Controlling Temperature in the Brooder

Understanding Behavior, Traditional Heat Lamps, and the Radiant Heat Alternative

One of the biggest concerns most people have is keeping the brooder at the proper temperature. You’ve probably read the norm… 95 degrees the first week, then lower the temperature by 5 degrees each week until the chicks are fully feathered. That’s the rule of thumb, and one I have always been faithful to. However…

I know heat lamps are a royal pain when trying to achieve a specific and consistent temperature. And radiant heat from today’s brooders probably have you wondering if they offer enough heat.  That’s why this season I decided to experiment, pitched the heat lamp and put my trust solely in radiant heat on my newly hatched chicks.

Yes, it seemed too cold in the brooder at night, certainly wasn’t 95, and that made me nervous. But I had a feeling radiant heat would prove better if I just stuck with it. Radiant heat seemed more natural, more like a mother hen, and that just had to be better than a clunky bright heat lamp dangling over their head.

Is Radiant Heat Better?

Silver Laced Wyandotte 40120

At one week old: The temperature in the brooder was 65, and the chicks weren’t huddled together trying to stay warm. They were playing, eating, and on and off congregating under the radiant heat brooder. No fuss, no worries, and no pasty butts, which is a common problem of chicks under stress during their first week of life.

I think chicks can take the cold a lot better than we think. I’ve seen hens take their chicks outside in 30 degree temperatures with no problem. So why do we need to stress over the perfect 95 degree law in the brooder? We don’t, plain and simple.

Here’s my Silkie Bantam chicks in perfect condition, raised using radiant heat in temperatures 25-30 degrees below the the recommended 95 degrees the first week. They’re five weeks old now and happy as can be.

 

The trick is to watch your chicks, they will tell you if they are uncomfortable. Too hot and they will be scattered far from the heat source. Too cold and they will huddle together in a corner for warmth.  It doesn’t matter what the temperature is or where you live, baby chicks all communicate the same.

Note: If I thought radiant heat wasn’t enough during very cold spells, I would use a heat lamp near the brooder rather than right over them. This will help warm the air around the brooder box just enough to still encourage use of the radiant heat brooder within.

It’s all about behavior… watch and they will teach you how much heat they need. It’s just amazing to watch those fuzzy butts, they’re a wealth of information…  watch them, and you’ll see for yourself!

Silke Bantams 10-30-14

How to Care for your Mail Order Chicks

It’s easy! The hardest part is learning to keep it simple.

When your day old chicks arrive from the hatchery they will need food, water, heat, light, fresh air and space. They will arrive stressed from excess heat or cold, lack of food, and might be showing signs of dehydration.

Your chicks can survive several days on the stored yolk in their body, but heat, food and water should be the first priority upon their arrival.  It’s a good idea to have electrolytes on hand before you pick up your chicks. They might look a bit wilted from their travels, and this will help perk them up. I don’t usually use electrolytes more than two days. A popular brand of electrolytes is Sav-a-Chick, and is available online or at local feed stores.

Baby chick

On the day your chicks arrive you should have a draft free box (lined with paper towels) large enough to provide a heat lamp (red bulb) at one end. Be sure to allow enough room for a cooler area so that the hatchlings can get away from the heat source if needed.  A good rule of thumb is to provide a 1/2 square foot of floor space per chick.

The temperature in your brooder should be 90-95 degrees for the first week, then decrease the temperature by 5 degrees each week following.  You can raise or lower the lamp to help obtain that proper temperature. If you don’t need to use a heat lamp in the brooder, for the first few days, keep a light on so the chicks can find their food and water. After a few days, I suggest switching to a simple night light, just to help prevent piling or suffocation.

brinsea_ecoglow_20_chick_brooder_2

Tip: Heat lamps are often hard to regulate temperatures, another choice is using a Brinsea Ecoglow Chick Brooder. They are safer, and you won’t be spending so much time adjusting the heat lamp.

On week two, you can start using shavings for bedding (not cedar) in the brooder. You can also raise the drinker a bit to help keep the water clean. Use a drinker made for chicks to avoid the possibility of drowning.  Chick starter feed is all your hatchlings will need all the way until they are at their point of lay… which is about 5-6 months.  You’ll have to decide if you want to use medicated started feed or not. I use medicated for the first 2 weeks, then switch to non-medicated.

Important!

Something to watch for that can put your chicks in danger is pasting up, this is simply a poopy butt. This is real common in baby chicks, and if not tended to, they won’t be able to poop and can die. So keep those fuzzy butts clean by using a baby wipe, or a wet paper towel. Learn more about Pasting Up.

My Favorite Hatcheries? My Pet Chicken | Ideal Hatchery | Murray McMurray

 

 

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EcoGlow Brinsea Brooder

Brinsea 2

Updated Review | The Pro’s and Con’s of Using the Brinsea EcoGlow for Chicks in Winter

We all know that cutting corners and penny pinching usually ends up costing more money in the long run. This is especially true when raising chickens, I know this, and write about it constantly, so I figure it’s about time I follow my own advice!

Below is the Brinsea Brooder, and I bought one today… finally.  It’s a far better way to keep your chicks warm than with a heat lamp. If you raise chickens, then you already know keeping chicks at a comfortable temp is near impossible. The weather changes from hour to hour, so unless you don’t mind being on call 24/7 to raise and lower the heat lamp, the Brinsea is a MUCH better way. No more worrying about baking your chicks alive under a  heat lamp, or wondering if they’re too cold. That’s worth about $80 bucks to me, how about you?

About the Brinsea Brooder

The EcoGlow Brinsea Brooder only uses 18 Watts (a tenth of the electricity of typical suspended infrared lamps) because the chicks are in contact with its warm underneath surface. The brooder runs at 12v for safety from a mains transformer (supplied) and with the convenience of a generous (about 10 feet) power lead.

Different sizes of chicks are accommodated by three adjustable height settings and an indicator light confirms the brooder is connected.

Dimensions: 12″ long x 8″ wide x 8″ high

Price: About $80 on Amazon Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder for Chicks or Ducklings

 

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