Baby Chick Brooder - Repurposed Dog Crate

Stacy Davis
by Stacy Davis
9 Materials
30 Minutes
If you want to see what these fluff ball chicks look like now, I post pictures and videos of them @petalsandchalk on Instagram. Our newest adventure began this weekend, we brought home baby chicks. I have been dreaming for some time of raising chickens. Last fall, I even joined a Facebook group, for chicken owners to educate myself on everything that I could learn before we brought our newest family members home. That Facebook group showed equally both sides of raising backyard chickens. There were stories of joys, funny tales and also ones that would break my heart. So, going into this I felt well prepared. I read blogs and checked out every chicken book my library had to educate myself And it still was terrifying bringing home those tiny beings. icon This post is to share my newbie ways that we are raising our baby chicks on a budget. Driving home with the new babies, I kept thinking of a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, "Do one thing every day that scares you." This is the first time in a long time where I did something that scared me and I am so glad that I did. Update: Since this was my first time raising chicks there are things I would do differently. A brooder warming device instead of a heat lamp is something I plan to invest in. I plan to look into Chick vaccinations next time. Puppy pads instead of paper and paper towels is so much easier. We ended up getting ducks and Bantam chicks so we have 3 brooders in the house. Changing the paper in three brooders was a task but once I changed to puppy pads it was so much easier. With the pasty butt, I found something that I think works better than anything I read on the internet but don’t want to bore you since this already a wordy post. If interested, comment and I will reply back.
They came home in a little travel cardboard box. We picked out 2 Lavenders, 3 Silver Polish and 2 Ameraucanas or Easter Eggers 🐣 Also, there are certain number requirements. We had to buy at least six chicks for warmth to help give them a better survival rate. These requirements vary on where you buy your chicks from. Ace Hardware was a minimum of six and Tractor Supply was a minimum of 4 chicks. We bought ducks there too and there was a 2 bird minimum on ducks. Personally, I love them and the more the merrier.
Thinking of raising backyard chickens? What will you need? Here is my list for what I needed for bringing the babies home. 1. A Brooder - somewhere, mine is inside, that will keep them safe, warm, and secure while they grow over the next several weeks and are able to move into a chicken coop.(mine is a dog crate, but you can use storage tubs or there are many diy versions of brooders.) 2. Chicken feeder and chick feed - I am using Southern States Start-N-Grow. 3. Water Dispenser - we are adding an electrolyte mix to our water. It is basically Gaterade for Chicks. I use small amounts in the dispenser at a time to try and keep a steady supply of cool water for them to drink. I change the water frequently to keep it fresh and cool. Try to keep food and water away from the heated area. 4. A Heat lamp is a necessity and a thermometer is helpful. 5. Pine Shavings not cedar, paper towels and paper from a roll are great to cover the brooder floor. I read that if you don't cover the paper with paper towels or something on top of smooth paper that they could develop leg problems. 6. Knowledge of the predators in your area. This will help you secure your outside coop. This is information to have before you move your chickens into the outdoor coop. In our area, there are hawks, raccoons, opossums, foxes, coyotes, snakes (they come for easy food, rodents and eggs), rodents (they come for easy access to the chicken feed.) 7. Try to read up on common baby chick health problems so that if something is wrong, you will know what to do because they can take a turn for the worst very quickly. Three of mine had pasty butt, where their vents are plugged on their backends. I recommend warm water on a Q-tip and/or warm water on paper towels and coconut oil. There are several videos out there on treating this. You are basically gently removing (not pulling) a "poop plug" from their backend.
We started with a dog crate and I put paper around the outside but I plan to change this to cardboard around the inside. I put white paper off a roll to cover the bottom and topped that with paper towels. It is easy to take out certain paper towel sections and replace but I am starting fresh every morning for now. I also sprinkled shavings on top of the paper towels.
I put ceramic tiles to help keep the water level. I plan to pick up one large ceramic tile the next time I am out.
This chicken feeder is ideal. Heads go in but not bodies so the poop stays out for the most part.

