DIY Outdoor Chicken Brooder

Follow these plans from a 1977 MOTHER EARTH NEWS article to build a portable chicken brooder to get your chicks outside and foraging safely.

| January/February 1977

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    Build an outdoor chicken brooder so your chicks can start foraging right away. This small, portable brooder makes it easy to move your chicks so they can peck at fresh ground.
  • 043-106-01-Brooder
    This easy, do-it-yourself chicken brooder holds up to 25 chicks.

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  • 043-106-01-Brooder

Right now — while the ground is covered with ice and snow — is the time to hie down to the workshop and whip out one of these simple outdoor chicken brooders. Then, when you're ready to raise that mini-flock of homestead chicks next spring or summer, you'll be all set to handle the job in style. 

Most homesteaders would never think of crowding their laying hens together in a cramped, windowless enclosure (the way today's commercial poultry-men do). And yet, a good many small-scale farmers willingly foster just such conditions when it comes to raising chicks.

Not us. After years of experimentation, we've developed a system that allows us to rear small groups of late spring or summer peepers (no more than 25 at a time) in natural surroundings, with or without a setty hen. Our secret: We start our chicks outside in portable chicken brooders.

An outdoor "peep box" can be made simply and inexpensively from scrap lumber, a couple of hinges, a porcelain light fixture, and a screen or iron grating (the rack from an old refrigerator, for instance). Our brooders cost us only about a dollar each to build, since we're able to scrounge all their parts except for the hinges and light fixtures. (Even if you end up buying new lumber, however, your total cost per brood box shouldn't be more than $6 or $7.)

Each of the frames we build is divided into two sections: [1] a large run that's screened on the top and open at the bottom, and [2] an adjoining, fully enclosed, brooding area with an entrance to the run at one end, a light bulb for heat at the other, and a hinged top.

The exact dimensions of your finished brooder (or brooders) will depend on the size of wire rack you use over each run. Ours measure 9 inches deep by 40 inches by 40 inches (with 12 inches down one side of the square for the enclosed and heated box). Try not to make your frame too much larger than this or you'll sacrifice one of the design's most important features: portability.

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