Kick the Heat Lamp: Better, Safer, and Healthier Options to Heat Your Brooder!

Heat lamps have been shown to be incredibly unsafe and unhealthy for growing chicks. In this article, I discuss reasons why heat lamps are not...
  1. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    .

    Kick the Heat Lamp:

    Better, Safer, and Healthier Options to Heat Your Brooder!

    When setting up a brooder, one of the biggest essentials for the chicks is a heat source. Young chicks are unable to maintain their body temperature and so must be kept warm in some way. When shopping for heating options, the one product that is consistently sold everywhere for chicks is the metal clamp lamp with 250 watt heat bulb. They’re sold in feed stores, stocked near chick bins, even pushed in hatchery catalogs! But heat lamps containing 250 watt bulbs are one of the worst and most dangerous heating options available for chicks.

    Believe it or not, those large 250 watt heat bulbs have no benefits to chicks beyond providing them heat and, in fact, cause many more problems than other options! 250 watt bulbs are much too hot for the typical small batch of chicks bought by backyard chickeners, sometimes causing health issues in the brooder from overheating, such as ‘pasty bottom’. They put off so much heat that even raising them a few inches weekly as is usually instructed often doesn’t lower the heat in the brooder sufficiently to wean chicks off of it. Metal clamp lamps are rickety and commonly fall apart or fall off of what they’re hanging from, making them a huge fire hazard and a danger to the chicks. Often, especially when combined with 250 watt heat bulbs, these metal lamps are so hot that they are dangerous to touch, making it risky to have children or other pets around the brooder, risky for the chicks once they’re old enough that they could fly up and hit the lamp, and painful for you if you accidentally brush by them too close while tending to your chicks! And, with the 24 hours of light that heat lamps provide, chicks sometimes need to be trained to go to roost at the appropriate time once they are a bit older and weaned off of the heat itself because they have not had a normal day/night cycle.


    Ditch the heat lamp.jpg
    Dangerous, painful, and a hassle. Who needs any of that?

    Indeed, on top of these anecdotal dangers and hassles to using heat lamps, many peer-reviewed studies have been published discussing a further danger of raising chicks under heat lamps. These studies will be cited throughout the next two paragraphs, and the sources for those citations listed at the end of this article under 'References'.

    Studies have not been performed on heat in small brooders, likely as a result of this not being applicable to a large-scale industrial farm setting, but numerous studies have revolved around one condition caused by heat lamps: the 24 hours of continuous light they produce. Studies on continuous light in the brooder have found that it alters rate of maturity, causing cockerels to mature faster, but causing pullets to mature more slowly (1). Along with this, feather development is delayed in chicks under continuous light up to 7 weeks of age (1). Continuous light was also shown to delay the onset of egg laying and reduce the number of eggs produced by pullets raised under it (2). On top of these changes in rate of maturation, aggression was found to be triggered by continuous light. Chicks raised under continuous light were found to be significantly more likely to injure their broodmates, even after these chicks were switched over to 14 hours of light and 10 hours of darkness (3). This higher incidence of aggression persisted until 55 weeks of age and was assumed to be lifelong in one study (4).

    Perhaps the worst of all, numerous studies have found that continuous light is damaging to growing eyes. One particular condition, called Light Induced Avian Glaucoma, has been the focus of quite a few of these studies. Caused, as the name suggests, by continuous light, LIAG is characterized by enlargement of the eye, increased pressure within the eye, and flattening of the cornea, leading to reduced vision and possibly to future blindness (5). This condition is caused by ANY continuous light, even that from lower-wattage bulbs than the common 250-watt heat lamp bulb, and is actually exacerbated by the red light of red heat lamp bulbs (6). This condition is so consistently caused by continuous light that chickens can be used as an animal model for studies on glaucoma (7, 8). More frightening is that it isn't the only condition caused by damage from continuous light; nearsightedness and farsightedness are also seen in chickens raised under continuous light (7, 9), and thinning of the retina, particularly the retinal nerve fiber layer and layer of rods and cones, also occurs as a result of continuous light (10). Abnormalities can occur in as soon as 7-8 days under continuous light (7, 11), long before most chicks will have weaned off of heat.

