2 250 watt infrared heat bulbs (I like one clear, one red for the reasons below)


Cut the plywood into 5 pieces. 1 4'x4' square, 4 1'x4' strips

Cut two 45" lengths of 2x4

Cut two 42 3/4" lengths of 2x4

Nail the 2x4s to the 4'x4' plywood piece, as shown.

Then trim off the little rectangle at the corner.

Next cut 4 16" lengths of 2x4, and put it together as shown below

The 2x4 legs are flush with the top of the 12" strips of plywood. You want a 4" gap at the bottom to allow the chicks to run in and out as they want. Later, when the chicks get older, you'll put bricks under the legs to raise the brooder. You'll use the longer framing nails to attach the legs to the brooder frame, the shorter to attach the plywood to the 2x4s.

You put a light on either side, facing each other. I mounted my light switch on the outside, so that I could turn it on or off. In thinking about it, I might build my next one with two light switches so I can individually control each 250 watt bulb.

This is the top view of the brooder. To use this thing, put it legs-down on a bed of wood chips or sawdust or whatever it is you put under your chips. Make sure that the material on the floor has at least 3" of clearance below the bulb. turn it on and let it warm up overnight. If you're paranoid (like I am) you'll do the first test outside.

After 24 hours, I moved it into my brooding building, an unheated construction trailer. Air temperature was 38 degrees. The wood chips on the surface under this device registered 98 degrees, the air inside was comfortably hotter, maybe 104. I piled 4" of wood chips on top of the brooder for insulation.

The picture above is the first night with 500 day-old chicks. I took this picture after dark because I wanted to see if the chicks were using the heated area or bunching up too much. Everything looks good.

I listed the capacity for brooding at 250 chicks, but you can do a few more chicks when they're small but I'll be building another 4x4 brooder to move half the chicks to tomorrow. I used a roll of 18" cage wire to form a circle around the brooder, and then put food and water on all four sides of the unit, so no matter which side a chick was on food and water wouldn't be far.

Red vs white heat lamps: Chicks are attracted by light, and I think that they're more attracted by white light than red. But red is good to reduce feather picking. So i decided to split the difference and put a red and a clear bulb in. The picture shows the clear bulb side on the left. you can see a redder tone under the edge of the brooder from center to right.

The chicks seemed to stay right on the edge of the brooder mostly. They circulated a little; chicks outside moved in, chicks inside moved out. There's a range of heat zones inside this unit, and the chicks have the ability to move around to regulate their temperature. So far so good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So cool. Excellent directions, will be making one today. Bought a hundred chooks and plan on doing the poulet rouge thing so maybe fertilizing my pasture will pay me rather than cost me, lol.