Cheap Chicken Brooder Ideas

A chicken brooder with baby pheasant chickens wwalking around inside.

Raising chickens is a common backyard and homesteading activity that can provide fresh eggs and meat for your family. Starting with a new batch of chicks requires a brooder to provide a warm and safe environment for the chicks to grow and develop. While commercial brooders are available, they can be expensive and may not fit everyone’s budget.

Cheap chicken brooders can be made from everyday items, repurposed items, or DIY options to build your own homemade chick brooder. These brooders can be an effective, cost-effective option. Adding a few basic items to provide heat, light, and humidity can get you started raising chicks.

When you understand the purpose and construction of a chicken brooder, you will realize that you can easily make your own brooder and save the cost of a commercial one. We have several budget-friendly brooder ideas to give you confidence in raising your chicks and lowering the overall cost.

Cheap Ideas For Chicken Brooders

Commercially made chicken brooders can cost from $90 to $150 or more for fairly basic models, which can be a chicken-raising expense you can easily avoid.

Many affordable brooder options can be constructed at home or repurposed from everyday items. Once you understand the principles behind a chicken brooder, you can create your own version at a fraction of the cost.

I will share some cheap chicken brooder ideas to give your chicks a comfortable and secure environment without breaking the bank.

Homemade brooders can be made from cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, and wood. You can also upcycle or repurpose unused items around your home to make a cost-effective chick brooder.

I also have some important tips for providing the ideal environment to ensure the success of your brooding operation.

What Is The Purpose Of A Chicken Brooder?

When you buy chicks for your homestead or backyard chicken keeping, it is more cost-effective to buy young chicks rather than adult hens.

However, these young chicks will not have their mothers around to provide safety, warmth, and shelter. The idea of a chicken brooder is to replace the mother hen with an enclosure that meets these requirements for your newly arrived chicks.

The enclosure must provide security, shelter, heat, and light to ensure the chicks survive until they are big and strong enough to fend for themselves.

From day old to 1 week old, chicks need a constant temperature of 95°F or 35°C. Each week, the temperature in the brooder can be reduced by 5°F or 3°C until the chicks are 4 weeks old.

Age of ChicksBrooder Temperature Requirement
0 to 1 Week95°F Or 35°C
2 Weeks90°F or 32°C
3 Weeks85°F or 29°C
4 Weeks80°F or 26°C

You can use a thermometer to give you temperature readings and a thermostat to control the heating you provide the chicks.

Many heating units, such as ceramic heaters, come with a thermostat to control the temperature within the brooder.

The humidity in the brooder must be kept between 50% and 70% throughout the brooding period. A hydrometer will help you monitor the humidity in the enclosure, and adding an open water bowl will help increase humidity.

An electric humidifier can also be used to control the humidity in the enclosure, but it is not usually a requirement unless you live in a region with a particularly dry climate.

Hygrometers and thermometers often come as a single unit, and you can also purchase smart versions that can send readings and alerts to your mobile phone.

Space in a brooder is important to prevent the chicks from overheating or smothering each other. The recommendation is a minimum of 6 or 7 square inches or 38 to 40 square cm of floor space in the brooder for each chick.

Homemade Chicken Brooders

My first group of cost-saving brooders is making your own chick brooder from everyday items you can find around your home.

I have compiled three examples, but using your imagination and looking around your home, you can find similar items that can double as a chick brooder.

A Cardboard Box Chick Brooder

A cardboard box brooder is a simple and inexpensive option for raising chicks. The material required are simple and work effectively.

To make a cardboard chick brooder, you will need the following equipment.

  • Large cardboard box
  • Wood shavings or straw for bedding
  • Heat lamp
  • Thermometer and hygrometer

Follow these easy instructions to construct the brooder.

  • Cut a large hole in the top of the box and cover it with mesh or chicken wire for ventilation.
  • Add bedding to the bottom of the box.
  • Hang the heat lamp above the box and adjust the height to maintain a temperature of around 95°F or 32°C on the box floor.
  • Use the thermometer and hygrometer to monitor the temperature and humidity levels in the box.

The benefits of a cardboard box brooder are that it is cheap, easy to set up, and readily available. The limitation of this type of brooder is that the box will probably not last to raise multiple chick broods.

A Plastic Tub Chick Brooder

A plastic tub brooder is another inexpensive option that can be easily constructed. Most people have a plastic tub or two around the house that can be used for this purpose.