    All of this happens while these devices are being used exactly as instructed, the very definition of something that is unhealthy. Other heating options may not be as inexpensive in upfront cost, nor are they as readily available as a clamp lamp and 250 watt bulb usually are, but their benefits much outweigh the extra time it may take to obtain them. In this article, I will discuss some of the many brooder heater options and why they are better than the old clamp lamp by a long stretch. I will start with the most ancient of brooder heaters, used as long as people have had chickens—the broody hen.




    Broody Hens

    If you are looking for the easiest route to take for brooding chicks, you needn’t look any further than your own chicken coop! Broody hens are usually glad to adopt day-old chicks if given the opportunity, and they will do all the hard work in raising the chicks, training them to go to a coop, and keeping them warm in any weather, during any season. They also won’t set fire to a brooder or get so hot that they overheat their chicks! However, for those just starting out with their first chicks, broody hens may not be readily available. And those of us who have had chickens for years know that the fickle broody can be hard to convince to brood when it’s convenient, instead usually choosing to do so when least convenient!



    Margie and babies.jpg
    A broody hen will take care of everything from heating, feeding, and putting the chicks to bed, all the way to helping them integrate into the flock!


    There are some risks involved in using a broody hen as well. First is the temperament of the hen. Some hens want to brood and hatch eggs, but don’t want to raise chicks, or they may simply reject the chicks given to them for one reason or another. It's a good idea to have a back-up brooder ready just in case this happens. Another risk is the temperament of the rest of the flock and whether they will attack the new chicks or not, though the broody hen will protect them as best she can. It may be safer to block off an area of the coop for the hen to raise her chicks so that the flock can still see them, but not get to them. Some people don’t have coops large enough to do so, however, and so coop space may be a constraint when deciding to use this brooding option.

    Another thing to consider is that some report broody raised chicks as being less friendly than ones raised by hand in a brooder. Most broody hens will allow you to handle the chicks regularly, especially if they are friendly toward you otherwise, and this can help with friendliness of the chicks in the long run. If friendliness of your chicks is a concern, however, it may be worthwhile to look at other options for raising them.



    Marka chickie picture.jpg
    If their mama hen will allow it, handling her chicks often may make them just as friendly as brooder-raised chicks.




    Ceramic Heat Emitter Bulb

    Ceramic heat emitter bulbs are just what they sound like; a bulb that is ceramic and emits heat. They are primarily used for reptiles, but can and do function just as well for chick brooders. They give one major advantage over the regular red 250 watt bulb: they do not provide light to your chicks, just heat, and so chicks are used to day and night from the start. However, they may still get hot enough to be a fire hazard if they fall into the brooder bedding. All in all, ceramic heat bulbs still make for a better option than the basic 250 watt bulbs, though there are other brooder heaters that are even better!



    A Better Heat Lamp?

    Ceramic heat emitter bulbs might be best when coupled with a better heat lamp than the ones found in the feed store. There are much safer and sturdier heat lamps that can be found online, such as the one that Premier 1 offers on their website. These would even be a better and safer choice to use with a regular heat lamp bulb than a metal clamp lamp—but even the supplier recommends a bulb smaller than 250 watts in them! Though they are safer than feed store clamp lamps, the drawback (unless using a ceramic bulb in them), is that your chicks still have 24 hours of light on them rather than a natural day / night cycle.




    Heat Plates

    Heat plates are pretty much what they sound like; a flat, rectangular, plate-like device that heats up for chicks. They are usually on legs or can be hung to allow the chicks to hide underneath them for warmth, but some lay on the ground for chicks to sleep on top of, and still others may be wall mounted. For the purposes of this article, I will be discussing the kind that chicks hide underneath, as this is the more common and recommended kind of heat plate.



