We are firm believers in keeping chickens as cheaply as possible. That means DIY projects and finding everything as cheaply as possible. And one of the first obstacles you might run into is where to keep your baby chicks. A brooder can get expensive quickly if you aren’t careful, which is such a shame because chicks don’t stay there long. So today, we are going to tell you about our favorite 10 DIY brooder box ideas.
What Is A Brooder Box?
If you are new to chickens, you might be wondering what a brooder box is. Brooder boxes are for newly hatched chicks. They are set up with bedding, food, water, and heat to keep them warm. If you incubate your eggs or buy chicks from a breeder, you will need a brooder to raise your chicks.
But this isn’t a forever home. Most chicks can go outside by four weeks old as long as it’s above 70 degrees outside at night. If it’s still cold out, you should wait until your chicks are ten weeks old. By ten weeks, your chicks will have all of their feathers and withstand temperatures as low as 50 degrees.
What To Look For In Brooders
Before we jump straight into our 10 DIY brooder box ideas, we should discuss specifications. There are a few things you should look for in your homemade brooder box.
So how big should a brooder box be? We find that it’s more cost-effective to make a brooder large enough to keep chicks until they can go outside. So the brooder will look large, but by the time your chicks are five weeks old, you will be thankful. To do this, your brooder will need to have 1 sqft of space per chick and be 24 inches tall.
The next thing you should consider is how easy the brooder is to clean and how many times you will use it. Some people use simple boxes because you can throw them away when the chicks move to the coop. But chickens are addictive in every sense. If there is a chance that you will raise more chicks, you will want a permanent brooder that’s reusable and easy to clean.
Now that you have a few things to consider, let’s talk about the best homemade brooder box!
1. Cardboard Produce Displays
In the summer, you might be able to find cardboard produce displays for free at grocery stores. The big displays meant for melons, bananas, or corn are the perfect temporary brooder box for chicks. Some stores will allow you to take old displays and bins once they finish using them. Just talk with a store manager before try taking them. Certain chain stores reuse them, but stores like Aldi encourage customers to take empty boxes.
These large boxes are perfect for people who won’t breed chickens and need a temporary brooder box. Just break it down and throw it away when your chicks grow up. With a layer of bedding, food, and water, your chicks will be happy campers. The only thing we would change about this setup is not using a heat lamp. Heat lamps and cardboard sound like a recipe for fire. Instead, we recommend getting a heat plate for safety.
2. Storage Containers
You can get 150-gallon storage bins at most stores for little to nothing. These containers are easy to use, clean, and durable. If you plan to breed chickens, these storage containers will last for years. And there are a few modifications to make to give your chicks a little more comfort.
The first change you will want to make is to create ventilation. Cut holes into the two small sides and cover them with hardware cloth for simple ventilation. Once your chicks start to spread their wings a little, you will also want to do the same to the bin lid. That way, your chicks don’t escape and have an accident.
3. Metal Feeding Trough
Feeding troughs are versatile and cheap. They come in multiple sizes and tall enough that your chicks can’t jump out. Metal feeding troughs are reusable for years to come and don’t pose any risks. That is everything you could wish for in a homemade brooder box. And you don’t need to make any real adjustments to it.
The only thing we would suggest is to add non-skid cupboard liners under the bedding. Wood shavings on top of metal can get slick and cause a condition called straddle foot in chicks. Putting the liners under the shavings prevents that from happening.
4. Kiddie Pool
More great 10 DIY brooder box ideas include using kiddie pools. These pools are cheap at most retail stores, and they are very durable. You might even find one for free on your local Buy Nothing groups or Facebook Market. Some of these pools are tall and wide enough for your chicks to live comfortably.
But some pools are designed for younger children might not be tall enough. In that case, a little ingenuity will solve all your problems. You can make a border out of chicken wire to make the sides taller to prevent the chicks from climbing out. The chicken wire is perfect for height and keeping ventilation in the brooder.
5. Puppy Playpens
Foldable puppy playpens are waterproof, large, and save space. And you can get these playpens for cheap with no adjustments. The only caution we have is to not use heat lamps inside of fabric playpens. A heat lamp seems like another recipe for disaster. So instead, you should use safety heating plates. Once your chicks move outside, hose the pen out in the yard and dry. Then you can store it with almost no effort.
6. DIY Plywood/Wood
A simple DIY project with plywood and nails is another excellent option. All you need to do is make a box out of plywood. It doesn’t need to have anything fancy or even made of high-quality wood. But you could just as quickly build one of sturdy wood with plastic bottoms and a hinged top. That style of wood brooder box is a little more complicated to make but durable.
The best part of this style of brooder is that they don’t require any special skills. You can make them to any specifications you want. And you can find thousands of free blueprints online and on YouTube.
If you have been to any garage sale, you have seen some pretty beat-up dressers. You know the ones broken drawers, missing knobs, watermarks, and scratches. These dressers sell for almost nothing. And we are willing to bet you could find them for free on a curbside somewhere.
When we see these dressers, we think of 10 DIY brooder box ideas. You can convert these old dressers into a brooder with minimal effort. All you need to do is flip the dresser onto its side and remove all drawers. If there is hardware inside, you will need to remove that as well. Then your brooder is ready to go!
Just like the dresser brooder box ideas, bookshelves are also a fantastic option. But you can’t use any bookshelf. For this, you will need to make sure that the bookshelf has a solid back. Most bookshelves that you get from the store come with a cardboard back. These styles are good for your first clutch, but the cardboard is thin and ruins quickly.
If you can’t find a bookshelf like this, don’t worry. You can purchase plywood and cut it to fit the bookshelf. Then all you have to do is double-check the height of the brooder walls. In cases where your new brooder isn’t 24 inches tall, you could add a strip of chicken wire around the edges.
9. Guinea Pig Or Rabbit Cage
While this isn’t technically a homemade brooder box, it is a great way to repurpose it. Guinea pig cages and rabbit cages are often spacious, easy to clean, and cheap to buy. All you have to do is add heat and maybe some cupboard liner to prevent straddling. And since they are entirely enclosed, your chicks can’t escape. Once your chicks make their way outside, these brooders will fold up for easy storage.
10. The Bathtub
And let’s not forget the last of our 10 DIY brooder box ideas. In a pinch, the bathtub is always a great solution. That is if you have an unused bathtub in another room. With a little non-slip liner and bedding layer, the bathtub is great if there are no other options. And since clean-up is a breeze, it’s ideal for an emergency brooder.
But we wouldn’t recommend using a tub for every clutch you have. It’s not the most ideal if you breed chickens. And at some point, you might want to use that bathtub. Then you would have to find a place to put your chicks.
What More Could You Want?
All of the homemade brooder box ideas listed above are the most common. But with a little ingenuity, there isn’t a limit to what you could convert into a brooder box. And if you are handy, you could build yourself a beautiful brooder.