A brooder is a heated container that can have it's temperature controlled in at least one area. It is used to confine chicks with their feed and water until they are 6 weeks old and ready to go outside. Commercial brooders are available from many suppliers and there are many ways to make one yourself. I often use old aquariums, putting newspaper on the bottom with a piece of hardware cloth cut to fit (being careful to leave no sharp edges) to supply traction. I put feed in one corner and water in the far corner. A wire top, to keep cats and children out and chicks in, and one of those aluminum reflectors with a 100 watt bulb completes the set-up. Early in the brooding process I sometimes use a towel over part of the top to keep more heat in.
If you're willing to keep up with the cleaning, you can even use a cardboard box, changing boxes every day or two (and being careful the light can't start a fire).
Here are links to a couple of sites with instructions for homemade brooders.
Below is an ad I found tucked in an old poultry book I bought. This shows a commercially sold brooder for private use, probably from the '20s or '30s. I'm including it as an interesting historical note (look at those prices!) and because it might give you some ideas. The ad reads as follows:
"Can be used in the kitchen, cellar, or any other dry place.
Price--Including electric heating unit, $10.50
If kept in a warm place an electric light bulb might heat the unit sufficiently.
Price--Without unit, $7.00
Electricity Cost for operating this Unit is very little.
Size of Brooder is 32" long, 15" wide and 12" deep and is insulated.
Size of Yard 36" long, 32" wide and 14" deep, 1/2" wire bottom and has a removable insulated pan to catch the droppings which can be easily cleaned."
A "power free" brooder box
Photo courtesy of Noel Honeyborne and Fowls for Africa
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