How to Build a Chicken Brooder from a Plastic Bin (Free Plans)

Are you searching online for brooder box plans to create an easy and inexpensive chicken brooder?

You’ve come to the right place! We’ve raised chicks in many different brooders over the years and in this post we’re sharing plans to make your own cheap chicken brooder.

Learning how to build a chicken brooder doesn’t need to be complicated and you don’t need any specific skills for this brooder. This brooder is built using a large plastic bin which makes it easy to clean, completely movable and inexpensive.

You can also see some general information on how to set up a chick brooder and you can also find a free guide to chick supplies on this link as well as information on how to raise baby chicks.

Some of the links in this post about how to build a chicken brooder might be affiliate links. Thanks for supporting my small business.


Why do you Need a Chicken Brooder?

Chicks require special care to make sure they thrive.

In nature, chicks would survive the first few weeks of their life under the care of a mother hen. The mother hen would keep the chicks warm, protected and teach them how to feed themselves.

A chick brooder help provide some of the same protections that a mother hen does in nature. A brooder should provide a safe place away from predators, a heat source, food and water and clean bedding.

The safest and easiest way to do this is with a brooder.

How to Build a Chicken Brooder
How to Build a Chicken Brooder

What Makes a Good Chick Brooder

A bood brooder depends a bit on your specific set up, how many chicks you plan to raise and what the weather conditions are when you are raising the chicks. Below are some of the things to consider when deciding how to build a chicken brooder.

  • Adequate Size:
    • Spacious enough to accommodate the number of chicks you have.
    • Allow at least 1/2 to 1 square foot of space per chick, depending on the breed.
  • Warmth:
    • A reliable heat source, such as a heat lamp or a brooder heater.
    • Maintain a temperature of around 95°F (35°C) for the first week, reducing it by 5°F (2.8°C) each week until chicks are fully feathered.
  • Ventilation:
    • Proper ventilation to ensure fresh air circulation.
    • Prevents moisture buildup and ammonia odors.
  • Safety:
    • Secure walls and flooring to prevent escapes and protect chicks from predators.
    • Use safe, non-toxic materials for construction.
  • Hygiene:
    • Easy-to-clean materials for bedding and brooder surfaces.
    • Regular cleaning and disinfection to prevent disease.
  • Lighting:
    • Provide a consistent light source to prevent stress and promote chick growth.
    • Use a 24-hour light cycle initially and then gradually reduce to 16 hours of light per day.
  • Feeder and Waterer:
    • Adequate feeders and waterers to ensure access to food and clean water.
    • Raise them slightly to prevent bedding contamination.

Benefits of a Platic Bin Brooder for Chicks

In this design, we used a plastic bin to build a chick brooder. In the past we’ve used dog crates, boxes, a rabbit cage and a barn stall.

We love this plastic chicken brooder as it is easy to clean, lightweight enough to carry, keep all the bedding contained (is cleaner in the house), helps to avoid spills and is quick and easy to build.

There are a few cons to this type of brooder.

The first con is that for most chicks this brooder only works well for the first couple weeks then chicks will outgrow the small space. This works ok for us as we move our chicks out into a barn stall around 6 weeks.

Another negative is that chicks can get overheated and there is limited ventilation in the bin. Choose a large plastic bin and monitor the chicks closely over the few few days to ensure the temperature is right. We also recommend using a chick heating plate to heat your brooder instead of a more traditional heat lamp.

Materials for Building a Plastic Chicken Brooder

The materials below are what you need to build this chick brooder. You will also need to get addition chick keeping supplies to go inside the brooder (you can see our list of supplies here).

Supplies for a Plastic Bin Chick Brooder:

  • Plastic Bin – get a large sized bin – the larger the better. I prefer the bin to have locks to keep the lid in place. This is especially important if you have pets that might try to get into the brooder. You can use a plastic bin like this one.
  • Chicken Wire – Hopefully you already have a roll of chicken wire, otherwise you should buy one. While chicken wire doesn’t make a great fencing option there are many uses of this wire. Order Wire.
  • Zip Ties – You don’t need very big zip ties for this project. Buy Zip ties.
How to Build a Chicken Brooder: Supplies

In addition to the supplies you need for building a homemade chick brooder, you will also need a few simple tools. You don’t need any special skills when learning how to Build a Chicken Brooder, but if you’ve never used a drill or a jigsaw it’s important to take safety measures including wearing safety glasses and tieing back hear and clothing.

Here is what you need:

  • Drill (with a drill bit that lets you drill holes that fit the zip ties). You will also need a drill that allows you to fit the blade of the saw into the hole for cutting out the top hole.
  • Saw – there are several saw types you can use including a hand saw. We recommend a jog saw if you have one.

