My wife and I (and our three kids) live on a small 5 acre hobby farm. We have chickens, ducks, and sheep as our livestock. We have an incubator for hatching our own chicks if the hens are not broody, and have been using a plastic tub as a brooder in the kitchen. It is still spring, so we wanted to make sure that the chicks would be kept warm when they are introduced to the outside and the rest of the chickens in the coop.
I went looking for plans over the last 2 years, and finally settled on one that was used successfully in the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station in 1941. Since this was designed for 200-250 chicks, I decided to scale it back to 1/4 of it's size, as I only will have 15-30 birds using it at one time and it should be good for up to 50. I also put only 1 heat lamp under the top, as it will be heating a smaller area.
This is my first Instructable, and I welcome all feedback. I have been a member here, lurking, for a few years now and know that it is high time I contributed. I hope to make more in the future.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials and Tools
I simply used mainly scraps I had laying around the farm. If you were going to make one and had to buy all the material, you would need to buy a 4x8 sheet of exterior grade plywood and one 2x2 pole. You can make 4 of them out of that much material.
- one 2' x 2' piece of exterior grade plywood for the top
- four 1' x 2' pieces of exterior grade plywood for the sides
- four 2" x 2" poles that are 15" long
- five 2" x 2" short pieces ( 4-8" long) to brace the upper piece and octagonal electrical box
- One octagonal electrical box
- One bulb socket
- One electrical cord
- 1 1/4" screws
- Saw. I used a hand-held circular saw to cut everything, but you could use a table saw to cut the plywood and a miter saw for the 2x2 pieces.
- Drill or screw driver to put it all together.
Step 2: Put the Sides Together
I measured down 1" from the top of each of the sides and drew my line. I then took my 2x2 brace for the top and clamped it down to the side, with the top of the brace under the line. This will put the bottom of the top piece exactly 1" down. I then screwed the piece using three 1-1/4" screws.
Step 3: Attach the Top to the 4 Sides
Hopefully you have someone to assist you with this step, or the wind doesn't decide this is a good time to show up. Using two 1-1/4 screws on each support, attach the top to each side. It will be wobbly, due to no legs yet. Try to line up the sides carefully, but it doesn't matter if there are holes, as we want it to breath somewhat. I only had it fall down a few times off the portable, folding bench. I need a proper workshop.
Step 4: Add Some Legs
Since the bottom of the top piece is 1" down, when you put the legs on the box there will be 4" that will extend past the side pieces. This is the clearance that you want for your chicks (according to the above linked article), so they can go in and hide from the adults and it will retain heat. It mentions that you can add extensions to the legs to lift it higher as they get older. I haven't gotten there yet. When I do, I'll take a 2x4 and make 4" squares to lift it 2" at a time.
I used two 1-1/4 screws per leg, per side, to hold it on (total of 4 screws per leg). I measured to ensure that there was 4" of leg extending past the sides. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy (as my kids say... I'm too old for this...)
Step 5: Let There Be Light!
I used the good part of an old electrical cord and wired up the plug end. I put in the octagonal box and used a 3-pronged cord to ensure it was "safe" (as safe as an easy-bake oven rip-off can be) and wouldn't burn down the coop.
I won't get into this step much. If you are unsure of how to hook up a light socket to an electrical cord, find someone who does. You can also go to the local high school and ask the shop teacher. If he is anything like my son's shop teacher, he will be eager to teach someone something.
Make sure it is positioned so that the bulb will not be close to the top or the bedding on the floor. I tried to keep it centered on the side piece, and checked it with the bulb in to make sure.
Step 6: Test It Out and Bring in the Roomates
At this point, it is only a matter of plugging it in to make sure it is wired properly, flipping it over and bring in the little chicks. When I brought mine out it took them a few minutes to figure out they needed to go under it, but I am sure the "curious" hens helped a little bit.
The article states that you can add some shavings to the top, but I have not done that yet. I do know that it will be a pain to keep clean, as you can see I put it directly under a roost (only place available). I am, however, building a new coop this summer and am planning on giving it a permanent, better spot.