For many chicken owners setting up a brooder won't require much as they may only use the brooder once or twice for a small amount of chickens. Then there's others who will use their brooder set up more often.
A few things I have learned is most of us may never know which category we will belong, thanks to Chicken Math. If you don't know what that is, you will soon learn. lol It's essentially when we start off with 4 and then have 40. That's another topic we can talk about later.
As far as brooder set ups we do have some recommended products listed in our Chick-A-Roo Shop to check out.
Regardless of the brooder box and size you use, it's important to maintain a clean, safe environment for the baby chicks. It must always be clean and dry, or there is a risk of Aspergillosis (Brooder Pneumonia) & coccidiosis, also bacteria build up and mold. All can lead to sickness and death of chickens.
Yes, you should always wash hands before and after touching chickens and dealing with their brooder, even feeding and watering them. This prevents spreading of any viruses and bacterias from them to us, and us to them. Baby chickens are really susceptible to getting sick and dying and in some cases we don't know why. So, eliminating the risk of cross contamination can help reduce the problems and help to diagnose why any chickens may have died for other possible reasons.
It's important to change bedding weekly or more often if the bedding is no longer clean and dry. By clean I mean, the bedding is no longer mildly with poop droppings and small sprinkles of feed spills, or if any water has spilled in bedding.
If a small amount of water spills in bedding, you can clean up that section, wipe it dry, and replace bedding. No need to replace all of the bedding unless any mold is present. Then I would recommend sterilizing the whole brooder and replacing bedding.
Feed clean up:
Chickens are messy eaters. They love to knock their feed out of their feeders and onto the floor so they can scratch around and look for bugs and such. They simply cannot help it. So, it's important to find a feeder that reduces the spilled feed. We love feeders that hang with smaller holes for them to eat through. This helps make it much more difficult for them to spill feed and helps keep them from eating their poop on floor.
If you notice they are spilling feed. Try to clean as much up and discard, so they do not eat it. It's important to keep their feed clean.
We also prefer hanging feeders because chickens roost, so they will try to stand on top of the feeder and this will either knock it over, or they will make it and poop in their own food. When I hang I put near a wall of the brooder so it's close enough they can't swing it much, but far enough it will swing enough they can't jump on top of it.
Can I just say this has been our worst problem to tackle. Every single watering device we have tried will leak in someway or other at some point.
- The watering cups eventually wear out and it doesn't take long. Especially when cleaning brooders often. So it's a nonstop leak into the brooder until it's all over the brooder floor.
- The water nipples will drip water when they are drinking thus causes wetness under on bedding. We put little bowls with rocks to catch the water.
- Gravity waters will tip over and fall when they keep knocking them and they poop in them too. You can put them on a brick , near the wall, or something to keep it higher up off the bedding or else the bedding will fill-up in it and soak-up the water into the brooder.
- Hanging waterers are what we use and again, put near a wall to reduce swinging and being spilled. However, taking it out and putting it back in, yeah.. water spills. You can put a hand towel inside to catch the water that spills when hanging up a hanging waterer, to protect the bedding.
It's like a losing battle with water. So, pick based on your set up and always monitor the bedding. If it gets wet, clean it quickly.
Reusing the brooder box:
This is super important. If you are hatching or getting new chicks after your current chicks are in the brooder and you plan on using that same brooder for the new clutch of babies. You must always do a full clean. I don't mean just take out bedding and put new bedding. I mean, use antibacterial soap, and then white vinegar or a farm disinfectant that is poultry safe. You can also use peroxide, but avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals.
When cleaning brooder, wash outside, inside, lid, all parts used in brooder such as any watering devices and feeders. Everything should be completely washed clean. After washing use the vinegar, peroxide, or chicken safe cleaner, to sanitize the brooder. Let sit while it disinfects. Then rinse, dry, and if possible, cover with a sheet or plastic protector.
Make sure that it has completely dried before covering and also any smells are gone. This reduces risk of mold, bacteria growth, and respiratory hazards for new baby chicks introduced.