Being prepared and well set up to keep your newly hatched chicks or ducklings safe is a necessity. Drafts, curious cats, children and even dogs pose a hazard if your brooder is not set up properly. Last year, I was fortunate enough to have an empty enclosed room in which I could keep an open topped brooder for the 3 ducklings. This year however, the same room is also the laundry room and feeding area for our other pets.
I was quickly able to come up with a design that would utilize last year’s brooder tote AND it’s top. Sturdy yet adequate ventilation would be key in keeping the chicks healthy and safe from prying feline eyes.
I started by cutting a large opening in the top of my tote using tin snips. Regular scissors or a utility knife did not work as the plastic was super durable and too tough to cut otherwise. Wire hardware cloth was then cut 1-2 inches larger than the opening.
I constructed a wooden frame by securing together wooden slats with screws. This would be the frame to which I would staple the wire mesh onto in order to give the top strength as well as to hide any sharp edges.
After drilling a hole in each of the four sides of my wooden frame and through the plastic edge of the newly cut opening in the tote top, I was able to secure everything together with nuts and bolts. There was no way the cat was going to get in this brooder once the top was secured with its existing side latches!
Next, I needed a way to attach my heat lamp in order to provide the near 90F degree temperatures my chicks required in their first couple weeks of life. Another piece of plywood was attached to the wooden frame utilizing screws. The lamp easily clamped onto the board and more screws were added to keep the clamp from slipping and the lamp from being knocked off. The lamp is still removable during the days I’m home or when the tote top is not in use.
The heat level inside the tote was tested using a digital thermometer while the heat lamp was on. From those results I determined I would need a little more heat lower down in the box. I added a heated seed sprouting mat that was designed to heat only 10F-20F degrees higher than the ambient temperature, perfect!
A look inside my brooder gives you an idea of the setup. The heat mat will be placed under newspaper and pine shavings. Food and water will be positioned opposite the heat and ventilation. I may look into a smaller water fountain to save room and allow the soon to be hatched chicks more leg room.
The final product turned out well and hopefully it will function even better. I did add a small night-light sized bulb above the feeding area as the only drawback of this particular tote was the lack of lighting. If you try this design I’d recommend looking for a transparent tote that will let in natural light. For the most part, the top will only be used when I’m not home or when the laundry room door is open.
For an inside brooder (as in not in the coop) it should work wonderfully and will keep the chicks safely contained. After 6-8 weeks in this tote they will be graduating into a puppy playpen enclosure located in the coop where they can get a good look at the rest of the flock.
Counting down 14 more days until my expected chick hatch! Crossing my fingers!