- Selected container (cardboard box, rubber container, small animal cage or aquarium)
- Small thermometer
- Light bulb and reflector or infrared heat lamp
- Untreated wood shavings
How to Build a Warming Box for Chicks. Chicks need to be kept quite warm (90 to 95 degrees) for the first 60 days or so until more insulative feathers replace their baby fuzz. If you intend to raise chicks regularly, you may wish to purchase a pre-constructed warming box (or "brooder") from a feed or farm supply store or build a sturdy one out of wood. For occasional use, a cardboard box, plastic storage container or even an aquarium will suffice, provided you prepare it properly for your fuzzy new friends.
Decide what type of container will work best for the number of chicks you'll be housing, keeping in mind your budget and space restrictions. Chicks need 9 to 12 square inches of space for their first 4 weeks. Possible containers include a simple cardboard box, a plastic container, aquarium or a cage.
Cut or punch holes in the top and sides of the container (unless holes currently exist) to ensure adequate ventilation. Small holes help allow circulation of oxygen without permitting a draft.
Cover the bottom of the container with approximately 1 inch of untreated wood shavings. Shavings help hold in created heat and provide traction to discourage slipping.
Purchase a 250-watt infrared heat lamp or a red, 100-watt light bulb and reflector to suspend above the floor of the brooder. The height of the lamp or bulb is determined by its ability to maintain the proper temperature for the chicks' living environment, so you may need to experiment with its position.
Attach a small thermometer to the side of the brooder to ensure that you are keeping temperatures in the appropriate range. New hatchlings should be housed at 90 to 95 degrees. Decrease the temperature by 5 degrees each week until chicks develop feathers (5 to 8 weeks old).
Place corrugated cardboard around your brooder if it remains drafty after installation of your heat lamp. Surrounding the container with cardboard or a similar material allows heat to build and keeps chicks from becoming scared or overstimulated by their surroundings.
Due to their growing space needs, it is recommended that your warming box allow up to 2 square feet of living space as they grow to be more than a month old. Make sure the warming box you design allows them room to move and play. While you may build a brooder out of lumber, a pre-existing container will serve the same purpose and is typically simpler and cheaper to acquire. You may use a white lightbulb if you cannot find a red one, but be aware that chicks may have difficulty sleeping. Red bulbs encourage restfulness. Chicks will cluster together if they are uncomfortably cold, so watch their behavior in addition to your thermometer. If they seem to be seeking one another's body heat, it's time to kick up the temperature.
Baby chicks will pick at each other if they are hot or overcrowded. If you find them on the perimeter of the warming box or picking at broodmates, you need to cool the container down.