    Chicks under EcoGlow pic for article.jpg
    Chicks raised with a heat plate ONLY have heat while underneath the plate. This mimics what they would have with a broody hen, encouraging them to feather faster and allowing them to wean off of heat much sooner, just like broody raised chicks.


    Heat plates are very popular with the people who use them because they are easy to use and they simulate having a broody hen to warm the chicks, allowing chicks to be brooded in a way that is more natural for them. Not only are the chicks immediately used to the day/night cycle, but because heat plates only heat underneath them, chicks using them often feather in much faster and wean off of heat much, much faster—chicks that I have raised indoors with heat plates sometimes quit using them as early as 2 weeks of age, even though I continue to provide it to them for much longer than that!



    chicks done with the ecoglow.jpg
    These chicks, at just 16 days old in a 70 degree F house, are clearly not using their heat plate overnight anymore. So much for 95 degrees minus 5 degrees a week, huh?


    One disadvantage to heat plates is that many of them cannot be used for chicks kept in an area where the temperatures may drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that chicks must be brooded inside or in a heated outbuilding any time of the year that it may be colder than that at any point in the day or overnight. If considering a heat plate for an outdoor brooder, it is wise to investigate the temperatures it will be effective at before settling on which to buy! Another disadvantage is that they often aren’t big enough for large broods of chicks. Even those labeled for use with 20 chicks usually are only large enough for that number at first, but 20 chicks will quickly outgrow that size of plate. However, for those that only raise 5-10 chicks at a time, those heat plates are plenty large enough. A third potential disadvantage to heat plates is the upfront cost. Heat plates are much more expensive than clamp lamps and heat bulbs. However, that upfront cost is made up for in electricity use, as within a few weeks of using it, most heat plates will have paid for themselves in electricity savings versus a 250 watt heat bulb.



    Lydda perched pic for article.jpg
    One last thing that might be thought of as a disadvantage for heat plates—chicks have wings, and they poop where they perch! Yuck!




    Homemade Brooder Heaters

    Homemade brooder heaters typically have all of the advantages of heat plates at a lower cost, saving the upfront cost of plates as well as avoiding many of the dangers of clamp lamps. Most brooder heaters are made of heating pads, such as this one and this one. These brooder heaters use the same idea as a heat plate; they provide heat and the natural feeling of huddling under mama hen when cold, while allowing chicks to come and go and wean off of their heat source much faster. The biggest advantage to homemade brooder heaters versus heat plates is that they can often be used outside even in cold temperatures, so chicks can be brooded in their coop from day one no matter the season! (NOTE: Only heating pads that DO NOT have an automatic shutoff should be used for brooder heaters, especially when used outside! Heating pads must be producing heat at all times for the chicks to warm up whenever needed!)

    The only disadvantage to be found with homemade brooder heaters is the time and effort used to get all of the parts and assemble them, something that is likely negligible when considering all of the advantages they can have. Even if you aren’t very handy, making a homemade brooder heater can be as easy as bending a small piece of fence and wrapping a towel around a heating pad over it—not much time and not much effort imparted!



    Wool Hen

    The Wool Hen is a fascinating type of homemade brooder 'heater' that uses no electricity whatsoever to keep your chicks warm, instead using their own body heat to keep them warm! The Wool Hen is basically a thickly insulated box stuffed with hanging strips of wool, fleece, or other highly insulating fabrics inside of it, which are warmed by the chick's own body heat and hold that heat around the chick as long as it is within the structure. As far as where it can be used, there are reports of using it outside in cooler temperatures, but no confirmation of the very coldest temps that chicks can handle when brooded with only a wool hen. I would strongly suggest reading up on Wool Hens and perhaps asking questions of those who have used them before deciding to use one in an outside brooder during colder temperatures. For starters, check out these two threads: one two





    Conclusion

    There are other options for heating a brooder, of course, but these are the most common and most highly recommended out there by chicken people who have experience with them. Clearly, when compared to these options, heat lamps and 250 watt bulbs fall flat! Their propensity to cause brooder fires, overheat chicks, and burn anything that comes into contact with them makes them an unnecessary danger, and the significant damage and abnormalities they cause in the growing eyes of chicks reared under them makes them an unhealthy choice to boot. Many of the heating options given in this article are much more natural, allowing chicks to grow and thrive as intended by nature, and all are much, MUCH safer! On top of that, many save on the electricity bill in the long run! What’s not to love about that?






