A better brooder heater

I have found a better brooder heater.  In the past whenever I got new chicks and put them in the brooder coop I would get out the heat lamp and hang it up.  Try to get it positioned just right, not too high, not too low.  Get the temperature just right, then the weather changes, too hot, too cold.  Try and make sure it’s not going to fall down and start a fire, which has happened to people before.  Now what, the bulb burned out? I just bought it a week ago!  There has to be a better way, oh look at these fancy new chick heaters.  They cost how much!

At last I have the solution and I found it by searching for some older designs for brooder heaters.  Make yourself a brooder heater box.  It’s simple and inexpensive to make, safe and warm for the chicks and uses less electricity than one 250 watt heat lamp.  I’ve used mine on two batches of chicks so far with great results.  Out of 52 chicks I’ve only lost one and that one was weak from the hatchery.  This style of heater is so much easier to regulate as your chicks actually regulate themselves.  This heater is a wood box that contains a couple of 90 watt light bulbs.  It sits on four legs and it has an insulated top to keep the heat in.  To start off with new chicks the box sits 4″ above the floor but as the chicks grow you move the box higher by placing blocks under the legs.  I’ve seen some that were hung from the ceiling of the coop and that would be a good way to go as well.  For me having it sit on legs works perfectly.  The heater box keeps the heat in the area directly under the box, unlike a heat lamp which ends up trying to heat the entire coop.  If the chicks start to get too warm they simply move away from under the box until they are comfortable.

brooder heater

The brooder heater box.

My husband made our box in no time at all.  To build it we purchased a sheet of 1/2″ OSB board and some 2″ x 2″ lumber.  You’ll need some rigid foam insulation board; we had some scraps of 3/4″ thick Tuff R insulation leftover from another project.  You will also need two ceramic light bases (one that turns off with a pull chain), 2 junction boxes, some electrical wire, a plug and 2 red 90 watt flood lamps.  They don’t have to be flood lamps, that’s just what we found at our local home improvement store.  Any type of red light bulb that is in the 75 to 100 watt range is fine.  Just don’t buy red LED bulbs as they don’t make any heat.

brooder heater

Materials cut to size.

Cut your OSB board or plywood into the following sizes: 2 pieces 23″ x 23″, 2 pieces 12″ x 23″ and 2 pieces 12″ x 24″.  Cut your 2″ lumber into 4 – 12″ pieces and 4 – 20″ pieces.  Nail the 2 x 12 legs onto the 12 x 23 boards keeping 4″ of the legs sticking below the  12 x 23 boards.  Next nail the 12 x 24 boards to the 12 x 23 pieces forming a box.  Fill in between the legs at the top with the 2 x 20″ pieces, this forms a shelf for the top to sit on.  Place one piece of the 23″ square OSB onto the shelf at the top.  Next place a layer of your insulation board on top and then top it off with another piece of the OSB board.  This keeps the insulation sandwiched between the wood and keeps the chicks from pecking at the insulation when they get big enough to reach it and I know this from experience.  We just had the insulation board on the bottom layer with wood on top the first time we used this heater and the chicks started pecking the insulation when they got taller.  I had read originally that you can just put your board on top and then heap shavings on top of the board for insulation but I like our set up with the rigid insulation board better.

brooder heater

Light and ceramic light base.

Now wire up your two lights and install the plug.  By using one light socket with a pull chain switch you have the option of using just one or both lamps depending on the temperature required.  Just make sure to stagger the lamps so they aren’t too close to each other.

brooder heater

All put together and wired up. Just needs the top and insulation.

I start off my new chicks with the heater sitting on the brooder coop floor with the sides 4″ above the floor.  As they grow I add a 2 x 4 block under each leg.  As they get bigger still I replace the 2″ blocks with 3″ ones.  Usually after that they are feathered out and no longer need the heater but it really depends on the weather, you can always raise it higher if they still need the heater.  A heater box of this size can easily keep up to 40 chicks warm.  If you have more chicks just size the box up accordingly and add another light.  I’ve also found that a timer works well to help regulate the heat especially when you’re not at home.  One last thing I would add is to be sure and bed your chicks with either shavings or chopped straw.  You don’t want to use any long straw because they might scratch it up around the light bulbs and possibly start a fire.  The light bulbs probably don’t get that hot but why take a chance.

brooder heater

These chicks are enjoying their brooder heater.

So that’s it!  Like I said it’s cheap and easy to build and it works great.  You also have the satisfaction of building it yourself.

Thanks for stopping by.


May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose.

Psalm 20:4

2 Replies to “A better brooder heater”

    1. Before electricity people would keep their new chicks in a box behind the wood fired cook stove in the kitchen. I’ve also seen older chicken coops that had a wood stove in them for brooding chicks and I’ve also heard of various kerosene fired heaters being used.

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