You can build yourself a couple of small brooders that are 5 X 3 X 2 feet with the bottom raised 8 inches to a foot above ground level. The floor should be ¼ inch hardware cloth and the front 1 inch or smaller chicken wire. The back and both ends are covered with tin roofing or with 1 inch chicken wire covered by tin roofing.
Make a top that comes down even with the top of the frame and put enough tin on it to create a four way overhang (if used outside). Two sliding inter covers each 3 feet long X 2 feet 9 inches wide go between the top of the frame, sliding under or above the other inter-cover on strips of ¾ lumber or quarter round moldings nailed to the inside of the side frame top. This lets you open the whole top and prop it up with a stick or board, but nothing can get out or in when you are feeding and watering. You just slide the inter-cover you want to open back and your body will block any flighty chick’s or hen’s path to freedom.
Each inter cover can be slid either over or under the other creating a smaller top opening that flighty biddies or dang fool hens can’t bolt past when you least expect it. Now divide the brooder into two equal halves using 4X2 inch welded wire. This keeps the hen from the biddies food and side of the brooder because as sure as god makes little green apples the first thing she will do is overturn the food dish trying to scratch for her biddies, spilling their food through the hardware cloth and onto the ground. This division also gives you the option of covering the front ½ of the brooder (where the hen is) with tin, making an even drier and warmer place for her to hover her clutch. The baby chicks can go freely back and forth to be hovered or to get to the heat source and food you provide. If using a heat lamp divide the brooder with a curtain in the middle so the chicks can go through easily but all cold drafts can not.
Baby chicks do not need anything to eat for their first 48 to 72 hours of life. In fact it is a bad idea to feed them other than to put a saucer of chick grit or clean sand in the brooder (where the hen can’t reach it) so they can practice their pecking instinct. Feed the hen nothing but whole grain dent corn in a hanging feed cup for the first few days. Do put a chick fountain on the side opposite the hen, but only where she can barely reach it through the 2 X 4 welded wire. The hen’s feed cup can hang on the wire too.
After the chicks have been hatched at least 48 hours and are good and dry and alert, for their first feed nothing is better than a HARD boiled egg that has been finely crumbled, shell and all. If your using a hen don’t forget to put the egg crumbles where she can’t get to or spill them. The next day add some dry old fashion oat meal to the boiled egg, along with some good starter-grower. Don’t forget to put it where the hen can’t get to or spill it.
Buttermilk by itself, or non-fat dry milk mixed with sugar water is very good for new chicks. When they are no more than a week to ten days old you can start them on whole seeds but I first like to start them out on a few table spoonfuls of bird seed then a few days later switch to whole or horse oats to go along with their starter-grower. You can also start them on scratch feed now. Don’t forget the granite or marble mineral chick grit fed free choice at all times.
If using a hen and if you have the room as well as a safe chicken yard, you can fix a door in the chick side of the brooder pen to allow them to come and go during the day and then lock them up safe and sound for the night. This gives them a chance to get all the exercise and natural foods that a chicken needs. Also don’t forget that it will also allow them to pick up every internal parasite that all chickens are prey to so don’t forget to vaccinate and worm them on a regular schedule. Enjoy.
Oh yea. Rocks, marbles, or other rubble in the water fountain base is necessary at least for the first couple of weeks. Baby chicks don’t seem to know what water is and if left to their own devices they will go for a swim in their water fountain and either drown, get chilled, or contact pneumonia. I don’t really know for sure but chickens seem to recognize green water better than clean pure water. Some green food dye in the water fountian may keep a few chicks from going skinny dipping.