    Helpful and Informative Links


    About Brooders

    Homemade Brooders – Lots of brooder ideas for containing your chicks!

    Yes, You Can Brood Chicks Outdoors



    About Broody Hens

    Guides about broody hens: One, Two

    Old Fashioned Broody Hen Thread – Be warned, it’s a long one!



    About Other Brooder Heaters

    Homemade Brooder Heaters: Mama Heating Pad, Homemade Heat Plate

    Heat Plate Reviews and Comparisons




    And don’t be afraid to seek out help at the Raising Baby Chicks forum if you’re unsure about anything to do with raising chicks!






    References

    1. Wilson, W. O., Woodard, A. E., & Abplanalp, H. (1956). The effect and after-effect of varied
    exposure to light on chicken development. The Biological Bulletin, 111(3), 415-422.

    2. Callenbach, E. W., Nicholas, J. E., & Murphy, R. R. (1944). Influence of light on age at sexual
    maturity and ovulation rate of pullets. Pennsylvania State College, School of Agriculture, Agricultural Experiment Station.
    3. Jensen, A. B., Palme, R., & Forkman, B. (2006). Effect of brooders on feather pecking and
    cannibalism in domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 99(3), 287-300.
    4. Shimmura, T., Maruyama, Y., Fujino, S., Kamimura, E., Uetake, K., Tanaka, T. (2015).
    Persistent effect of broody hens on behavior of chickens. Animal Science Journal, 86(2), 214-220.

    5. Kinneaer, A., Lauber, J. K., & Boyd, T. A. S. (1974). Genesis of light-induced avian glaucoma.
    Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 13(11), 872-875.

    6. McCluskey, W., & Arscott, G. H. (1967). The influence of incandescent and infrared light
    upon chicks. Poultry Science, 46(2), 528-529.

    7. Li, T., Troilo, D., Glasser, A., & Howland, H. C. (1995). Constant light produces severe
    corneal flattening and hyperopia in chickens. Vision research, 35(9), 1203-1209.

    8. Lauber, J. K. (1987). Light-induced avian glaucoma as an animal model for human primary
    glaucoma. Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 3(1), 77-100.

    9. Lauber, J. K. (1991). Three avian eye enlargement protocols as myopia models: effects of
    pharmacological intervention. Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 7(1), 65-75.

    10. Lauber, J. K., Shutze, J. V., & McGinnis, J. (1961). Effects of Exposure to Continuous Light
    on the Eye of the Growing Chick.∗. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, 106(4), 871-872.

    11. Bercovitz, A. B., Harrison, P. C., & Leary, G. A. (1972). Light induced alterations in growth
    pattern of the avian eye. Vision research, 12(7), 1253-IN5.



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  1. ladyearth
    we did the "pvc tube xmas lites" route.. saw it on you tube. made two of them, really neat and cute......
    of course that just to supplement the room indoor heating in a medium oval galvanized 24 inch tall tub...
    now they are just sitting in the toolshed. cause I plan no more babies..
  2. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    I have updated the article to include a paragraph discussing a few of the articles (and one book) I've found through my university's library and databases. I believe it does improve the quality of the introduction quite a bit and so I must admit some gratefulness toward a certain commenter for sending me down that route. As I mentioned in the updated section, I will continue to research as time permits!
  3. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    Not knowing what the rates are for electricity where you live, I went with the national average, which is 12 cents per kwh. Actually, it's 12.8 or so, which means my calculations were on the low end. Even going with 12 cents even, using 6-250 watt heat lamps even for 3 weeks, you are spending enough more on electricity to buy an EcoGlow with change (approximately $84.19 in electricity savings by switching to them), or buy a Premier1 plate with a lot left over ($82.74 in electricity savings using them). If you want the correct amount for your area, you would have to calculate it yourself with your electricity rates. However, even at the cheapest rate of residential electricity in the country as of February this year (which was 9.27 cents per kwh averaged across Washington state according to this website https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a ), running 6-250 watt heat lamps for 3 weeks is still costing you $63.91-65.03 more than the plates to run for the same length of time.

