You are currently viewing 11 Easy DIY Chick Brooder Box Ideas with Photos ~ Homestead and Chill

11 Easy DIY Chick Brooder Box Ideas with Photos ~ Homestead and Chill

Looking for clever, easy or cheap DIY chick brooder box ideas? (Or should I say “cheep”?) Come get inspired with 11 DIY chick brooder ideas, including plenty of photos for inspiration. Most of the ideas on this list can be made from items you may already have around the house, or can easily find used at thrift stores, on FB marketplace, or Craigslist. It’s always fun to up-cycle and give something old a new purpose!

Then, be sure to pop over and learn how to set up a chick brooder for even more information about heater options, bedding materials, and a week-by-week brooder temperature chart. Our beginner’s guide on raising baby chicks also includes important tips from arrival day through moving chicks outside.

Brooder Box Options

You can make a DIY chick brooder out of a variety of materials or containers such as a plastic storage tote, stock tank, thick cardboard, or plywood. See more details below! Other creative chick brooder ideas include portable cribs, old fish tanks, dog crates, or my personal favorite – a foldable dog playpen. Any sturdy enclosed structure will work, as long as it’s the right size and has a lid (or a lid can be added).

A large box has been created with plywood. A heat lamp is hanging over the top of the box while a cat is peering out of the box from within. A large box has been created with plywood. A heat lamp is hanging over the top of the box while a cat is peering out of the box from within.

Keep a lid on it!

No matter what type of brooder box container you use, a secure breathable lid is essential to keep the chicks IN and keep unwanted visitors out, like other pets. By just a few weeks old, baby chicks will be able to jump up and out of a brooder! Mesh fencing like chicken wire or hardware cloth is a great option. The lid should be easy to take on and off (or hinge open) for routine cleaning and care. Do NOT use black bird netting; chicks can easily get tangled in it.

Brooder Size Per Chick

From one to four weeks old, it’s best to provide about one-half square foot of brooder space per chick. For example, a 2 by 2 foot box or tote (4 square feet) would be enough space for up to 8 small chicks. However, it’s best to upgrade to provide 1 to 2 square feet per chick once they’re four weeks or older.

That said, we often start out with a smaller DIY chick brooder box for the first month, and then either add on to it or switch to a larger brooder as the chicks grow.

Four chicks are inside a plastic tote brooder, three of them are on wooden roosts while the fourth bird is just beyond in a corner. Four chicks are inside a plastic tote brooder, three of them are on wooden roosts while the fourth bird is just beyond in a corner.

DIY Chick Brooder Box Ideas

Without further ado, here is a list of 11 easy and cheap chick brooder ideas.

1) Plastic Tub or Storage Tote

A plastic storage container makes a great chick brooder… for the first few weeks, that is! Chicks will quickly outgrow this option, but it’s a fast and easy way to your give baby chicks a safe home while you devise something larger for the weeks to come. The bigger the tote you can find, the better! A plastic tub is a great sustainable chick brooder option if you already have one at home, as it can easily be sanitized to use for other things after.

A plastic storage tote is filled with pine shavings, a waterer, and feeder on one end and a thermometer on the other. A red heat lamp is hanging from above. A plastic storage tote is filled with pine shavings, a waterer, and feeder on one end and a thermometer on the other. A red heat lamp is hanging from above.
A small storage tote brooder. When we used this method, we started with one at least twice this size (but they still quickly outgrew it).
A plastic tote with the lid on, the center of the lid has a rectangular cut out of it which is lined with hardware cloth mesh. A plastic tote with the lid on, the center of the lid has a rectangular cut out of it which is lined with hardware cloth mesh.
A DIY plastic tub brooder. The lid was modified to add hardware cloth. We’ve simply draped/clipped wire over the top of ours in the past, so we could use the tub and lid for other things in the future.
A long plastic storage tote brooder that contains many baby chicks, a radiant heat plate is on one end and the tote has been outfitted with PVC feeders and PVC waterers. A long plastic storage tote brooder that contains many baby chicks, a radiant heat plate is on one end and the tote has been outfitted with PVC feeders and PVC waterers.
A deluxe storage tote brooder complete with auto waterer and feeders. To me, that’s a lot of effort for something the chicks won’t be in long, but kudos to this person on the creativity and effort!

2) Plywood Box

It’s easy to make a simple DIY brooder box out of plywood and a few screws. All it really needs is four walls and a simple mesh roof! Some crafty folks get fancy and build plywood brooders with hinged lids, access doors, and other features.

In the past, we made a fairly large 4×4-foot plywood brooder box. We put up a divider wall in the middle for the first few weeks so the chicks only had access to half of the space. This kept them more confined, warm, and easy to tend to. Then once they were 3 or 4 weeks old, we removed the middle wall so they could roam the entire box.