Steps for How to Build a Chicken Brooder

Step 1: Gather your supplies.

Step 2: Draw a rectangle in the top of the lid of your plastic bin. The bigger the rectangle, the more airflow, so make it as big as possible while still leaving a few inches on every side for stability. The lid we used had a natural shape to is, so we drew our rectangle in this shape.

Using you larger drill bit, drill a hole at every corner of the rectangle.

Now cut out your rectangle by putting the blade into the hole and simply cutting out the plastic. You don’t need a perfect rectangle.

Step 3: Using the smaller drill bit, drill holes in the edge of the hole. You should put the holes every 3-5 inches around the side.

Step 4: Cut your chicken wire so it is just a bit bigger than the hole you drilled in the lid of the container. Using zip ties, attach the chicken wire to the lid in the holes you drilled. We left one corner without a zip tie so it was easy to put the cord of the chicken heater

How to Build a Chicken Brooder

Thats it! Connect you lid to your base and you have a homemade chick brooder.

How to Set up Your Homemade Chicken Brooder

Once you’ve learned how to build a chick brooder, it’s time to fill it will all the supplies you need. You should do this before you bring your chicks home to make sure you get the temperature and set up correct.

You will want to set your coop up with a heat source on one side and food and water on the other side. We like to use a heat plate instead of a lamp as this doesn’t have the same fire risk or the same risk of overheating. Use a themometer to test the temperature directly under the heat plate – you are aiming for 95-100 under the plate and slightly cooler in the rest of the brooder.

You will also need a chick water with fresh water (I like to raise this up a few inches) and chick feed and a feeder.

For the first few days I use paper towels as bedding before moving on the pine shavings.

Place your brooder in your home for the first few weeks so you can keep an eye on your chicks. An out of the way place like an entryway is perfect as long as it doesn’t get too many drafts or is really cold.

Top Tips for Raising Baby Chicks

As a summary, here are some top tips for raising happy and healthy chicks in a brooder.

  • Prepare a Clean and Safe Brooder:
    • Clean and disinfect the brooder before placing the chicks to prevent disease.
    • Ensure there are no drafts or sharp edges that could harm the chicks.
  • Provide Adequate Space:
    • Allow at least 0.5 to 1 square foot of space per chick to prevent overcrowding.
    • Gradually increase space as they grow.
  • Maintain Optimal Temperature:
    • Keep the brooder temperature at 95°F (35°C) for the first week, then reduce it by 5°F (2.8°C) per week until they are fully feathered.
    • Use a heat lamp or heat plate to maintain consistent warmth.
  • Offer Clean Water:
    • Provide fresh, clean water in a shallow container that is easy for chicks to access.
    • Use a chick waterer to prevent drowning.
  • Choose Appropriate Bedding:
    • Use clean and dry bedding material like pine shavings or straw.
    • Replace soiled bedding regularly to maintain hygiene.
  • High-Quality Chick Starter Feed:
    • Use a nutritionally balanced chick starter feed with at least 18-20% protein.
    • Ensure the feed is fresh and free from contaminants.
  • Promote Good Hygiene:
    • Wash your hands before and after handling chicks to prevent disease transmission.
    • Keep the brooder clean and dry to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Provide Proper Lighting:
    • Use a 24-hour light source initially, then gradually reduce it to 14-16 hours a day to mimic natural daylight.
    • Proper lighting helps regulate their sleep patterns.
  • Monitor Chick Behavior:
    • Watch for signs of distress, illness, or bullying among the chicks.
    • Isolate sick or injured chicks to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Encourage Social Interaction:
    • Chicks are social animals, so ensure they have companions to reduce stress.
    • Introduce new chicks or integrate them with an existing flock gradually.
  • Offer Grit and Treats Sparingly:
    • Provide chick-sized grit to help with digestion once they start eating solid food.
    • Offer treats like fruits, vegetables, and mealworms in moderation.
  • Frequent Health Checks:
    • Regularly inspect chicks for signs of illness, such as lethargy, labored breathing, or unusual droppings.
    • Consult a veterinarian if you suspect any health issues.
  • Gradual Transition to Outdoors:
    • When the chicks are fully feathered (around 6-8 weeks), gradually introduce them to the outdoors.
    • Ensure they have a safe and predator-proof coop.
  • Educate Yourself:
    • Continuously educate yourself about chicken care and behavior through books, online resources, and local poultry clubs.
  • Practice Patience:
    • Raising chicks requires time and attention, so be patient and enjoy the process of watching them grow.

Looking for more ideas of how to build a chicken brooder? Check out our ideas on Pinterest.

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