    I know of at least a few serious breeders that use them, personally. Only one has a website as far as I'm aware, however. You can read about their brooder setup toward the bottom of the page here: https://lesfarmscanada.wixsite.com/lesfarms/about_us In case you don't feel like clicking, the exact words about their brooder setup is this: "We brood chicks with only Brinsea EcoGlows, Premier Heat Plates (fave) or Broody hens. We do not use heat lamps due to the potential dangers and the high energy consumption."

    Editing here because I didn't see your second post. I have used Google Scholar, along with access from my university, which allows me to read most articles on Google Scholar beyond just the abstract (with a few exceptions like I mentioned). I'm also using the 344 other scholarly article databases I have access to through my university.

    Your articles are both about incubation and developing eggs, not chicks. They are studying hatchability, not chick behavior and growth after the fact. The articles I cited are about chicks being raised under these conditions. I'm really not sure what you're trying to prove with that?

    I'd love to see your brooder setup. I'm sure it's great. I'm thinking of writing another article, myself, with the scientific data I'm finding about negative effects of 24 hours of light on brooder-aged chickens. I'm definitely updating this article once I have a little more free time available outside of class. Citations included, of course.
  4. brucifer
    As for your articles on heat lamps and lighting, I suggest you use Google Scholar, and start by limiting your search to articles published in 2017, and work back from there. I spent two minutes and found an article published Feb 23, 2017 in Poultry Science by Archer, Jeffrey, and Tucker, Effect of the combination of white and red LED lighting during incubation on layer, broiler, and Pekin duck hatchability. Here's the URL to the abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28339779 Read, and please share!

    I also found this 2003 article by T.M. Shafey in British Poultry Science by doing a simple search-engine query: Effect of lighted incubation on embryonic growth and hatchability performance of two strains of layer breeder eggs. Please share from that abstract as well. So much for your light-is-a-bad-thing-for-chicks nonsense.
  5. brucifer
    Yes, pip, your math is wrong. BTW, my electric bill last month was $170, and I had six brooders going. I use heat lamps for three weeks only - 95ºF for W1, 90ºF for W2, and 85º for W3. After that point the indoor ambient temperature of the brooder room is enough to sustain the chicks I raise. At about week 7 or 8, I introduce my pullets and cockerels to the outdoors with a couple of hens. Too bad the editor will not allow me to post photos of my active brooders and the chickens I have hatched and raised, ALL under parabolic heat lamps with 250w infrared bulbs. As for EcoGlows and Premier1s, I honestly don't know of a single serious breeder who uses them. Those units are aimed at the chicken-enthusiast market, not the professional market. Again, great heaters, but pricey. Perhaps I'll write an article showing how to construct and set up an effective and safe brooder using a heat lamp as the heating source.
  6. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    I would also like to add, since you were concerned about my use of anecdotal information, I took it upon myself to do some research as I have access to a plethora of databases of peer-reviewed articles through my university. I'm compiling all the articles I find specifically about heat lamp use as compared to other options when rearing chicks. There have not been very many, but so far, I have read the results of every article I've come across that involves testing the use of heat lamps, and I haven't found anything that has concluded positively in regards to heat lamp use yet, especially concerning the 24 hours of light they produce.

    I've found 2 studies that have shown with statistical significance that 24 hours of light (even with a red bulb) without any available darkness increased feather picking, cannibalism, and other behavioral issues, not only when the birds are brooder-aged, but even through to maturity. One study found the intensity of light for 24 hours a day to be the probable cause, though they also noted 'gentle pecks' occurring in the low-intensity-light pens, 'gentle pecks' meaning pecks without tugging on or plucking feathers. This seems to indicate the opposite of what you posted initially about red lights and chicks getting along with one another.

