Posted 01-13-2004 at 22:12:42
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Just remember, you have to be ready to kill umpteen chickens when they are old enough, and that's a learning curve in itself!
Several years ago I found plans for building a brooder that I could use in my chicken coop. I do not remember all of the details, other than it worked well for us.
I made it of plywood, measuring about 2 to 2 1/2 feet across the "roof." Essentially it was a (flat?) plywood roof set on four 2 x 2 legs that kept the edge of the roof about 8 inches off the ground. A draft curtain made of heavy cloth was hot glued completely around the edge of the roof and came clear to the ground. The cloth curtain was cut with scissors from the ground partway to the roof, about an inch apart. This allowed the chicks easy entrance and egress through the curtain, while holding in the warmth.
A light bulb was used for warmth - I believe it was mounted in a broad secure socket base with the bulb pointing up, with a round guard around it to keep the chicks from getting too close to the light as well as to keep them from knocking the light over.
We set this brooder in a small section of the coop that we normally used for storage. A large circle of cardboard completely surrounded the brooder to keep the chicks close to the brooder. The chicks could enter and leave the brooder itself and regulate their own heat, but couldn't wander far enough away to get stuck in a corner or to catch a chill. (Everything has to be round when they're tiny or they tend to pile into a corner and die.)
There's a lot to learn about raising chickens from small babies, but there are also lots of books and information available for you to learn from.
They tend to drown easily when they're small, so it can help to place small rocks or marbles in their waterer for awhile so they can jump back out without drowning. When they first arrive, you need to dip their beaks in their water so they learn where it is, and it helps to do the same with their food. They learn quickly, but following these steps can get you off to a good start.
You can get by without using the roofed brooder but our climate is cold and even though we raised our chicks indoors in the spring, we needed the extra shelter for them.