This brooder design is intended to be an indoor home for up to 6 chicks for the first 6 weeks of their lives. 6-for-6.
Generally speaking chicks should be housed in their brooder for the first six weeks of their lives to keep them safe from the elements and anything that might try to eat them. There’s a little bit more to it than that, but not much. As they grow they become more resilient and able to take care of themselves. They also start eating and drinking more which translates to more frequent cleaning and maintenance. By the end of six weeks both you and they will be ready for them to move to their outdoor home.
Most people should be able to get the 6-for-6 brooder built in an evening with basic tools. If you haven’t done much or any DIY stuff before this is a great project to get your feet wet with. Simple directions, basic hand tools, and inexpensive materials. The trickiest part is making the frame the right size for your tub lid. If you can remember to measure twice and cut once you’ll be in good shape. And always err on the side of things being too long. It’s much easier to cut a little more off than it is to bridge a gap where you cut too much.
If you can’t find the exact same supplies or tools that we used, fear not, the steps should still be essentially the same. Make adjustments as you need to. If you want to build it identical to what we did you can buy the plans here (coming soon!). The plans include a detailed parts list, drawings, and the step-by-step instructions.
Alright, that’s enough of the intro junk. Enough clucking around, let’s get this done!
- 50 Gallon Tub
- 1/2″ x 1/2″ hardware cloth
- 1″x2″ lumber
- #6 x 3/4″ wood screws
- #8 x 3″ wood screws
- Our tub is black because that’s what was at the store. I recommend using a lighter color or even translucent.
- We used construction grade wood for the frame which is pretty soft. If you use a hardwood, you’ll want bigger pilot holes.
- Any old wood screw will do for this, but if you want to get fancy ones to make it look a little nicer that’s fine. It’s the screw length that’s important.
- drill (corded or cordless)
- driver bits (as needed)
- spiral bits (3/32 & 7/64)
- center punch or awl (for marking holes)
- tape measure
- box cutter & extra blades
- pencil, pen, or marker
- tin snips or wire cutters
NOTES: If you’re completely new to DIY projects this tool list is a good one to start your toolbox with.
Step 1. Measure the lid
Look carefully at the lid that you purchased to determine where the frame should sit. For ours there was a very obvious molded edge that the frame could sit just inside. Yours may be different. Make sure that you will have some plastic to put the wood screws through into the frame. Otherwise your frame could just lift off.
Once you’ve determined where to put the frame, measure the outer dimensions and write them down somewhere.
Step 2. Mark and cut the wood
Now that you know the overall rough dimensions, it’s time to see if one stick of wood is enough. We’ll call the longest dimension the length, and the shorter one the width.
It’s easiest to figure this all out if you draw it. At least I think it’s easiest. I can’t keep all those numbers and shapes in my head at the same time. Do the math for (2*length) + 2*(width – width of stick). If that comes in under 96″ (or however long your stick is) then you’re good to go. If it’s over that you can either buy another stick or you can shrink your dimensions in one direction or the other until the equation comes out less than 96″.
Mark your wood for the final lengths that you’ve figured.
Check all your measurements one more time. Check your math. Imagine it all in your head to see if it all makes sense. Then cut your wood to size. If you need to take a few corners off to make it fit nice that’s just fine. Be careful to not take too much off though.
Do not assemble the frame yet.
Step 3. Cut the wire
Now that you know the dimensions of your frame you can cut the wire.
Lay your frame out on your work surface then carefully unroll your wire on top of it. Wire rolls can be difficult to deal with. As you unroll the wire try to gently bend it in the opposite direction so that it’s at least not trying to roll back up. If you have any helpers you can recruit now’s the time.
After you’ve unrolled enough of it, use your wire cutters to trim it to size. The size should be just inside the outer edge of your frame. Don’t worry too much about the pointy bits left on, they’re going to be sandwiched between the lid and the frame.
Do be careful about the pointy bits left on the roll, They’re sharp!
Step 4. Test fit everything
Now that you’ve got your frame parts and wire cut you can test fit everything. What you’re looking for is for the wire to be securely sandwiched between the plastic and the frame. Now is the time to make adjustments if you need to. In our first effort we cut a couple of our frame pieces too long and had to trim them down a bit.
If everything looks good, move on to the next step.
Step 5. Cut the lid
While you’ve got everything all laid out, remove the wire and mark the lid. use the inner edge of the frame and trace the shape right onto the lid. When you’re done, remove the frame and make sure you can see the rectangle you marked on the lid.
We want the hole in the lid to be slightly larger than the inside edge of the frame so we can’t see it through the wire. To make sure this happens you should be cutting about a 1/2″ outside the rectangle you just drew. don’t worry too much about how straight your cut lines are, the only ones who will see it are the chicks.
You can cut the lid using whatever tool you’re comfortable with that gets the job done. We used a razor knife and it worked well on the lid we purchased. Whatever you use make sure you use it safely and only cut what you intend to cut.
Step 6. Pre-drill the frame
Clear your work surface of everything but your frame parts.
Of this whole project this step probably requires the greatest level of skill, drilling straight holes. Ideally one would use a drill press to do this. But I don’t have one, and neither do most people. Fortunately there’s a trick you can use to reduce the level of skill required.
This is going to be a little hard to explain via text and a picture but here we go.
What you’re looking at in that picture is a very poorly drawn diagram of a screw installed through a perfectly straight hole across the grain of one piece of lumber and into the end grain of another piece of lumber. Perfect hole, no problem.
Now, imagine you’re not perfect (crazy, right?) and the hole you drilled angled down a bit. Now the exit point (where they join) is no longer in the center. And when you screw your fastener all the way in it ends up poking out the side of your lumber. No good. It’s dangerous and it won’t hold together as well.
So what’s the trick?
When you pre=drill, you do it from the joining surface. We want our exit point to be as close to the center as possible, so that’s where we start our pre=drilled hole. Mark it, drill it from the inside, then install your fastener from the outside. By doing it that way you’ll give yourself a lot more flexibility in how straight your hole is.
Each corner should have two screws. You only need to pre-drill across the grain if you’re using softer wood. If you drill really straight holes or if you used our trick above you shouldn’t have any problems with the end grain splitting. If you bought hardwood (like oak) then you might think about pre-drilling the end grain as well which adds a layer of complexity and difficulty.
Step 7. Assemble the frame
Okay, good job! Now that all our holes are pre-drilled we can put the frame together. The way I like to do this is to start the screws until just the tip is sticking out the other side. Then I line up my corner, use a hammer to tap the joint together, hold it down tight, and screw in the fastener.
Step 8. Pre-drill and assemble the brooder lid
Lay your frame on your work surface, nice side (if there is one) down. Put your wire on top generally lined up where it’s supposed to go. Now put the lid on top of the wire, inside-the-tub surface facing up. Essentially your soon-to-be brooder lid is now sitting in front of you upside down.
Now pre-drill the holes for the screws that will hold the frame to the lid. There should be at least one on each corner and at the mid-point of each side. If you feel like it should have more than that, go for it. When you’re doing this try not to drill all the way through your frame into whatever it’s sitting on. Especially if it’s the kitchen table or similar. A trick to help with this is to figure how deep your holes need to be and then wrapping your drill bit with a piece of tape at the correct depth.
Then install your screws and you’re done!
You just built the 6-for-6 brooder! I hope that things went well for you. If this was one of your first DIY projects ever and you felt like you struggled through it, don’t worry, it gets easier and chicks aren’t critics. If you have any questions or need more specific instructions shoot us an email and we’d be happy to help.
Now go get your equipment and set your brooder up to get ready for those chicks!