Ready, Set, Chicks

Brooder supplies ready to head back to storage in the shed

Each year while we still have chicks in the house, I work on my list for the following year’s chicks. It may seem slightly mad to plan a year or more in advance but here’s why: it’s so easy to forget that little tweak you made in the chick set up or the one item that was priceless or how much of this or that was needed.


107’s Brooder Setup

I keep a spare of some items in case something breaks, doesn’t work, or if I need to separate a chick. I set up the brooder several days in advance and turn the heat lamp on 48 hours or so in advance to ensure the brooder is toasty for the chicks.

Just add aspen shavings, heat lamp, feed, water, and chicks! Note the brooder bridge that allows the two totes to be used or the bridge can be removed and the totes nested for brooding a smaller number of chicks. Not shown: thermometer and heat lamp.

All of the brooder supplies easily pack in totes for quick and easy storage for next year.

  • Brooder box. Two 110-quart plastic totes. I don’t want poopy wood shavings on my rugs so I opt for plastic.  An added bonus is that the totes fit inside each other and are perfect to store all the other brooder items.
  • Separation box. A small plastic tote that easily fits inside the brooder box that allows for the separation of a chick if required.
  • Heat shield and heat lamp bulbs.  I prefer red 250-watt heat lamp bulbs. Last year my brand new bulb failed just before the arrival of the chicks! So, even if you don’t think that you will need a second bulb, it can be good to have one on hand just in case.  Be sure that the heat shield is rated for the wattage of the bulb you are going to use. Some flocksters prefer a smaller wattage bulb or a two lamp setup; a 75-watt bulb is adequate for most small brooder setups and two lamps is good insurance.
  • Themometer.
  • Chick roost.
  • Dust bath box.
  • Feeders. I prefer the gravity feeders outfitted with mason jars so I can easily monitor consumption and the glass is easy to clean.
  • Waterers. I prefer gravity waterers outfitted with mason jars as the chicks are attracted to the glistening glass and again the jars are easy to clean. 
  • Nipple waterers. Nipples should be inspected each year! I introduce nipple waterers six hours or so after the chicks have arrived. Both the gravity waterers and the nipple waterers are kept in the brooder until there is confidence that  all the chicks are using the nipples effectively and regularly.
  • Aspen shavings. One bale is more than adequate for brooding two dozen chicks. The rest of the bale can be used in nest boxes or reserved for next time.
  • Water. I prefer to have stored water on hand for the chicks to ensure there is a supply of water in case of emergency. You do not need to purchase bottled water, good filtered water or well water is more than adequate.
  • Chick ration (aka starter feed). I mix and grind the custom chick ration the day before the anticipated chick arrival to ensure freshness. I grind only twenty or so pounds at a time.
  • Fresh greens. I offer fresh greens (beet greens, turnip greens, lettuces, sprouts, etc.) starting the day after the chicks have arrived.
  • Whey, yogurt, or other dairy. I offer a small amount of dairy starting the day after the chicks have arrived. I like to coordinate a batch of yogurt with the arrival of the chicks.
  • Chick grit. 50-pound bag of sand.
  • Ingredients for chick stress elixir. Apple cider vinegar, garlic, honey, and water.
  • Review and fill-in emergency kit. The item that I have found the most important for the chicks is a large syringe (without a needle) for feeding/watering chicks that are in distress.
  • Notebook. It’s a good practice to take notes. I record ambient temperature, brooder temp, activity level, any problems or signs of disorder, distress, or disease, feed consumption, water consumption, and any other observations.

Chick Stress Elixir

I prep the elixir the just prior to the arrival of the chicks and place under the heat lamp to keep it warm. Offer this elixir to each chick, beak by beak upon arrival. Provide plain water too.

  • 1 quart warm water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic minced fine