How to Build a Better Ohio Brooder for Chicks

Learn how to build a better chicken brooder using found materials. I started with a piece of plywood, some basic tools and followed general steps to making an Ohio brooder and you can too.

March has arrived and that means our chicks will soon be here at Get Down Farm! Having raised chicks with a traditional heat lamp hanging above their brooder, I was looking for a better, easier design to help us scale up this year. Chicks need to stay at 95 degrees when they first arrive and can safely go down about a degree a day or 5ish degrees per week. Below is the brooder my students and I built at Arts & Letters Middle School during the City Growers after school program. It worked wonders for the classroom because there were always plenty of little eyes monitoring the chickens. As a production farm, we don’t have the capacity to constantly monitor temperature. That’s where the Ohio Brooder comes in.

Classroom Chicken Brooder

At this year’s NOFA-NY conference, Kingbird Farm highly recommended Ohio Brooders because they prevent drafts better than traditional heat lamp setups and allow the chicks to monitor their own temperatures by scurrying in and out of the brooder as they need.

Our brooder was built with all found materials and cost $0 and you can use a lot of found materials too!

Materials needed

I found a piece of plywood that was about 36 inches by 33 inches which will be more than enough room for the 100 chicks I will brood at a time. Each chick need about 10 square inches of space in the brooder and ours will have just over 11 inches.

From there I cut four 12 inch feet out of a 1 x 4 and worked backwards to figure out the frame made from 1 x 1. I added a supporting board to the back because I wanted the top piece to lift up for cleaning.
Brooder Joining

Then I cut four side pieces about 9 inches tall to allow 4 inches for the chicks to travel in and out. I cut boxes in the sides to accommodate electric boxes for the wires from the lamp fixtures. Using a circular drill bit to make a hole I was able to finish it with a reciprocating saw. I’d recommend using a jigsaw but ours was broken. As the chicks grow, I will add bricks to lift up the brooder legs.

Brooder Side Brooder Side 2

After that we wired up two lamp fixtures using some cut off old extension cord. Remember, hot/black wire goes to brass screw, greens goes to ground and white/neutral wire go to silver screw. Our wires we old and unlabeled so it took some fuse blowing to figure it all out but we survived!

Wiring a Light Fixture Light Bulb for Ohio Brooder

I added some old hinges to the back of the top plywood and an old handle so I can check on the chicks and clean out the brooder easily.

Ohio Brooder Complete  IMG_1858

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