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Breeding Chickens: Brooding newly Hatched Chicks

Newly hatched chicks in brooder'Brooding' is the term used to describe the care of the newly hatched chicks untill they are strong enough to survive on their own in the chicken coop.
Brooding usually lasts for about three weeks and is done naturally by the hen if she incubates the eggs but if they are hatched artificially then you will also have to brood them artificially.

Just as modern digital incubators are readily available so too are brooders. Brooders range from simple small enclosures for a just a few chicks to large commercial set ups which can house hundreds, or even thousands of chicks at a time. Here, we will assume you are breeding small amounts of chickens as a hobby.

Brooders are actually very simple set ups and dont require the same rigidly controlled conditions as incubators. You can easily make a home made brooder with a wooden box or old fish tank with a small electric light as a heat source.

Have a go at making your own homemade chick brooder


A fish tank is ideal as it is hygenic and the glass also makes it easy to observe the chicks inside. Glass is also a very effective insulator against heat loss. Alternatively, a wooden box about two feet square or similar size is ideal.

Place a layer of clean sawdust about 1" deep in the bottom and place a shallow dish of water or ideally a small water hopper to avoid the chicks getting wet if they run through it. I find that newly hatched chicks can get cold and even die very quickly as a result of a soaking in the water dish. Newly hatched chicks dont need feed or water untill after the first 48hrs but the water is normally provided as soon as they are placed in the brooder.A good tip here if using a dish is to fill it with pebbles so that the chicks can drink but not become immersed in the water should they accidently fall in.
A handful of finely ground chick crumb can be scattered over the base to allow them to feed as they peck around in the substrate.

You will also need a small thermometer placed on the floor of the brooder to monitor the air temperature. The chicks will initially need to be kept at the same temperature as the incubator when first placed in the brooder. The temperature can then be reduced gradually over the course of a few weeks untill it reaches the same temperature as their permanent living quarters.


Brinsea brooder and intensive care unit
Octagon TLC-4 Brooder & Intensive Care Unit

A thermometer is not essentil but does make caring for the chicks a little less 'hit and miss'.
If you dont have one you can judge the temperature by observing the chicks in the brooder. Chicks that are too cold will huddle together and sit low on the substrate as close to the heat source as they can get. If this is the case, increase the heat by lowering the lamp or fitting a higher wattage bulb or using an infra red heat lamp.
If the chicks seem to spread out and move away to the opposite end of the brooder to the heat source then reduce the temperature by raising the lamp slightly. Ideally you want to see the chicks moving about and actively pecking for food.
Be sure to have a tight fitting wire cover on the brooder to prevent predators or pests entering the brooder and keep water dishes or hoppers topped up as they can dry up very quickly in the heat of the brooder.

When the chicks are fully acclimatised they can be moved to more permanent housing in a chicken coop.


See also ~ Making a homemade brooder