Introduction: Easy and Cheap Chick Brooder
I thought that I would share my brooder I built in less than one hour. I am not giving the entire step by step here since I literally just put it together this evening and didn't take pictures during the building process. Any type of joinery would work here but I just went for good ole' screws and butt joints with some corner bracing. The thing is more than sturdy enough to last for years! I mainly wanted to share this with you all since there are so many people trying their hand at raising chickens for the first time and the brooding process is one of the most important to have healthy, happy birds, be them for laying eggs or for meat.
The chicks had outgrown their plastic container we were using extremely quickly and I needed a quick solution to keep them secure and warm. We actually didn't plan on getting chicks until near the end of May but our local post office gave us a call to tell us that there were 200 chicks accidentally delivered to Oakham, MA instead of a town in Pennsylvania... a bit of a USPS oops. We ended up adopting the last 18 Cornish Jumbo cockerels (a meat bird) and taking care of them right away since they had gone too long without food and water (they don't need food and water during the first day or two of their lives but we were talking about nearly three days at this point. Like I said, the tupperware container we were using just wasn't going to cut it any longer so at about 6:30pm I put together a quick brooder that is lightweight and easy to clean and plenty large for up to 40 chicks with enough lighting. I used scrap 2x6 wood that I cut on the table saw and on my band saw to make some 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" pieces for the frame and some 3/4" x 1-1/2" pieces for the connecting slats. What I think makes this unique is that I used some scrap plastic from our low tunnels to "sheathe" the entire brooder. This kept things both warm and easy to clean.. also super lightweight.
Step 1: Building the Frame
I used scrap 2x stock that I cut into frame parts. I first built the base of the structure using pieces ripped into 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" sticks. I built my brooder to be 38" x 24" x 24" so it wasn't hard to use scrap pieces I had scored for free. The base was literally two 38" pieces with two 24" pieces making a frame with some 45 degree blocks in the corners for rigidity and good screwing surface. From this base I screwed in four sticks, one at each corner, that are 24" tall. I pre-drilled holes from the bottom of the base so I could run 2-1/2" screws right up into the posts. I then used some stock that I resawed on my band saw to 3/4" thick (or so) to connect the posts together. In essence I made a big open box. I also used some scrap pieces along the posts so that I could neatly wrap the plastic around the entire thing leaving no gaps for the birds to get hurt in.
Step 2: Wrap and Staple the Plastic
I used 4 mil plastic we bought at our local farmer's coop. I had used it today to cover our plants using some conduit tubing I bent to form low tunnel hoop houses for our raised beds. We had sun, rain, sleet, snow, lightning, thunder, hail, more snow, more sleet, and then sun again today in Massachusetts... yay for spring!
Anyways... I took the plastic and wrapped it around the frame of my open box and stapled it tightly to the posts and rails of the box and cut off any excess.
Step 3: Add a Slice of Plywood, a Pinch of Sawdust, and a Bundle of Fluffy-butted Chicks
I cut a piece of underlayment scrap we had to fit right inside the box on the base. I put in about 1" thick of pine bedding, added my lights, water, and feeders... and then the chicks of course. It's warm in there, the chicks have room to move and they seem genuinely happy (lot's of good peeping noise).
Like I said, not a step-by-step, but I thought that it might help any of you out with your adventures and isn't that what Instructables is all about? Any questions do not hesitate to ask!