    I've found 2 articles comparing behavior between heat lamp raised chicks and broody hen raised chicks that have also shown that heat lamp chicks exhibit many more behavioral issues such as feather picking and aggression as compared to broody hen raised chicks, from hatch through to maturity. The only drawback they found was that hens who were raised by broodies tended to be more broody, and therefore laid fewer eggs. However, one study, which admittedly I haven't found the full article to read and so I can only read the abstract, found that 24 hours of light when being brooded delayed the onset of maturity and egg laying in pullets.

    Another study, albeit one that was published in 1966, found that 24 hours of light, even with the red coating on heat lamps, causes eye abnormalities in chicks that they referred to as a condition called 'slant eye'. All treatments with 24 hours of light showed this abnormality, but it was most common under 24 hours of red heat bulbs. They did not go into detail about the possible problems from this 'slant eye' condition, nor did they describe what it looked like, but chicks under 24 hours of light also had eyes with relatively flattened corneas, and their eye weight was enlarged up to 33.4% greater than the weight of eyes of chicks raised under 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness with a regular incandescent bulb. The authors also state at the end that unpublished work from their lab also showed an adverse effect on egg laying later in life when brooded with 24 hours of light.

    I have downloaded these studies and a few more that involve other poultry species, and I would be more than happy to provide them if you'd like to read for yourself.
  7. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    You are not taking into account electricity usage, however, which, believe it or not, does account for something. 250 watt bulbs may not seem very expensive, but they cost MUCH MORE in the long run.

    6-250 watt heat lamps running for 24 hours = 36 kwh per day, which at the average rate of 12 cents per kwh that Americans pay for electricity will cost you $151.20 for 5 weeks of use.

    6 EcoGlows running at 18 watts each = 2.592 kwh per day, which will cost you about $10.89 for 5 weeks of use. Considering it can be shut off by 3 weeks, it would cost $6.53. For comparison's sake, we'll say you're running them for the full 5 weeks like the heat lamp. You are saving $140.31 by switching. Already, you've paid for approximately one and three quarters EcoGlows. It would take about 20 weeks of use to pay for all your EcoGlows in this scenario. If you're raising chicks from early March through August or September, as many professionals do, you've already paid for your upfront purchase of the EcoGlows within the year of purchasing them.

    6 of the equivalent size Premier1 plate will run at 3.168 kwh per day and cost you about $13.31 to run for 5 weeks, which saves you $137.89 over your 250 watt heat lamps. In that time, you've paid for just under 2 and a third Premier1 plates in electricity use, and it would only take about 13 weeks of use for them to pay for themselves.

    Feel free to correct my math if you think it's wrong.
  8. brucifer
    pip, regarding heat plates, let me connect the dots for you since you seem to be having trouble. The Brinsea EcoGlow is $80, and the Brinsea Brooder Heating Plate is $60. Good units, no doubt, but they are relatively EXPENSIVE when compared to an $8 parabolic heat lamp and a $4 250w infra-red heating lamp. If a 250w bulb blows, it's $4 to replace the bulb and get it the heater back up and running. You unscrew the old bulb and screw in a new bulb. Simple. Quick. However, if either the EcoGlow or the Brooder Heating Plate fails, it's $80 and $60, respectively, to get a your heating source up and running again. I have several $4 bulbs on hand as spares. However, not everyone who purchases either one of the nice Brinsea units has an extra $80 or $60 in his or her back pocket to purchase a Brinsea as a back-up.

    Furthermore, I am currently running six brooders with chicks of different breeds and at different stages of development. Let's compare and do the math:
    My parabolic heat lamp set up:
    6 heat lamps /w infra-red bulb @ $12 each = $72 + $4 spare bulb = $76 total
    If I did the same thing using a Brinsea EcoGlow as a brooder heat source:
    6 Brinsea EcoGlow @ $80 each = $480 + $80 back-up EcoGlow unit = $560 total

    In short, ANYONE can afford to have a $4 heat lamp as a spare. Not everyone can afford to have a Brinsea or the added luxury of a Brinsea unit as a back-up. Again, Brinsea manufactures quality products, no doubt, but they are very expensive, especially when compared to heat lamps.