A large box plywood brooder has wire mesh draped over a section of the top and a sheet covering the other half. A metal stand is being used to hang the heat lamp from above. A large box plywood brooder has wire mesh draped over a section of the top and a sheet covering the other half. A metal stand is being used to hang the heat lamp from above.
Our simple DIY plywood brooder from years past
Inside a plywood brooder there are a number of baby chicks throughout, some a clustered around a feeder while one is on top of the radiant heat plate near the waterer.Inside a plywood brooder there are a number of baby chicks throughout, some a clustered around a feeder while one is on top of the radiant heat plate near the waterer.

3) Pop-Up Playpen

Pop-up tent style chick brooders are my new favorite. Though it’s admittedly a little less “DIY” than some of the other chick brooder ideas on this list, it’s cheaper than buying plywood or a stock tank and even easier to set up! I also love that they’re easy to fold up flat and store away for the next time we need a brooder – because in the chicken world, there’s always more chicks in the future.

Last time we had chicks, we got this 48-inch dog playpen to keep them confined during outdoor adventures (the floor is removable). Yet with it’s generous size, enclosed zipper top, and waterproof bottom, it makes the perfect easy and convenient brooder. With 14 chicks on the way this spring, we’re going to use one playpen for the first few weeks, and then connect two together as the chicks get bigger.

A woman is sitting inside of a dog playpen that is sitting on top of grass outside. She is holding a young baby chick while three other chicks are standing on the far side of the playpen, a waterer is set up on one side.A woman is sitting inside of a dog playpen that is sitting on top of grass outside. She is holding a young baby chick while three other chicks are standing on the far side of the playpen, a waterer is set up on one side.
Me and our last round of chicks on an outdoor adventure, safe inside a doggo playpen
A dog playpen that has been converted to a chick brooder contains a radiant heat plate, waterer, and feeder along with a bedding of pine shavings. A dog playpen that has been converted to a chick brooder contains a radiant heat plate, waterer, and feeder along with a bedding of pine shavings.
Inside a pop-up playpen brooder. Image from Amazon
Two dog playpens have been connected together to create a large chick brooder space. All of the chick are in the far playpen where the heat lamp is most concentrated. Two dog playpens have been connected together to create a large chick brooder space. All of the chick are in the far playpen where the heat lamp is most concentrated.
Connecting two playpens together through one of the screened windows to create a mega-brooder.

4) Stock Tank

Stock tank brooders are essentially like plastic storage tubs, just bigger! You can get stock tanks (metal feed or water troughs) at your local farm or tractor supply type store. Add some bedding, a heater, food, water, lid, and done!

Depending on the tank size and number of chickens, a metal stock tank brooder may be large enough to use until the chicks are ready to move outside. You can clamp wire fencing over the top of the tank to secure it, or create a simple DIY brooder box lid with a wood frame and chicken wire to rest on top.

A tall metal stock tank brooder with a wood framed lid that has been lined with hardware cloth is sitting over the top of the tank. A few small chicks are inside along with a feeder, waterer, and radiant heat plate on the far side. A tall metal stock tank brooder with a wood framed lid that has been lined with hardware cloth is sitting over the top of the tank. A few small chicks are inside along with a feeder, waterer, and radiant heat plate on the far side.
A stock tank brooder with a nice hardware cloth lid via Pinterest
A large plastic stock tanks top is covered with chicken wire as a lid and a heat lamp is centered over the tank.A large plastic stock tanks top is covered with chicken wire as a lid and a heat lamp is centered over the tank.
Another stock tank (pond liner?) style DIY chick brooder. Image credit

5) Brooder Inside a Coop

If you already have a fairly large chicken coop, consider creating a chick brooder right inside the coop! You can put any of these other DIY brooder box ideas inside your coop, or even easier, simply fence off a section of the coop for the chicks.

However, be sure the chick brooder area is 100% secure and the older chickens can’t access it, since it’s not safe to integrate young chicks into an existing flock until they’re at least 8 to 10 weeks old. Your coop will also need electricity to power the brooder heater, and enough light for the chicks to easily see their food and water. Remember, chickens can’t see the in the dark!

6) Cardboard

Sorry cats, this box-fort isn’t for you! It’s possible to whip up a super cheap DIY brooder box made of cardboard and duct tape. Cardboard brooders are also easy to add on to and enlarge it over time. If needed, use two layers of cardboard to created more durable, sturdy walls.

Since cardboard is more flammable than some of the other be DIY brooder box ideas on this list, be EXTRA careful to secure your heat lamp – or use a safer radiant heat plate instead.

A large cardboard brooder box is full of pine shavings, chicks, a feeder, and waterer. A heat lamp is centered over the box from above. A large cardboard brooder box is full of pine shavings, chicks, a feeder, and waterer. A heat lamp is centered over the box from above.
A two part image collage, first, a large cardboard box has a wire mesh lid covering the top. Duct tape has been used to build the brooder. The next image is a cardboard box with a feeder, waterer, and radiant heat plate inside on a pine shaving floor. A two part image collage, first, a large cardboard box has a wire mesh lid covering the top. Duct tape has been used to build the brooder. The next image is a cardboard box with a feeder, waterer, and radiant heat plate inside on a pine shaving floor.

