Preparing for New Chicks With a DIY Brooder!

We’re expecting new baby chicks to ship any day now, so once again I’ve put together a DIY brooder. A brooder is basically where they’ll stay while they’re teeny tiny until it’s warm enough and they’re big enough to move them to the coop.

You can buy brooders, but anything waterproof will be pricey. My method is just to get a giant cardboard box, line it with plastic, put down puppy pads for absorption, and be done. This time I’d saved up packing materials so I had plenty of cardboard and some thick gauge plastic. With a roll of packing tape I lined the whole thing with plastic, and you can see the pads on the bottom here (these make for easy cleaning because you can just pick up and toss out pads):

I mean, it’s not gorgeous, but it is crazy nice to be able to break the thing down and get rid of it rather than storing something once the chickens have moved on to their new home. As they get older, I’ll put down pellets over the pads so their little claws don’t stick to the pads.  Plus I already waste so much money on eggs and birds, at least I’m not buying new, just recycling.  Plus, check it out, my kids have started to decorate it:

I know, way more beautiful, right?  I think I need to get them some stickers or something …

Two big tips for a brooder:


Heat lamps are very unsafe, difficult to clip to a brooder safely and don’t even keep the chicks all that warm. We got this plate-warmer style instead.

The chicks run under it like it’s a mama hen. Very cute.


It’s hard to clean up after chicks because you don’t want to let them get out and run around (they NEVER stop pooping), but you also need them out of the brooder to properly remove your pads and pellets to clean. My solution is the box you see inside the brooder box. I cut a hole in there, herd them in using discarded cardboard that’s the length of the box so they can’t escape, close them in with the cut flap, and TA-DA, they’re in momentary isolation so you can clean. Note I still need to put a pad in the cleanup corral, because as previously mentioned, chicks never, ever stop pooping.

I made my own nipple waterers, but you can buy one here, which looks totally worth it because making them was a pain and practically the same price.

I also got this feeder that attaches to a Mason jar. But note as they get bigger you need something heavier because they will knock this over. It’s nice for when they’re little though so you don’t waste too much food – they’re not great at eating so it helps them spill less and poop less in their own food.

Once they’re a couple weeks old I have a wire top I’ll put on here to keep them from flying out.  This happens WAY sooner than you would think, little tricksters.

VERY excited to get some new breeds. I’m always nervous when shipping chicks that they’ll get hurt! Hopefully all will arrive safe and sound…