I don't really necessarily think one is "bad" but I found Blooie's Mama Heating Pad thread righr before I got my chicks and it just made more sense to me and seemed much more natural. I mean, broody raised chicks don't have a light and heat glaring on them 24/7, ya know? Heck, they even tried heat lamps first and liked this better and made the thread. Plus with the risk of fire, heat lamps make me nervous. But like I said above, I don't necessarily think heat lamps are bad and done right it can be fine but in my opinion, I prefer the heatng pad. And I think I would prefer the pad cave or a makeshift heat plate made with a pad to buying a heat plate since usually it's cheaper and more cozy. Though some of the plates are similar priced or easier to clean, gotta look around. Anyway, I personally think the MHP or plate is more natural because they have day night cycles and regulate their own heat like a broody would but there are good and bad ways to do both. For example, raised indoors in a Rubbermaid box with a lamp glaring over them, cooking them, I don't think is a good way to do it BUT even with MHP, that same box is too small. And some people make the caves too high. So there's good and bad for both. I think in a bigger brooder space where they could actually have a choice to be under the lamp or not instead of heating the whole little box then it would be more ideal.
I started out with heat lamps but after using a heat plate, I'll never go back to a lamp again.
The reasons I like the plate or pad are typical.
One of the reasons I like them is that They have a normal day/night cycle which seems like it is more healthy and natural. Under the lamp you see chicks going and going at all hours of the night then they just "collapse" wherever they are out of exhaustion. With the plate, the sun goes down and they go to sleep. The sun comes up and they get up. They run under the "pseudo-mamma" when they are cold and come out when they choose. I notice that during the day they are out from under the heat most of the time rather than being subjected to heat all the time.
When I brought these babies home, I purposely set the room they were in as cold as I could get it. That was about 49-50F. They spent very little time under the heat.
When I had a broody that hatched eggs in temperatures in the teens, those babies were out running around much more than I thought they'd be. When they got cold they'd start chirping lout and mamma would drop and under they'd go for a quick warm-up...then out again in no time at all. They sure blew to pieces the idea that they needed to be kept at 95 degrees all the time for the first week!
I think this helps them to acclimate on their own time table.
If all I had was a heat lamp, I'd use it. But my experience is that this sure beats the 24 hour lamp and heat they can't escape.
Edited to add: I also like the idea of the "comfort" for them of being able to go under something like they would a mamma rather than always being exposed and open.
Good point - maybe I'll spring for the plate! But after using this styro-bator for the last several weeks and being frustrated with managing temps and humidity, I may be getting a Brinsea if I keep hatching!
I have used both, my LF had no problems I could fit 15 under the X- large but no more than that. My bantams are a different story, they squished each other under the heating pad. I had 12 and lost a few from being smashed. They like to sleep in dog piles. I switched them to a 75 watt heat lamp and they are happier still sleep in small clumps of 3-4 chicks but Spread out. I can brood 15-20 no problems.
I was worried about them trampling each other in there - I only had six before although it could accommodate many more. I may flatten it out this time, but I will have to figure out how to support it.
The other reason I like the heat plate/ MHP instead of constant heat is that they tend to feather out faster so they can be off heat sooner in general. Not being under constant heat stimulates feather growth.