We have a heat lamp.
It is probably plenty secure on its own but a well-placed carabiner can give you peace of mind.
Even the very first day, they seemed bored. I built this perch and really thought they were too young for it but I was wrong. They love it. They jump back and forth and one Ameraucana can balance on it. At the end of each dowel rod are two 2 by 4's and they love to sit on top of them as well. It is kind of a "chick jungle gym". And when it is nap time, they all sleep between the two perches and they seem so much happier now.
A thermometer is helpful to help make sure they are warm enough. But you can also tell if they are too hot and too cold by their body language. Spread out around the perimeter of the brooder and panting, Too hot. Huddled together under the heat lamp, too cold. We are keeping the temperature around 85, they seem the most comfortable af this temperature. Every week you are to decrease the temperature by 5 degrees.

I also read that they enjoy a mirror in their brooder but I haven't made it to the Dollar Store to get one yet.
As they get older, you can bring in chopped up weeds, grass, dirt attached too, a dirt box for them to play in and when they begin to get treats, they will also need chick grit.
When I clean the brooder, I put them in a storage tub. Babysitter is optionalicon
I love to watch them drink.
I will be building and trying to predator-proof a chicken coop over the next several weeks. I live in a heavily wooded rural area of Virginia and from what I have learned from the Facebook page, this will be a challenge.
Any first time chicken moms out there?
And baby chicken experts, what is the best tip you have for those of us with baby chicks?
So, much fun! I spend entirely too much time watching them. My husband said he saw a quote, “I am driving my husband crazy one chicken at a time!” icon
This is Day 3 and they seem to be thinking “OKAY, this is home.”

I knew my paper around the dog crate was a short solution. Today, I cut up an Amazon box and placed it around the sides and now they are secure. The space around the bottom of the crate is pretty wide so you want to make sure they can't squeeze through and a cardboard box works perfectly.

I used zip ties and a hole punch to secure the box to the crate. 
One week old and pros at roosting.
Our ducklings... one yellow and one black.
See those feathers coming in? Probably won’t look much like this in a few weeks.

So for my tiny Bantam chicks, I broke down and bought a Brooder Hen. There isn’t as much of a fire hazard as with a heat lamp. They crawl under it like a mother hen to get warm. This picture shows that it is at the correct height. Too low and they won’t go under at all. Too high and they won’t leave the Brooder Hen. Just right, the come and go freely to eat and drink and then back under to sleep. It was pricey but I think it will be worth it.
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  • Kara Narten Ladaika Kara Narten Ladaika on May 04, 2018

    I saw your update about using puppy pads. Brilliant. We are hoping to start our backyard coop this summer. At what point are the chicks good to go from brooder to coop?

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4 of 49 comments
  • Tammy Roads Tammy Roads on May 06, 2018

    I live in a very wooded area also. Predators are a big problem here. I keep my chickens in a 10x10 dog lot with chicken wire covering the top.

    • Stacy Davis Stacy Davis on May 06, 2018

      It is a definitely a challenge with the woods so near. I like you dog lot idea... nice and secure.

  • Vicky Corey Vicky Corey on May 16, 2018

    I moved on my sister's farm last year. I love the chickens! They have free range during the day and are in the coup at night. We feed them left over food. They are soo cute when they see me coming and run behind me clucking because they know I have food. Lol She has 5 ducks, 5 horses, a donkey, 2 dogs, and 1 cat. Lol I'm in love with the farm life. ❤

    • Stacy Davis Stacy Davis on May 16, 2018

      That sounds wonderful! I would love to add more animals. You are living my dream. 😉 I have noticed that when my older chickens hear the porch door open, they run to the fence because “The Keeper of the Mealworms” is coming. And I am such a soft touch that I reward them for running to greet me. I love the farm life too! It suits me to a t.