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Brooder Instructions

shipping waterfowl


Whether you are starting your chick journey by hatching or purchasing live chicks, a brooder is required. A brooder is a safe container that your chicks will start out and grow in. A brooder is warm, well bedded, and has food, water, and shelter. It has all the necessities for a chick to feel safe and thrive.

Depending on environment and location, brooders can hold chicks for 3 weeks, 6 weeks, or however long works for you. Remember, what works for some does not work for others and with any type of farming, trial and error does come into play.

A brooder can be super simple, like a cardboard box, plastic storage bin, or a glass aquarium. Many have started using the metal feeding trough that can be purchased at a feed store (i.e., Tractor Supply or Rural King). Make sure you have a top to your brooder that is well ventilated, as birds grow up pretty fast and can fly at an early age.

In addition to the actual brooder, further supplies will be needed as follows:

Bedding. There are many types of bedding that can be used.

○ Towels or a non stick liner ○ Puppy pee pads

○ Pine shaving ○ Pine pelleted or a pelleted bedding

Make sure that cedar products are avoided as the oils are poisonous to birds

A heat source. Chicks need to stay warm.

○ Heat lamp (red or white bulb) ○ An incandescent Light bulb or 60+ watts

○ A heat plate



○ When using a heat plate, make sure that there is light in the room as well. Many birds will not thrive under a heat plate as they need radiant heat as well. This was a huge problem when Tractor Supply had the tower brooders and heat plates. Birds need to see and get that radiant heat, especially quail chicks.


○ A thermometer or 2

○ A thermometer. A thermometer will provide the temperature within the brooder. Always start at 95 degrees F and decrease by 5 degrees weekly until the chicks are at room temperature or fully feathered.

○ Watching the body’s behavior is helpful in addition to the thermometer. If birds are huddled under the lamp/plate, they are too cold. If birds are huddled away from the heat source, they are too hot. You want to see a blanket of chicks sprawled out throughout the brooder. Panting is also a sign of being too hot. When birds are fluffed up, they are too cold (or fighting an illness).

○ A waterer. A waterer needs to be sized properly so babies can easily drink and have access to water. If using a waterer position close to the chicks for the first 2 weeks, they will not go outside of the heated area to drink or eat generally. The waterer needs to be level to the back of the chicks neck at all stages of development. For quail chicks it is very important you provide a very shallow waterer with marbles or use a quail water base. Newborn quail babies are very small and fast and can easily drown in waterers.

○ A feeder – there are several chick type feeders. A good feeder would be one where the chicks are not able to get into the feeder and get stuck or spill the feed. The feeder will need to be adjusted higher as the chick grows. In the beginning we suggest having a couple small feeders to make finding feed easy.

○ Feed – all chicks need a starter feed in the first weeks of life. Depending on types of birds you have, will dictate the type of feed you need to provide. Select a good quality feed that will provide all the essential building blocks for healthy growth and development. We recommend our starter feeds. They are superior quality feed and provides all the essential nutrients and proteins for a healthy start. If this is not possible select a feed that is a crumble, or small pieces (chicks can’t eat pellets). Medicated feed is not necessary.

Specific Brooder Instructions for Bird Types

bantam wyandotte chicks
Baby Chicks

Seramas, Silkies and any bantam breeds need extra care, we don’t recommend putting larger birds with them until they are well established. Also recommend leaving longer on heat and chick starter. Check for poopy butts.


Do your best to prevent water all over bedding. Have waterer in a contained area. Waterfowl don’t need such intense heat like baby chicks. They can taper off heat earlier. Don’t let new waterfowl get in their waterer, they can drown or get chilled easily.

coturnix quail
Quail Chicks

Extremely fragile when born! Don’t use shavings but a very firm surface they can grip on like shop towels, paper towels or rubber shelf liner. We also recommend infrared heat lamps for quail chicks for the first week. Heat plates don’t provide enough heat and dark underneath where chicks can pile and perish.

black spanish turkey
Turkey and Guinea Babies

Guinea keets legs are very fragile and can easily slip out of joint. Use a firm surface like shelf liner, shop towels, paper towels for the first week. Turkey poults can also have this issue but rare.

Brooder Instructions


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