The cardboard box can be a relatively cost-effective home for newly hatched little chicks, but it can’t be considered as a long-term solution. There are several types of chicken brooders available that make it easy to ensure the chicks are kept warm and dry. The essential purpose of the chick brooder is to keep the chickens warm and protected. It’s essential to have the brooder until the chickens can be left outside in the chicken coop.
The brooder has to be cleaned everyday, so keep that in mind. The chickens should always have food and water available to them. Even if you are using a commercial chicken brooder, it needs to be disinfected and cleaned before the chicks can be put in it. If you decide to use a cardboard box make sure that it is at least 12 inches or more high. If it’s any lower, the chicks will be able to jump out. If you decide on using a cover in order to prevent this from happening, make sure that it is made of mesh and lets air in.
Brooder size is also a crucial factor. With each passing week, the chicks are going to grow and get bigger, so get a brooder that will do them till they are ready to be sent out to a coop. Typically, 2 square feet per chick is more than enough This ensures that the chicks have enough room to grow and space themselves out. Make sure the brooder isn’t in line with the air draft so as to not harm the chicks.
Chicks don’t require precise temperature control. However, some rare and exotic species of birds may. This is why commercial brooders are better than the cardboard box. For newborn chicks and chicks that are less than a week old, the temperature must be maintained at 90 degree F.
This can be decreased gradually as the weeks go by.
No matter whether you use a commercial brooder or a cardboard box, you must dry it well before you can line it. It should also be cleaned on a daily basis because the chicken droppings need to be cleaned out. Keep in mind that chickens aren’t the cleanest animals, so doing these things will prevent the spread of diseases and maintain hygiene in the brooder.
You can make the lining out of paper towels for a small group of chicks, or hardware cloth, burlap, newspaper, decomposed non-toxic saw dust and wood shavings, peat moss or clean sand, if you’ve got more of them. The lining should be at least 2 inches thick. This helps the chicks to get a better foothold and also makes the surface less slippery.
If you decide to use a cardboard box, you’ll have to have a heat lamp to keep the chicks warm. It is better to have a red light as the white light can be harmful to your little ones. You can also go with a 250-watt infrared light that will do the job. Make sure there’s a healthy distance between the chicks and the lamp is maintained, so they are neither too hot nor too cold. If you find that the chicks are huddled together under the lamp, then you need to move the clamp closer. The lamp needs to be moved away from the chicks, if you see that the chicks are moving towards the edge of the box.
Pick up the lamps and reflectors at any of the hardware shops. The commercial chicken brooders come with a variety of temperature controls and thermostat. This removes the headache of checking the chickens often to ensure that they are warm enough.