Setting Up The Brooder

The needs of chicks are fairly simple. They need to stay warm. They need food and water. They need to be able to scratch their bedding. They need enough space so that they aren’t stressed. They need interesting things to do so that pecking each other doesn’t become a pastime.

I’m setting a brooder up in the storage area of my Little Barn. A hanging heat lamp will provide warmth, and cardboard walls will keep it draft-free. Because chicks have a crowd mentality, and because even those fluffy sweet-looking babies peck and chase, the corners are blocked off so that no one gets trapped and pounded on or smothered.


As you can see, this is inexpensive, temporary housing. These are old shipping boxes that we had stored away. We use gaffer’s tape, not duct tape, because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue. But, duct tape is fine. If you don’t have a concrete floor to tape it to, then use an appliance box (appliance stores are happy to give them away) as I did for the Gems. I’ll be putting pine shavings down for bedding.

I know that the Little Barn has some lingering coccidia (a protozoan parasite that can kill chicks.) I know this because periodically I have fecal samples looked at by a vet tech. Most yards that have housed chickens have coccidia in the soil. I’ve ordered vaccinated chicks, but it takes awhile for their immunity to kick in. So, I don’t want them on dirt. Clean concrete is a good floor, as is  a cardboard box. You don’t want the place to be pristine. You want them to develop immunity to germs and bugs, but exposure to those things should be in small increments.

The heat lamp is on a cord that can be raised as the chicks get older. Notice that the brooder is big enough that the chicks can get away from the heat if they want to. Chicks can get overheated, and that can kill them. This is a basic heat lamp. One of these days I’ll try the new radiant brooder lamps. But this one works, and so I haven’t felt the need to spend the money.

heat lamp

I like hanging feeders, which deters the chicks from sitting in the feed and also keeps it clean of shavings. The waterers are made for tiny chicks. They’re inexpensive and worth getting for peace of mind. You can use chicken waterers, but put rocks in so that the water isn’t so wide and deep that the babies can drown. Because the waterers don’t hang, I put them up on blocks to keep them clean and out of the shavings.


Lastly, I’ve been reading about how essential it is for chicks to eat grit right away. Since mine won’t be able to get out for several weeks and have access to the bits of granite in this New England soil, I’m going to give them grit in this dispenser.


I’m off to buy chick feed. I tried last week but it was out of stock. Those chicks are going to be seriously hungry when they arrive and they’ll need to eat immediately. It’s essential that everything is set-up before they get here. I have a few other last minute preparations (which I’ll share in another post) and then you’ll see them on the ChickCam!


  1. Are you going to get medicated food to help build a resistance to coccidia?

    • Good question, Jonathan. If the chicks are vaccinated you do NOT use medicated feed. Only feed medicated ration to unvaccinated chicks.

  2. So exciting! What a great setup you have. You mentioned in your first paragraph that chicks need interesting things to keep them from making “pecking each other” a pastime … what kind of things do you recommend to hold a chick’s interest?

  3. The preparations for any new arrival are so much fun – I love the anticipation of this! Thanks for spreading out the info in sequential posts!

  4. Sure enough I was going to buy medicated feed and my chicks are going to be vaccinated. Glad I read your comments. Now I won’t. I didn’t know they needed grit. Will put that on my list. Really is a nice setup. The chickeebabees will be delighted. Was wondering what kind of chicks you have coming. Maybe you posted somewhere and I missed it. I think I read you were getting some Aracaunas. I think that’s how you say it but you’ll know what I mean. Thanks for your help.

  5. But isn’t the vaccination for prevention of Marek’s disease and the medicated feed for prevention of Cocci? I’m definitely no expert, so just want to make sure.

  6. Love your set up. I picked up my chicks yesterday evening from a local small farm down the road, Harken Back Farm. They are one day old bantam rumpless Araucana’s. It is fun to have babies again! I thought I was all prepared but after reading your blog and all the comments realized I forgot the chick grit. Will go out and get some today. Thank you!

  7. I am so excited for you!! What a wonderful place they will have to grow. I can’t wait to see them. :)

  8. My chicks are getting the Marek’s vac, thought it was for coccidia. Back to the medicated feed. Thanks ladies. Afraid my inexperience is showing. Maybe I should have went with goats…..

  9. Dear Terry,
    When I got my chicks I bought medicated food I don’t know if they were vaccinated or not, then I took it away a week later after reading some FAQ on HenCam. I will know next time to ask about vaccinations. I just have them on regular starter grower now, it says no vitamins or minerals needed. My neighbor is a grand old lady who use to raise hundreds of Leghorns at a time to sell meat and eggs, she told me to put a sandbox in with chicks. She didn’t raise them as pets like I am. So I wonder if Im doing ok with the sand box or should I add some other type of grit???????????

    • If you buy chicks from a feedstore, they will (should) tell you if they’ve been vaccinated. Chicks do like to dust bathe, and a box of sand will make them happy. You can also buy chick grit (ground granite) that your chicks will consume as needed. I’ll be putting mine in a feeder, as I don’t want to waste $ and I want to keep things tidy.

  10. Terry, do I need to add the oyster shell too; with the grit for my pullets? Also, what food to use? I see many: Layena sun fresh crumbles, sunfresh pellets…Purina start & grow medicated,Omega-3 and flock raiser.
    I also oedered my pullets from McMurray hatchery. It makes me feel better knowing you deal with them too.
    Thanks for all of your help!

  11. What a cool set-up! Do you know how long you will house them there? What I mean is how old will the chicks be when they get sprung…ha ha?

  12. Hope I’m not putting the cart before the chicken!( This may come up in a later blog!) will you be feeding the chicks grow gel from the hatchery? This is so exciting being able to watch the new chicks grow.i missed the gems as chicks….

  13. And you will know it’s time for a new set up the day you walk in and one is perched on top of the cardboard.
    It always seems to happen when you hope you have at least one more day of preparation.
    Great set up and can’t wait to see the variety you choose and why you choose them.

  14. You know,I probably won’t be buying anything from the sponsors,but would love to send you a donation maybe once in awhile.what I’ve learned over the last couple of years is started with your appearance on Martha Stewart show.i don’t have chickens yet.waiting for my husband to build the right coop for us-he’s been too busy!, Perhaps I’m not you have a set up?

  15. You know,I probably won’t be buying anything from the sponsors,but would love to send you a donation maybe once in awhile.what I’ve learned over the last couple of years is started with your appearance on Martha Stewart show.i don’t have chickens yet.waiting for my husband to build the right coop for us-he’s been too busy!, Perhaps I’m not you have a set up?

    • Hi Diane, that’s sweet of you to say. I’d thought about a donation button. The only company that I get (a very small %) back from is Tractor Supply. The other ads are googleAds. They pay a tiny amount via click throughs. The more readers I have, the more viable this site is, so spreading the word about HenCam would help. Thanks!

  16. Our babies will be going to a farm tomorrow. We gave them some dandelions and oh my it caused quite a fuss. It has been a whirl wind of activity watching the birth and seeing how much they have changed in less than a week. Your chicks will arrive just as I will be missing these little ones. Good timing.