7) Crib or Portable Crib

Much like a dog playpen, a crib or portable crib (like a Pack n Play) is easy to convert into a DIY brooder. Check thrift stores, FB marketplace, Craigslist, ask a friend, or perhaps you already have an old one on hand that you no longer need! Depending on the style crib, you may need to add wire fencing around the sides to seal any chick-size gaps.

8) Dog Crate

A large dog crate makes a great little DIY chick brooder box. It’s already enclosed, has an access door, and usually comes with a solid bottom too. If the gaps are large enough for chicks to slip through, you may need to line the sides with chicken wire or cardboard. Adding cardboard to the bottom and lower portion of the walls will also help keep the shavings or other bedding material in. Like the plastic tub, a dog crate brooder may only be large enough for the first few weeks (depending on the size used).

A dog crate has been lined with cardboard and filled with pine shavings, a waterer, feeder, and a heat lamp is hanging on the top of the crate. A dog crate has been lined with cardboard and filled with pine shavings, a waterer, feeder, and a heat lamp is hanging on the top of the crate.

9) Old Dresser or Cabinet

Here’s an extra-clever DIY chick brooder idea: turn an old dresser or cabinet into one! Repurpose old furniture by removing drawers or the faces of doors, and replace them with chicken wire instead. It seems easier to convert a cabinet than a dresser since it already has hinged doors, but be sure to find a way to secure the doors closed.

I’ve seen this idea floating around Pinterest lately. While it sure looks cute (one could say, Pinterest-worthy?) many of the examples seem pretty small to be functional for long. Yet if you plan to routinely raise chicks, it could definitely be worth the effort. Try to find a large, wide cabinet to get the most time and use out of it.

A tall white cabinet, the lower portion has been converted to a DIY chick brooder where the face of the two doors have been replaced with wire mesh, inside are 3 small chicks drinking water. A tall white cabinet, the lower portion has been converted to a DIY chick brooder where the face of the two doors have been replaced with wire mesh, inside are 3 small chicks drinking water.
A super cute DIY chick brooder cabinet via Ana White Pinterest
A wooden, three door cabinet which contains a waterer, feeder, and radiant heat plate. The faces of the doors have been replaced with wire mesh. A wooden, three door cabinet which contains a waterer, feeder, and radiant heat plate. The faces of the doors have been replaced with wire mesh.
This person turned an old dresser into a brooder by removing the drawers and framing out a new door.
A DIY chick brooder idea of an old cabinet with three doors, each of faces of the doors have been replaced with wire mesh. Inside the cabinet are a few older chicks with a waterer, feeder, and a heat lamp which isn't on. A DIY chick brooder idea of an old cabinet with three doors, each of faces of the doors have been replaced with wire mesh. Inside the cabinet are a few older chicks with a waterer, feeder, and a heat lamp which isn't on.
An entertainment center cabinet turned DIY chick brooder via Rooted Revival Pinterest

10) Kiddie Pool

There a few pros and cons to making a DIY kiddie pool chick brooder. One, kiddie pools are quite cheap… or free, if you already have one at home! Compared to a plastic tote or dog crate, the large surface area of a kiddie pool gives chicks ample space to grow and play. However, the extra short walls also makes it much more difficult to keep the chicks inside. So definitely plan on constructing walls and/or a breathable cover of some sort.

I’ve even seen folks use two kiddie pools together – shown below. One kiddie pool is flipped upside down on top of the other like a clamshell to create a cover, and the middle of the top pool is cut out and replaced with wire. (This part is important so they don’t get too hot inside!) I’ve also seen a dog crate brooder set inside a kiddie pool as a way to contain the mess of shavings.

A kiddie pool is stacked on top of another kiddie pool upside down creating an enclosure.  A large hole has been made in the top of the enclosure and is covered with wire mesh, two heat lamps are positioned over the hole. A kiddie pool is stacked on top of another kiddie pool upside down creating an enclosure.  A large hole has been made in the top of the enclosure and is covered with wire mesh, two heat lamps are positioned over the hole.
Love this clever kiddie pool brooder design. It looks like they use a hula hoop to make the removable wire lid. (photo credit)

11) Aquarium or Terrarium Tank

Last but not least, how about a good old aquarium brooder? While chicks would quickly outgrow the average size fish tank, a nice extra-large aquarium, fish tank, or terrarium could make a sweet little brooder box! The glass walls make it easy and fun to observe your little feathered friends too.

And that’s all folks!

Well, what do you think? Which brooder idea do you want to try most? Did I miss any clever ideas you’ve seen or used before? Let me know in the comments! We greatly appreciate you tuning in today, and hope this post was useful. Don’t forget to check out our more detailed guide on how to set up a chick brooder for more tips on heater options, bedding, and a week-by-week temperature chart. Otherwise, have so much fun raising your new baby chicks!

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