Heat Lamp Troubles
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Can you direct it over just one corner of your brooder, making sure it's fairly well ventilated and set above the brooder 1 - 1.5 feet?
It could get too hot under the lamp but that way they can move closer to the heat if it's comfortable. The other 3 corners should be in the range of 90 - 95 as they'll get some of the heat from the corner. I have the same problem but I can monitor my chicks on chick cam and come home to intervene if necessary. They tend to stay in the corner next to the lamp but not directly under it once the outdoor temp goes above 80. If they were staying in the furthest corner opposite the lamp that would indicate the environment is too hot (hasn't happened and yesterday was in the mid-80's).
Another option might be a heating pad set on low to supplement the warm air temp. A box in 86 degrees should be warmer than an unenclosed space, if they're cold they can huddle on the heating pad.
Is your brooder inside or out? If outside, they should be fine, but if concerned, move your light up or further to the side. If it is inside, your room temp shouldn't move too much depending on how you have your house... we are in the upper 70s and low 80s outside and with just a few windows open, our house is staying in low 70s. So if they are inside, you might want to leave the light as it has been.
at a week and a half, if you have already adjusted the heat a bit as they seem to need it, they should be fine with temps ~85 degrees F
Your brooder should have a warm spot and cooler areas. The area under the light should be around 90 the first week and drop 5 degrees a week, but that isn't hard and fast - you adjust as your chicks need - if they are always huddled under the light, they need it warmer. If they go under the light now and again and are running around the brooder the rest of the time, then you have it just right. If the entire brooder is 90 degrees, they are going to overheat!
So as long as your brooder is large enough, you can leave the light on and have it over a corner so there is a warm spot for them and the rest of the brooder is cooler and they can move back and forth as needed.
The objective in providing a heat source is to give the chicks an option of moving toward the heat when they feel chilled and moving away from it if they feel overheated. Far more important than providing exactly the temperature the so-called guidelines recommend is to have a brooder large enough where the temperature away from the heat source is considerable cooler than where the heat is.
Remember, chicks are not food being kept hot until you eat it. They self regulate their body temps by continually moving back and forth from cool zone to the heat zone.
After the first week, the heat zone can be anywhere between 85 and 90F. However, even though your ambient temp is 86, it's still advisable that the chicks have a warm spot to park under. But a 250 watt lamp will end up raising the temp in the entire brooder past what is comfortable for the chicks. I would try a 100 watt bulb. Or even a 65 watt.
Watch your chicks and you will be able to tell if they are comfortable or not. Overheated chicks will be prostrate and panting as far from the heat as possible. Chilled chicks will be huddled together as close to the heat source as possible. What you want to see are chicks racing around, actively eating, playing, and sleeping all over the brooder.
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