The materials needed are as follows.

  • A large plastic tub with a lid
  • Shavings or straw for bedding
  • Heat lamp
  • Thermometer and hygrometer

Depending on the plastic container’s size and ambient temperatures, you may need multiple heating lamps to provide an even temperature across the brooder.

  • Cut a hole in the tub’s lid for the heat lamp to be suspended inside the tub.
  • Pierce the rest of the lid with small homes to provide ventilation
  • Add bedding to the bottom of the tub.
  • Hang the heat lamp in the tub, adjusting the height to maintain the desired temperature on the enclosure’s floor.
  • Monitor the temperature and humidity and adjust as required.

Plastic tubs are durable and can be reused for multiple broods, making this brooder a better long-term investment than the cardboard box option.

Care must be taken to provide enough ventilation to prevent the chicks from overheating. The air in the plastic tubs can heat up very quickly, causing the death of the chicks.

A Wooden Chick Brooder

A wooden brooder is a bit more complicated to construct than a cardboard box or plastic tub brooder, but it can be a more aesthetically pleasing and durable option.

The following material is needed.

  • Plywood or other wood panels
  • Screws or nails
  • Wood shavings or straw for bedding
  • Heat lamp
  • Thermometer and hygrometer

To make the wood chick brooder, cut the plywood or wood panels to size and assemble them into a box shape. Add ventilation holes to the top and sides of the box.

Spread the bedding evenly on the bottom of the box. Hang the heat lamp from the top of the box at a height to maintain the required temperature on the floor of the brooder.

Wood brooders are convenient because they can be custom-made to fit your size requirements. They are durable and can be used to raise multiple chick broods.

The downside of wood brooders is that they can be more expensive to make if you don’t already have the wood on hand, and they take more time to construct.

Repurposed Items As Chick Brooders

Another option for a cheap chicken brooder is to repurpose items that you already have around the house or can find secondhand.

Here are some ideas for items you can repurpose as chick brooders.

  • A plastic kiddie pool. A kiddie pool brooder is a great option for those who plan to raise a larger number of chicks.
  • Dog crate brooder. A dog crate is a great option for those who already have one or can find one secondhand. Dog crates have built-in ventilation and are easy to clean but may limit the number of chicks you can raise.
  • An old dresser drawer. A dresser drawer brooder is a creative way to repurpose an old piece of furniture.

Repurposing items as brooders is a great way to save money and reduce waste. Using items such as these provides your chicks with a comfortable and secure environment without spending a lot of money.

Tips For Successful Chick Brooding

No matter what type of brooder you choose, there are several tips to keep in mind to ensure successful brooding and minimize losses.

  • Temperature and humidity. This is the most crucial part of the brooder environment to monitor. The health of the chicks can decline fast if the temperature is too hot or too cold or the humidity is beyond the prescribed range.
  • Bedding. The bedding you use should be absorbent and easy to clean. Pine shavings or straw are both good options. Avoid using newspaper as it can be slippery and cause leg problems for the chicks.
  • Water and food. Provide your baby chicks with clean water and food at all times. Make sure the water is not too deep, as chicks can drown in deep water. Use a chick starter feed, which is specifically formulated for young chicks.
  • Lighting. Chicks need 24-hour lighting for the first few days to help them find food and water. After that, you can reduce the lighting to 12-14 hours daily.
  • Ventilation. Good ventilation is important to prevent the buildup of ammonia and other harmful gases. Ensure the brooder has enough airflow, but avoid drafts that can cause a chill.
  • Cleanliness. Keeping the brooder clean is crucial for the health of your chicks. Remove wet or soiled bedding and replace it with fresh bedding. Clean and disinfect the brooder regularly and before you raise successive batches of chicks in the brooder.


Raising chickens can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be expensive if you don’t have the right equipment. Fortunately, there are many cheap chicken brooder ideas that you can try to save money on and still provide your chicks with a safe and comfortable growing environment. Homemade brooders, repurposed items, and DIY options are great for those on a budget.

With a little ingenuity, creativity, and effort, you can create a cheap chicken brooder that works just as well as more expensive options. Enjoy the experience of raising your own chickens and reaping the rewards of providing your own food!



Alice is a writer who grew up on a beautiful homestead in rural Old England. She now lives in New England with her fur babies and is on a mission to return to the land for a simpler, greener, and all-round kinder existence.

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