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Simple DIY Tote Brooder Box for Chicks

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This new and improved brooder box design requires only a plastic tote, some wire screen and a few zip ties.

Years ago, I made a brooder box out of a plastic tote for my brand new baby chicks. It involved cutting boards, screwing together nuts and bolts, and required a saw, a drill...

That box served me well through several batches of chicks and is probably out in the barn still somewhere. 

But when I was writing 101 Chicken Keeping Hacks in 2018, I thought I could simplify the process a bit. 

And I came up with a very simple DIY Tote Brooder Box for baby chicks to spend the first few weeks of their lives in.

The project is included in my book, but I wanted to share it with you all here since so many people are getting chicks this spring due to the high cost of eggs and impending recession.

I love building things, but even those of you who aren't handy at all and barely own any tools can quickly and easily put together this simple DIY tote brooder box.

Simple DIY Tote Brooder Box for Chicks

A good brooder doesn't need much. It should keep your chicks safe from pets (or curious children), it should be draft-free, and you should be able to warm it with a heat lamp or radiant panel heater like this one from Brinsea

It should have enough room for your chicks to move around comfortably and should include space for their feed and water...and maybe a few boredom busters too! 

I like to use a large plastic tote as a brooder for my chicks. If you're raising just a handful, they can spend at least the first few weeks in the tote. Buy the biggest one you can find - at least 64 quarts for 5 or 6 baby chicks - but this 106 quart tote would be even better.

Then, hopefully they can start going outside on nice, sunny days and only sleeping in the brooder, which will give them some nice fresh air, exercise and room to stretch their legs.

If this is your first time raising chicks, check out this handy beginners guide with info on how I set up my brooder.

What you'll Need for your DIY Tote Brooder Box

  • Permanent marker
  • Ruler
  • Large clear plastic storage tote with lid
  • Scrap piece of hardware cloth or chicken wire

What you Do

Using the permanent marker and ruler, trace around the outer edge of the tote lid, leaving a lip of about 2 inches all the way around.

Carefully score the plastic with the box cutter, then cut all the way through to remove the center of the lid.

Using the wire cutter, trim the hardware cloth to a size about 2 inches larger than the window you just cut in the tote lid.

Using the drill, drill 2 holes (about 1/2 inch apart and 1 inch from the cutout edge) at each corner of the cutout.

Then drill 2 pairs of holds along each of the long sides and 1 pair of holes on each of the short sides. 

With the tote lid upside down, hold the piece of hardware cloth in plate over the cutout and then thread a zip tie through each set of holes and pull to tighten, securing the hardware cloth against the lid. 

Trim the long end of each zip tie - and you're done! You have a nice safe place to raise your baby chicks! 

This project was excerpted from DIY Chicken Keeping Hacks (Voyageur, 2018) available anywhere you buy your books in softcover and ebook editions.

If you're handy with a hammer and saw, you can also try building a brooder box from a sheet of plywood. Get the easy DIY plans here.

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