Why? It’s much easier to keep baby chicks warm then trying to keep them cool… which is impossible.
Most parts of the country raise chicks in Springtime when the weather is mild. This gives the birds plenty of time to mature through the summer months and be fully feathered by Fall. Not the case here in Phoenix because extreme temperatures of 100+ can start as early as May and by June, reach 110+.
These conditions are not suitable for baby chicks, being this hot in a confined brooder is not only stressful, but can be life threatening. Chicks need to have a heat source, yes, this is true, but also need to be able to get away from it to stay comfortable.
Improper brooder temperatures also increase the onset of pasty butt (fecal impaction.) For these reasons, in Phoenix, it’s best to start chicks in November, and by April they are mature enough to slowly acclimate to our rising temperatures. Remember, It’s much easier to keep baby chicks warm then trying to keep them cool… which is impossible.
Chicks are Best Kept Outdoors
Raising chicks outdoors in a shed, barn, or garage is the best place to keep your baby chicks in November. They will most likely only need a radiant heat source. If the weather turns colder at night, a low wattage heat lamp may assist in keeping the brooder temperature steady. You can buy low wattage heat bulbs in the reptile section at your local pet or feed store. I usually use a red 75 or 100 watt bulb if the brooder temperature drops below 60 degrees.
Assuming you have your chicks in a small brooder, the standard 250 watt bulbs are way to hot for the moderate winters here. If they’re in a large enclosure, a 250 (red) watt is okay in a corner, just make sure your chicks have enough space escape from the heat. More on using radiant heat & heat lamps.
Where Do I Buy My Chicks?
If I want a particular breed and can’t find it locally, my #1 source is Ideal Hatchery. I’ve never had a shipping problem, and they usually have those special hard to find breeds I’m looking for.
Preparing the Chicken Coop for the Colder Months Ahead
The winters are rather mild in Phoenix and your birds will be quite comfortable without heat added, as long as they are protected from wind, drafts, and especially rain.
Temperatures rarely drop below freezing in Phoenix, with the usual overnight temperature in the 4o’s. As long as your birds are kept dry, cool weather is quite welcomed, especially after a long summer of brutal heat.
A heavy weight tarp is suitable protection from wind, along with ample clean pine shavings (preferred) or straw in the coop and nest boxes. Your birds will huddle together for warmth at night, if you stick your finger deep inside their feathers you’ll see they are toasty warm, even at freezing temps.
Never put a heat lamp in your coop, the risk of fire is far to dangerous. I wouldn’t use a light bulb for heat either. First of all, your birds don’t need it in Phoenix, and second, light is annoying and disruptive to the normalcy of nature.
You will hear other chicken keepers say egg laying is reduced or halted completely in the winter months. That may be so in other parts of the country, but in Phoenix I never notice much change in frequency. Remember, the key to keeping the egg basket full is defined in two simple words… happy birds.
The heat is creeping around the corner and once again we are preparing for the brutal days ahead of summer in Phoenix!
The barn is ready with a new GIANT fan, repaired shade cloths, and new fasteners. New larger drinkers are in place, and numerous water troughs have been put in the different areas my chickens frequent. Even the hoses have been replaced!
With any luck at all, I won’t have anything to leak, break or blow/float away when it’s a billion degrees outside, or when the high winds of monsoon season arrive sometime in July. In case you think I’m exaggerating, here’s a glimpse of what happened just a few years ago. TBN Ranch in Ruins after Monsoon Micro Burst. Hope that NEVER happens again, pretty sure positive my insurance company agrees!