Brier Creek Family Farm Plans

There's so much to build on the farm. We try to provide some comprehensive plans that our readers can use on their own.

2012 Feb 13

Chicken Brooder Plan
We had a need for a chicken brooder and did not want to purchase a commercial one. I had been saving these plywood pallets from a local business wondering what I would do with them. It turns out, they're PERFECT for making chicken brooders!

Top of chicken brooder pallet.
I start out with eight of these pallets. For my brooder, using four pallets for the side walls, two for the ends and two on the bottom worked perfectly. You have to lay it all out FIRST, before starting, to make sure that they'll go together correctly and that using two for the base will work correctly to support the walls. Of course, if you have smaller needs, you can just use five pallets for a small square brooder. Normally, you want about 4 or 5 chicks per square foot. Our brooder has 11 square feet for a maximum of about 55 chicks.

1. Prepping pallets - For my brooder, I first took off all the cleats on the pallets. I save the unbroken ones for later use in this and other projects. You'll note the cleats in the picture.

One door of the brooder.
2. Making the door - I take two of the pallets and create a door in each. You'll note the door in the picture. I first mark off the door. This one was 16" high and 20" wide, but you can make it any size you feel comfortable with. I wanted to make it big enough so that we can put our incubator in through the door. Freshly hatched chicks are very susceptible to drafts, so it's nice to be able to uncover the incubator directly in the brooder.

Once the door is marked out, I drill a 3/8" hole in the center of each line. For these pallets, that was the only way to use a jig saw successfully. Once those are drilled, I use the jig saw on the side I plan to put the hinges. Then, I screw in the hinges. It's such a pain putting the hinges on once the door is cut out, so this saves a lot of time. Next, I cut out the rest of the door.

I then cut a 1"x2" to frame in the door so that the crack will be covered when closed. I mostly do this to have a door stop and to minimize drafts. See the picture for the inside of the brooder. Then I add a safety latch for closing and add an additional wooden or metal "drop latch" at the top. If you have pets, dogs and cats, this double latch system will greatly help in preventing unwanted encounters.

Interior view of brooder.
3. Putting walls together - Now you're ready to put your walls together. I was lucky in that placing all the corners flush still allowed me to use six of the same pallets for a walls with everything fitting together and still successfully used the same two for the floor. On a flat surface I stood up the six pallets so that the solid sides face inward. Then, I used salvaged hinges to attach each pallet to the other. Using a flat surface is essential. Make sure to put your pallet(s) with doors in the correct location.

Reused door hinge for connecting pallets.
Once that was done I then added the four vertical 2"x2" to the corners. I made them flush at the top with 2" gap at bottom for room for the bottom 2"x2". Then, I used the same method and cut two 2"x4" studs to join the two side wall joins. See picture. Once that was done, I flipped the entire thing over and placed it on its top.

4. Attaching the bottom - Now, since we built it on a flat surface, the bottom is ready for our two pallets. It's essential that the join for base to wall is as flush as possible since this is the living area for your chicks. If all pallets are idential, the outside edges of the ends should align with the outside edges of the two for the base below. There may be a crack there, but don't worry. We're going to put in a 2"x2" to take care of that.

View of base and casters.
Place the two pallets on your walls and line them up. I then drill screws to attach it to the walls in about a dozen places. Your locations will vary. Once it was firmly attached, I drilled a hole in each corner and one on each side in the middle where the pallets met for the casters. Once those are in, you're ready to flip it onto its side.

5. Finishing touches - We need an end 2"x2" piece for the floor at both ends. Once they're cut, place them into the corners and screw them to the ends and base. This will close up any crack and give extra stability. Do this for the join in the middle of the brooder as well. Once that is done, measure and cut a piece of plywood for divider. Put cleats of some sort on each side with room to easily pull out when needed. See picture of interior.

Now flip it right side up and you're done. Make sure the whole thing is narrow enough for the doors you'll be taking it through. Below is a short video so that you can see our brooder first hand.

by Lee Bolin

Making a Chicken Brooder out of Free Pallets
This brooder was made from free, reclaimed pallets. The screws, hinges casters and extra wood totaled $20. This can hold 50 pullets up to the age of 6 weeks, when they can be moved to an outside tractor.
Additional Pictures

View of pallet base.

Heat lamp with clamp