Intro: Build a Brooder for Your Chicks
My first instructable! So please be patient if it doesn't look like it was made by an experienced user - it wasn't. :)
We decided to start on some chickens this spring so we'd have fresh eggs. We got 10, a 250 W brooder light, feeder/waterer and just used a rubbermaid container to start them off in, but it it was clear they would outgrow it quickly.
We had a simple idea in mind for something better. We wanted to move them to the garage, and eventually outside when the weather warmed up a bit and they were a little older. We also wanted them to be safe from cats, opossums, and other critters that might like some chicken nuggets. I'd like to share what we built for others to use, modify, or base their own brooders on. I hope you find it useful.
Step 1: Supplies
* 1/4" hardware cloth 2'x25' (way too much, we'll just use the extra on the coop)
* 2 - sheets of 1/4" plywood
* 3 - 8 foot 1"x3" (You could use 2x4 if you prefer, I was hoping to save it from being heavier than it needs to be)
* 8 - wingnuts
* 8 - 5" bolts (1/4")
* 16 - washers
* 16 - 1/4" nuts
* 2 latches
* 4 hinges
* a box of screws
* a few spare bits of 2x4 we had around for legs (You could use 2x3 if you add a board or 2, I usually have lots of extra 2x4 bits around from other projects)
* Compound miter saw
* Staple gun
* measuring tape
* speed square
Step 2: Build the Box
The box part itself is pretty straightforward. We decided to make it 4' x 3' for the base, and about 2' high.
First assemble the frame itself, by simply cutting your 2x3" boards down to fit the dimensions of your box. You can see that in the corners, I also added an extra support so that there was something to screw the sides into all around.
Next cut out your floor. For the floor, I decided to go on top of the base of the frame to have extra support underneath. This obviously complicates things a bit as you'll need to cut out a bit at the corners to slide it down to the bottom. The easiest way to do this is to lay your floor piece on the ground, then sit the frame on top of it and draw lines around the pieces you'd need to cut. Be sure not to add the middle support across the top of your frame until you've inserted the floor and screwed it in place. If you didn't read ahead, and already added the middle support on the top, just unscrew it temporarily. and put it back when you're done.
Before adding the side pieces, set the box on its side and lay the hardware cloth across the side. We put the hardware cloth on two sides, and left the other two sides as just plywood. Staple the hardware cloth on one side to hold it in place, and cut it to length. Finish stapling around the sides. For the sides with the hardware cloth, but a wide strip to go across the bottom. This will reduce draft and keep their bedding from falling out and making a mess. Screw it in over the top of the hardware cloth and finish framing around the hardware cloth with the plywood.
For the two sides without hardware cloth, simply cut out a 4x3' section and screw it into the sides.
Step 3: Add the Legs
Before putting the top on, make the legs and drill some holes for where they will attach to the box. To determine the length of the legs, figure out how high you want your brooder to sit so that you can comfortably reach across at least to the middle for cleaning.
I found it works best to put them on the ends. I drilled the holes in the box first, and then the ones in the legs. I think if I were to do this over again, I'd do exactly the reverse of that. If the holes don't line up perfectly, you'll get a little slack in the legs. If you dril the legs first, you'll have that to use as a guide when drilling the box. Use a spade bit, to make the hole a little wider on the inside of the box, and on the outside where it will sit up against the leg. This way you can countersink the nuts. Attach your bolts, washers, and nuts so that they come from inside the box and protrude to the outside.
Now attach the legs by screwing them in place with the wing nuts. If they come out a little uneven, take the two legs off that always touch the ground, and shave off a little bit more until they all sit level.
Step 4: Add the Top
The top was pretty easy. Cut out a 4x3' section of plywood. Next cut out a 3" strip across the center. Screw that strip down to your center support, making sure to leave room for the hinges. Then lay your lid sections in place and screw in the hinges.
Finally, you'll need something to mount the latches to on the lid. I just used a couple of scrap sections of 2x3", but in retrospect, they really need to go all the way acros the lid. This way, a predator couldn't easily just pry up the corner and wiggle its way in. Screw in the latch to the strip of 2x3 across the front of each lid, and into the side of the brooder. Add a padlock for extra security.
Step 5: Happy Chicks
Once you are done, add a nice layer of bedding along with your feeder and waterer, and of course the chicks! Ours were really excited to have the extra space. You could hang the brooder from the middle or cut a hole in the lid like I've seen lots of others do, but we decided to put ours on a rack outside the brooder, pointing in. They get plenty of warmth in the spot where the light points, but also have room to move back or completely out of the light if they are too warm. Also, I'm a bit paranoid about these brooder lights as they get extremely hot and have been known to start fires if they fall down into a nice dry bed of wood chips.