Make a Chicken Brooder Out of Cardboard Boxes

An easy-to-make chicken brooder for growing chicks has a few other benefits, too.

| September/October 2009

  • Chick on vegetable
    Taking a stand for backyard poultry.
    Lynn M. Stone/Kimball Stock
  • Completed chicken brooder
    The completed single-story brooder waits for the chicks to move in.
    Paul Gardener
  • Pieces of the puzzle
    The cut boxes become puzzle pieces that slide together easily to become the completed brooder.
    Paul Gardener
  • Bracket
    A bracket holds the lamp in place, and it's easy to construct from a discarded 18-inch flap.
    Paul Gardener
  • Chicken condo
    Using a third box extends the life of your brooder, allowing the lamp to be placed higher as the chicks grow.
    Paul Gardener
  • Walk this way
    A hen seems to be teaching her chicks to walk like her.
    Lori Dunn
  • Foraging in the yard
    A hen teaches her chicks the finer art of foraging in the yard.
    Dusty Boots Photography

  • Chick on vegetable
  • Completed chicken brooder
  • Pieces of the puzzle
  • Bracket
  • Chicken condo
  • Walk this way
  • Foraging in the yard

Recently, people’s attitudes and ideas have changed about how we could be living our lives. Activities that might have seemed crazy just a few months before the economy tanked – like raising chickens in the backyard – suddenly seem like perfectly logical choices. It’s one topic that has, for a number of reasons, become a hot item. Anytime there’s renewed interest in something like raising chickens, an inevitable barrage of products arrive, tempting us to spend our money.

Humans and domestic fowl have a shared history that goes back nearly to the dawn of time and spans every continent on Earth. Raising chickens is not a new phenomenon, nor does it need to be difficult. The needs of chickens are relatively few: food, water, shelter and the ability to get up off the ground to roost.

Young chicks, on the other hand, have a slightly different set of requirements. In addition to food and water, they need to have an adequate heat source and to be protected from drafts. Here’s the catch. Baby chicks grow really fast, so you have to make sure your housing solution is large enough to handle them comfortably for the first few weeks. I’m going to show you one way to meet all those needs with a lightweight, low-cost alternative to commercially available rearing systems. It even gives you easy access to the birds and won’t leave you with a bulky brooder to store until your next batch of day-old chicks arrives. I’m talking about building a chicken brooder from cardboard boxes. 

Recycling at its best

To build your cardboard box chicken brooder, you’ll first need to get some cardboard boxes. Ideally, you should start this project with at least two boxes of the same size. Three is even better. These can be just about any kind of cardboard box; the only really important part is that the boxes should be as near to 24 inches square as possible and 15 to 18 inches deep.



Check with a local furniture store, liquor store or supermarket for boxes, or even buy them from a self-storage place, if push comes to shove. Boxes sized 24-by-18-by-18 inches are a standard moving size, will work just fine for six to eight birds and shouldn’t set you back more than $10 or $12. For the purposes of this article, this is the size of box used. I was lucky enough to obtain my boxes for free – I found them in a dumpster.

You should build your brooder sometime before the chicks come home with you; they don’t do well for long in the small shipping boxes in which they arrive.

Victoria
2/16/2018 9:24:42 AM

cardboard and heatlamps? are you insane????


Rattlerjake
2/16/2018 8:58:50 AM

Cardboard is the worst material to use as a brooder in combination with a heat lamp! It is a huge fire hazard! A much better solution is an inexpensive plastic tub and instead of a heat lamp I use red fluorescent bulbs (which heat up nicely but will not ignite or melt the plastic) in a standard heat lamp fixture. You will need to put them closer to the chicks and may need several but they cost very little to operate and the chicks can huddle around them without getting injured. Plastic brooders are easy to clean and so are the fluorescent bulbs.


Chicory
3/3/2011 5:26:31 PM

I agree with Dawn. This sounded like a great idea and I might try to figure one out myself but your instructions were so confusing with out pictures that I gave up even trying to read it all the way through.







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