There are probably a hundred different ways to set up a chick brooder. Here are just some ideas!
We have used everything from rubbermade totes to wooden boxes. I have seen customers using kiddie pools and even cardboard boxes! You pretty much can use anything that is safe, draft free and you are able to clean it regularly. Use your imagination!
Heat: We used to use big red heat lamp bulbs. Sometimes, we still do. They are fine to use if you take care of them. We recommend getting in the habit of dusting them regularly and check the bulb often because they can come loose from the base. Never hang them from the cord. We recommend a clamp. We have seen people use regular 100 watt bulbs in those metal shields with good results as well. This year we are trying reptile heat bulbs. And so far, we like them. A heat plate is an excellent addition, if you can justify the expense.
Temp: A thermometer is your friend! This is the first thing I ask when someone calls me about their chicks. What is the temperature in your brooder? If you don’t know, don’t call me until you do. This is a basic chick keeping necessity. I place my thermometer on the floor pretty much in the center of the light to check my temp. You want it to be 95 degrees for day old chicks. But this is key….you only want it to be 95 degrees in that SPOT not the entire brooder! The chick needs places to cool off just as they would if they were not snuggling under mom. Reduce the temperature each week by 5 degrees until you are at a point that the temp outside is the same as the age of your chick. For example, if your chicks are 2 weeks old they should have an 85 degree space. If it is 85 degrees in your house/barn/brooder then you don't need that heat source. Remember to calculate your temperature based on actual temps. Your may know it is 85 outside but have the AC on in the house! Be mindful.
Bedding: For the first few days we use paper-towels. We do not like newspapers. They are slippery, not very absorbent and the ink will transfer when wet. After the first few days, we move our chicks either onto a wire floor or into a brooder with horse stall bedding pellets. The pellets can be bought from your local feed store. They absorb liquid, are not at all dusty and they dont end up in the food and water dishes! We have used shavings and know many people who do. They just probably like to dust. We don't!
Feed/Water: We recommend chick starter until your chicks lay their first egg. We always supply room temperature water, never cold. Why not cold? The body has to burn energy to warm cold water. Cold water can cool the internal temperature of the chicks. So let's just stick with the room temp water. We start offering Chick Grit after a week of age.
Good Luck and Happy Brooding!