When worrying about the risk of fire using a heating pad vs a heat lamp, think about this. Would you put your hand on a heat lamp? Would you put your clothes up against one? Turn one on and place it on a chair? Does a heat lamp provide natural day/night cycles? How much area around the heat lamp heats up, often to dangerous levels? Which does a feed store sell, heat lamps or heating pads? Which uses more electricity?
A heat lamp heats the air, dust, dander, the walls, the entire brooder box, the floor.....it heats it all - and can burn it all. Does a real broody hen heat just the chicks when they need it or the entire brooder even when they don't? A heating pad is designed to come into contact with the human body, including our clothing. It's a safe, gentle heat. It doesn't keep them up 24/7, and they decide their comfort level. Chicks raised this way are stronger, feather out faster, are more confident, and just all the way around do better than chicks raised under the harsh heat and light of a heat lamp.
I wasn't the first to figure this out - it's been done by far wiser people than me for sometime.....Beekissed, Patrice Lopatin, aart....with rousing success. Look at how many people have changed to this from heating lamps and haven't looked back. The pages of this thread are full of folks who have decided that this is as close to a broody hen as we mere mortals can get, and some were pretty skeptical at first.
But don't take my word for it. Take the word of these chicks:
And the same chicks moved to the outside run when temps were in the teens and twenties:
I'm not trying to sell anything or force anyone to do anything they aren't comfortable with. If it ends up not being right for you, that's fine! The ultimate goal is healthy chickens, no matter how they are raised, right? It sounds like you are on board and ready to go, but the rest of the family has concerns. That's happened on here plenty of times, too. Without exception, after seeing it at work with their own chicks, they seem to change their minds.
I can't tell you anything about the heating blankets. I don't know enough about them. Those of us who use this system use heating pads because we know that we can fine tune the setting to what the chicks tell us they need. Using reptile heaters has been discussed on the thread a few times, but without exception the poster went with the Sunbeam heating pad instead.
Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your chicks and the great adventure of raising them to be a productive flock!