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Brooding Chicks in a Styrene Box

Commercial brooders are available which are both expensive and tedious to sterilise following raising of chicks.

The following method has been used successfully for raising pheasant and quail chicks for many years by the author.


1             The styrene broccoli brooder box is extremely cheap.

2             The styrene broccoli brooder box is effective.

3             The styrene broccoli brooder box is disposed with after raising a batch of chicks thus eliminating the tedious task of sterilising which is obligatory with commercial brooders prior to their reuse.

4             The styrene brooder box provides effective insulation and dramatically reduces the power requirements to brood chicks.

Many refinements have occurred and this article describes how the author currently broods chicks.


1             Clean styrene Broccoli box

2             Piece of 10 mm aviary wire 40 cm x 60cm to cover the box and prevent chicks from escaping.

3             Extension lead 3 or 5 metres long (The plug end will be removed by the electrician to enable installation of a pendant light fitting)

4             High efficiency LED light globe 8.5 watts.

5             Pendant light fitting.

6             Paving brick.

7             500ml commercial avian water dispenser.

8             2 x medium freezer bags.

9             One litre of medicated Turkey starter (Medication minimises the risk of Coccidiosis and Blackhead)

10           One 20 kg feed bag folded in half (20 kg empty poultry feed plastic bag)

A styrene broccoli box may be considered sterile with respect to poultry diseases and can be readily obtained from the local green grocer either free or for a few dollars. The lid is not required and may be disposed of.

A paving brick is used to elevate the drinking water container above the floor substrate to minimise contamination of the bird’s drinking water source. The turkey starter is used as a floor substrate (edible litter).

To ensure the paving brick may be reused and to prevent transmission of disease, the paving brick should be sealed in a medium sized freezer bag (35cm x 25cm) and then double wrapped by insertion into a second bag.

Moisture within the brooder substrate (edible litter) will elevate the risk of disease to the chicks particularly due to fungal growth in the substrate


Assembly of the 240 volt lamp/heat source must be undertaken by a licenced electrician whom can “tag and test” the finished assembly to ensure compliance with appropriate regulations and provide safety advice on its use.

Warnings:-      The heat source should be de-energised and unplugged from the power supply prior to undertaking any adjustments to the brooder.

The power supply should be protected by “earth leakage protection”.

Do not handle the lamp or lead while it is energised or plugged in to the power source.

The ½” aviary wire cover should be electrically earthed.

The drinking water source should be a 500 ml commercially available container to minimise the risk of chick drowning. Pheasant and quail chicks can and will readily drown in open water containers. When raising quail chicks, I insert glass playing marbles around the drinking container which prevents the risk of chicks drowning.


The plastic sealed paving brick is inserted at one end of the broccoli box is used to elevate the drinking water above the substrate.

A layer approximately 1 cm deep (Approx. 1 lire required) of medicated turkey starter which is spread over the inside base of the broccoli box as a substrate (edible litter) for the chicks. The substrate provides a non-slip surface which prevents “splayed legs” and provides a food source for the chicks. Day old chicks are inquisitive and will peck at the granulated substrate under foot and learn to feed very quickly.

Positioning the heat source

The pendant light fitting and globe is suspended from the mesh cover and should not touch the floor or walls of the brooder box. The globe should be position at one end of the brooder box so that a temperature gradient exists from warm at one end to cool at the drinking water end of the brooder. A folded feed bag is used to cover ½ the box length to create the warm end of the brooder thus ensuring sufficient warmth is generated at the warm end of the brooder. Two globes may be used to protect against lamp failure and subsequent chilling of the chicks if a single lamp fails.

Care should be taken to ensure chicks do not overheat during heatwave conditions which can raise the temperature of out buildings significantly beyond suitable brooding temperatures thus killing the chicks.


Finley chopped green food should be supplied regularly to the chicks. I use chopped Comfrey which is relished by the chicks. I endeavour to feed at least twice a day. Surplus eggs can be hard boiled, mashed and fed in a shallow tray.

It is important to ensure the chicks are provided ample feed and green pick to ensure boredom does not occur. Vent and feather picking can arise and failure to respond may have devastating impacts due to cannibalism. Some species (Silver and Ringneck pheasants) are more prone to this activity and feather picking. Protein such as “Bush fly larvae” can be fed in a small shallow tray and are readily consumed by young quail and pheasant chicks

Fresh clean drinking water should be available at all times.

Brooding Duration

Factors determining the duration to provide a heat source for brooded chicks are:-

  • 1                 Ambient temperature
  • 2                 Species of chick
  • 3                 Stage of development.

Cold draughts must be prevented as they will chill the chick’s core temperature resulting in the chick’s loss. Night temperatures need to be monitored and as the chick’s feather growth progresses they are less inclined to “huddle” around the heat source at night. Developing chicks tend to huddle at night even when they are “off heat” and sufficiently developed to withstand night temperatures.

The chick’s circadian rhythms may be disturbed by the constant 24 hour light source, however, the chick growth is promoted due to the increased period of feeding.

Constant and regular surveillance of developing chicks is required to respond to arising issues and prevent losses.

John Urane 2018

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