How to Set Up Your Brooder Box for Day Old Chicks

Day Old Chicks - The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Set Up A Brooder Box For Chicks

Setting up a brooder box is the first step for providing a safe and healthy home for your day old poultry. Chicks, ducklings and turkey poults require the same basic set up for their first few days, although ducklings are larger and need a bit more space.

So what do your little balls of fluff need when they first arrive?

  • Safe, clean enclosure
  • Warmth
  • Food
  • Water
  • Electrolytes and probiotics
  • Chick grit

Keep reading for a closer look at each of their basic needs!

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broody hen with chick
If you don’t have a broody hen to hatch and raise her chicks, you’ll need a brooder to keep them safe.

Setting Up Your Brooder Box

To give your chicks, ducklings and poults the best start in life, provide a brooder box that is warm, safe, clean, and gives them enough room to stretch their legs and wings.

Brooder Box

You may use a plastic storage bin, wooden box, or other container to house your baby poultry. Make sure it is easy to clean, provides ample space for them to move about, and the sides are high enough to prevent escape (at least 12″ high for the first week). If possible, use a screen to cover brooder. This will allow airflow and keep chicks safe.

I have read that it is best to provide a round enclosure to prevent chicks from piling up in corners and suffocating the ones on the bottom. In my experience, this is not necessary as long as chicks are kept at the proper temperature and they are not under stress.

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heritage turkey poults
A plastic storage bin lined with paper towels and/or vinyl shelf liner works well for a brooder box.

Keep Them Warm & Give Them Space

Be sure that young poultry have room to move in and out of heated areas to regulate their own temperature. If they pile up under the heat, they are too cold. If they are as far from the heat as possible and are panting, they are too warm. Make sure there are no drafts to chill them.

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Provide A Clean, Non-slip Surface

Clean thoroughly with a mild bleach solution or sanitizing solution and line bottom with a non-slip covering that is easy to clean. I find that bumpy vinyl shelf liners, paper towels, or old dishtowels work well. As they get older you may use pine shavings for bedding. Do not use cedar or other aromatic wood shavings as they may cause respiratory damage. Change bedding as it becomes soiled to prevent disease.

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Chicks, ducklings, and poults need a temperature of about 95 degrees Fahrenheit for their first week of life. Temps should be lowered 5 degrees F each week until they are fully feathered or their needs and the room temps equalize. Use a small thermometer to keep track of temps.

You can provide warmth in several different ways, but be sure that you follow all safety precautions to prevent fires, overheating or electrocution. Keep all electrical cords away from water. Check cords each year and discard any that are damaged.

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My brooder room has more than one source of heat. A heat lamp keeps the room warm and Ecoglow brooders give chicks another option for staying cozy.

Heat Lamps

Heat lamps are a commonly used method for keeping baby poultry warm. They are useful for heating a large number of chicks and they are inexpensive and easy to find. However, heat lamps must be used with extreme caution to prevent fires. I suggest reading my post How to Safely Heat Your Chick Brooder for additional information.

Young Broad Breasted turkey poults
Young turkey poults with an Ecoglow brooder.

Ecoglow Brooder

An Ecoglow brooder is an easy and safe method for keeping chicks warm if the room temperature isn’t very cold. They come in different sizes and the height is adjustable to allow more space for growing fluff balls. I have used them numerous times with very good results. The Ecoglow brooder is great for keeping chicks in your house until they can be moved to the coop or barn.

I’ve also used Ecoglow brooders in the barn, in addition to the heat lamp. This works very well. However, if your barn is quite cold (for example, in early spring) the Ecoglow brooder, by itself, may not provide enough heat.

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brooder box with chicks
This set up is my Redneck Brooder Box, a homemade solution for keeping chicks warm.

DIY  – Redneck Brooder Box

If you need a quick way to keep your chicks warm and you have some seedling heat mats, you might want to try my Redneck Brooder Box. I’ve had very good luck using this system to keep chicks warm for the first few weeks of their lives. This works similarly to the Ecoglow brooder and may not provide enough heat in a cold barn.

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chick drinking

Food & Water

Provide food and water in clean containers. Water dishes must be shallow to prevent drowning. Change water daily.

Use non-chlorinated water for the best results. Add electrolytes and probiotics according to package directions for the first few days. This will help them recover from the stress of hatching and shipping. (In a pinch, you may use a drop of molasses in their water for electrolytes, and a spoonful of plain yogurt for probiotics.)

Food should be fresh for best nutritional content. Make sure it is not moldy, rancid, or old.

Provide chick grit within a few days of hatching to help baby poultry digest their feed.

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Chicks – chick starter crumbles

Meat Chicks – meat producer feed

Ducklings – duckling feed or non-medicated chick starter crumbles (sprinkle with brewer’s yeast for supplemental vitamin E)

Turkeys – game bird feed or meat producer feed

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day old duckling
All warm and fuzzy!


It isn’t difficult to provide a safe, clean enclosure for your baby chicks, ducklings, and turkey poults and the benefits are numerous. Baby poultry with a healthy environment are lively, bright eyed, and curious.

However, if their brooder becomes sodden with spilled water and feces, they are susceptible to disease. Too much, or not enough, heat can lead to death from hypothermia, overheating, or piling on top of each other.

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Give them ample space to regulate their temperature, fresh food and clean water, and proper bedding…and they will reward you with a healthy flock in the future!

If you have problems with baby poultry falling ill or sustaining injuries, please refer to my post How to Care for a Sick Chick.

Do you have a special brooder box set up? Share in the comments!


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