Lessons Learned: Brooder Boxes for Chicks

Nothing is more exciting than bringing home your first (or second.. or third) set of cheep cheeping chicks.

That being said, sometimes it’s easy to forget exactly what you need to have in order before the chicks actually arrive. I’ve made the mistake, twice, of not having my brooder set up so it could be a nice easy transition. I blame my impulsive chick buying habit for that.

You can pretty much use anything as a brooder box for chicks. For us, the second round of chicks we recently bought went into the same type of brooder the first ones did — a giant dog crate. The dog crate has worked great for us because it was inexpensive, easy to put away when we didn’t need it anymore, and nice and spacious for the chicks. I also loved the fact that I could always see my cute little chicks without being blocked by a solid barrier.

The downside is that the dog crate has holes literally everywhere. If you’ve raised chicks before you know they are messy little things, especially when you get a bunch of them. And trust me, it’s hard to just start off with two. They aren’t so messy the first week or so of life, but once they start getting rambunctious and learning how to open their wings, and scratch, pine shavings get thrown everywhere.

This is especially rough when you have a dog crate brooder because of all the holes. As you could imagine, your whole floor could be covered in pine shavings faster than you can say, “I love chickens.” I made a few adjustments to help control the pine shavings a little by taking a USPS large priority box, cutting the flaps off, and making a cardboard border around the inside of the dog crate. I then took some shipping tape and taped the back of some of the cardboard pieces to the dog crate so they wouldn’t fall over. Surprisingly, it has worked in keeping 90% of the pine shavings inside the dog crate brooder.

But then came my next enemy: dust.

Dust EH-VUH-REE-WHERE. Everywhere. And lots of it. Piled thick on EVERYTHING.

Because of all the glorious holes (and partially also because of the space heater blowing hot air), every time the chicks scratch and dust and lose their down feathers, the dust flies into the air and lands on everything. We have kept both rounds of chicks in my office and by the time they were fully feathered I was about over the dustiness. The cheeps were cute but not cute enough to make up for how messy it made the room. Especially because once they went outside, I had to wipe down literally every little thing in my office. Who wants to do that?

So, the next time we buy more chicks we are going to build a brooder box with solid walls so we don’t have to worry about the dust and poop covered pine shavings everywhere. I’m thinking I’ll be making this brooder box because of how simple, easy, and inexpensive it looks.

You can learn more about basic chick care and raising healthy backyard chickens in Oh Lardy’s Guide to Keeping Backyard Chickens by clicking here.

What have you used for a brooder box? I’d love to hear your comments below!

More chicken stuff you’ll love:

10 Things Every Chicken Newbie Needs to Know

 You Might Be a Crazy Chicken Lady If..

The Reality of Owning Chickens


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Aside from being a wannabe backyard homesteader who wrangles chickens and free-range kids, Loriel is the owner/creator of the professional natural lifestyle blog Naturally Loriel, owner of the organic spice blend business Naturally Free, and freelance professional food photographer.

'Lessons Learned: Brooder Boxes for Chicks' has 6 comments

  1. June 3, 2015 @ 9:06 pm Nicki

    we used a hamster box with straw instead of pine shavings and it worked great! The top of the cage lifts up and we used that as an outdoor “cage” when we first put them outside on the grass.


    • June 3, 2015 @ 9:27 pm Loriel

      Oh, that’s a great idea! I love being resourceful like that.


  2. September 22, 2015 @ 1:42 am sue

    after my second set of chicks in the brooder, i just had to see if the third flock where just as dusty, yup still had not figured it out,,,,,,, 4th i know better now ill just keep up with the truckload of dust haaaa, ok 5th go at it hummmmm lets move them out to the greenhouse,,,,,,Yes ….. so i just picked up 5 more chicks 3 weeks ago and there are very happy in the greenhouse. i go out and sit and chat with them i definitely miss all the peep peep peeps but not having the dust and shavings have convinced me to raise later on in the summer.


    • September 24, 2015 @ 10:54 am Loriel

      It’s always a learning process!


  3. October 10, 2015 @ 10:37 pm Lee Ann

    we use a giant Rubbermaid tub. Then we fashioned a wire/wood top for it and can hang out water from there. The first few years I started the chicks in my laundry room but then I couldn’t take it anymore so they stay in the garage. I’ve also learned that I prefer the pine pellets over the shavings for the bedding.


  4. February 20, 2016 @ 5:58 pm Allie Byars

    I used a dog crate as well cause we already had it and I zip-tied diaper boxes around it to hold it the icky and to help retain heat. And I was worried the wiggle their way out. They are in the garage. I have 2 very young kids who still eat everything so they are out there.


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