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How to make a cheap outdoor chick brooder

Outdoor chick brooderBased on my research about outdoor chick brooders, Mark and I cobbled together a quick and dirty structure in two hours using nearly all found materials.

Reusing screws
(Many of the screws were even reused since they came from a chicken tractor Mark had recently taken apart.)

Brooder base

I knew that I wanted the brooder to sit up above the ground because I learned the hard way last year that chicks can't handle the bit of rain that splashes up into a tractor during thunderstorms.  So I hunted around until I found a wooden rectangle that Mark had removed from the base of a bookcase.

Plywood floor

Two pieces of scrap plywood made a good floor just high enough off the ground to keep the chicks dry, but low enough that they wouldn't have to brave much of a ramp to get to and from pasture.

Wooden scab

I wanted to reuse an old dryer door, which had already served for five years as the egg access hatch for a chicken tractor.  So Mark added some scraps of two by four under the floor to give his screws depth to bit into.  It wasn't all that tough to drill holes through the bottom of the dryer door and screw the piece of metal in place.


Next, he framed up the back wall with more scrap two by fours.  (By the way, you can see that we're locating the brooder beside the peach tree right outside our kitchen window.  This area gets a lot of our attention every day, so I figure chicks will be safest there of any outdoor location.  Plus, they can nibble on oriental fruit moths as they hatch out this spring, perhaps protecting the peach tree from insect depradations.)

Cargo carrier roof

We stole my brother's idea and used half of a cargo carrier for the roof.  Here, Mark's testing it to make sure it fits on the framing before adding in the walls.

Adding walls

Mark pounded a one by one into the side of the dryer door to make an attachment point for more scrap plywood.  Then he used some found plexiglass for the other wall to let the sun shine in (and so that I can sit and watch the chicks without disturbing them).  Finally, we added the cargo carrier on and attached it with bungee cords.

The jury's still out on how well this outside brooder will work.  I've had a thermometer inside for a week, and the temperature swings have been extreme.  The lows seem to drop down about five or ten degrees below the outside temperatures at night and sunny days Newly hatched chickhave raised the internal temperature up to 100.

I think we can mitigate the heat pretty easily, either by turning the brooder around so the window doesn't face south, or by simply adding a shade cloth on hot days.  I'm not sure about the cold, but worries there might not be relevant by the time the chicks hatch and have spent a few groggy days inside the house.  I'll keep you posted about how well the brooder works (or doesn't) once we have test chicks to put inside.

Our chicken waterer will keep the brooder dry and prevent diseases like coccidiosis.

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