Baby chicks enjoying an insulated electric-lamp brooder. This kind of brooder was invented in the Forties at the Ohio Experiment Station, then forgotten. I rediscovered it during my research into old-time practical poultry methods and popularized it via the Web, where it’s taken off like a rocket.
Unlike overhead heat-lamp brooders, this uses only about one-third the electricity and keeps the chicks more comfortable.
The brooder is basically just a plywood box, open on the bottom, on short legs. The top has a rim to allow wood shavings to be piled on top for insulation. Two electric lamp sockets are installed on two opposite walls, so the heat lamps are shining horizontally across the brooder. The whole thing takes about two hours to make and costs between $20 and $30, depending mostly on the kind of plywood you use. I think quarter-inch plywood is ideal. No thermostat is used; the chicks move out of the light to cool off and into the light to warm up.
I like to use separate power cords for the two light sockets. this makes it easy to switch to just one lamp when the chicks are older, and also makes it harder for the whole thing to get unplugged when they’re smaller.
I generally use 125-watt heat lamps or 150-watt floodlights. 250-watt heat lamps work okay but do scorch the lid of the brooder a little — causing it to be discolored but not charred. I’ve heard no reports of fire or damage using these brooders other than minor scorching like that.
We’ve brooded over 10,000 chicks using this kind of brooder and are very happy with it. See my brooder Web page for more information. These brooders can be made bigger or smaller. See my book, Success With Baby Chicks, for complete information.
This video is a few years old and is a bit low-res; I’ll see if I can’t do an HD version sometime soon!