So, this is the setup that we have found works best for NEW chicks. We have outdoor brooder cages but those work best for Summer time. When getting new chicks during the cooler season we keep them inside our house for awhile. It kind of drives me crazy but the chicks have a better survival rate this way.
1. Brooder Container--
We have tried a variety of cages and containers for indoor brooders.
A. Cardboard boxes-- This gets messy. Once that water drips onto the bottom or spills you start to have a mess. A cardboard box can work short term until you get something better in place. A day or three is doable. Beyond that and you are going to have a mess.
B. Cages-- If you use a cage you need to make sure tiny new chicks cannot escape. You would be surprised what they can get out of. Another drawback is that chicks "scratch" and feed and poo go out of the boundaries of the cage. This obviously gets messy and requires sweeping and bleaching the surrounding floor areas often. (*Move chicks away from the area when bleaching due to toxic fumes.)
C. SHALLOW Container-- Little birds learn to fly pretty quickly. Before you know it you have chicks flying out of the container. A shallow container can work but you want to make sure you have a covering (with air holes).
D. DEEP Container-- This is my choice option. A large, deep storage container works well. A deep container keeps the chicks from flying out. It may become necessary at some point to provide a covering but not always.
Many people use a deep litter method like shredded newspaper or wood shavings of some sort. We use what we have on hand. If that is newspaper we sometimes rip that up or use the folded newspapers to cover the bottom of the tub. We have used empty cereal boxes or any other cardboard we have on hand. We change this once or twice a day depending on how messy it gets.
A. A Poultry Waterer-- I started with these and I lost a lot of chicks to drownings or to getting wet and cold. Many people put marbles in the water area to help this situation. That seems more complicated to me.
B. A Small Dish or Lid-- This comes with the same issues as the poultry waterer.
C. Rabbit Water Bottle-- Lifesaver!!... Literally! The chicks can't drown in the water. They can't splash in it and get all wet. The water bottle also holds plenty of water to last many chicks the whole day. I also used a free wire clothes hanger to wrap around the bottle and hook on the end of the storage container.
4. Feeder-- Many things work well but you just want to make sure they can't "scratch" in it much. This will keep the area cleaner.