    As for Veronica, I agree that she should not use a heat lamp. It would probably be too difficult for her to set up correctly; thus, it would be unsafe for her and her chicks. MHP is the way for her to go. Wise choice, Veronica!
  9. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    Not sure what your fascination is with me having a spare heat plate, but yes, I do have a second one because I loved the first so much. I got it primarily to use at the same time as the first plate to raise larger broods of chicks, secondarily as a backup. My first plate is 4 or 5 years old (I'd have to look up when I got it) and still functioning like it did when it came out of the box. Considering the chicks I've raised with it weaned off heat by the time they were around 2 weeks of age and I rarely have it plugged in beyond 3-ish weeks of age, it really hasn't gotten much use in order to wear it out. That being said, a backup plan should be available when using ANY heat source for the brooder. Things can happen with any of them.

    I agree. There sure is a lot of misinformation, and plenty of spurious conclusions and foolish wives' tales out there. Some of these conclusions are more dangerous than others. Good luck to you as well.
  10. Victoria-nola
    Hahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa!!!! Yes, for sure, MHP is a "foolish wive's tale." Sure, if by that one means, "works so much better for the typical backyard chicken keeper". lolololol....
  11. brucifer
    pip, I'm not going to argue with you anymore on this topic. I've said my piece. When it comes to raising chickens, there are a lot of superstitions; misinformation; spurious/anecdotal conclusions; unscientific opinions; and, foolish wive's tales. There is also a lot of groupthink. However, it's a free country, so believe what you want. Best of luck with your hot plate. I hope you have a spare in case you need it. Take care.
  12. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    I'm not sure I understand, either, Victoria-nola, but people will stick to their guns on what they believe strongly in, and, well, that's their choice. There's a quote I've seen posted on chicken groups before, which I'm relatively sure was altered from something else, but it really does apply in so many cases:

    "The only thing that two chicken people can agree on is that the third person is wrong."
  13. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    4. Actually, it does become a problem with small broods in smaller brooders. Raising the heat lamp weekly in my previously mentioned cattle tank brooder did next to nothing, and many, many others have had the exact same experience. I ended up having to change to a smaller bulb in order to lower the temperature in that brooder. It's another reason why I always recommend against 250 watt bulbs with smaller broods.

    5. I in no way stated that children or pets should be around the brooder unsupervised. Anyone with children in their life knows that they move incredibly fast when they want to and they can be pretty darn unpredictable at that. Maybe pets would not be as much of a concern because they aren't as often allowed to visit with chicks, barring wanting to get a dog used to seeing them or something, but the same thing applies to them. Those heat lamps get so hot that it doesn't take but a split second touch to receive a burn from them. Supervised visits to the chicks can easily go wrong just like that, unless you're physically restraining the child or animal from moving altogether to prevent them from touching the lamp.
  14. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    1. My statement about the lack of advantages beyond providing heat was because other heating devices listed in this article DO have other advantages. Heat plates and heating pads, for instance, cause chicks to feather in faster and wean off of heat much sooner than heat lamps. Chicks I've raised indoors with a heat plate have weaned off of heat as soon as 10 days of age. I'd say that's a pretty big advantage as compared to heat lamps, which, if the guidelines are to be believed, would take 5 weeks to wean from 95 degrees Fahrenheit to an average room temp of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

    2. Re-read that quote. I was talking about small broods of chicks. I don't know how big of a brooder you use, but when I visit the feed store and they have chicks in 6-foot galvanized cattle tanks with heat lamps over one end, I feel almost an equal amount of heat on either end of the brooder, and those chicks are clearly suffering for it. This was also my experience years ago when I first started with chickens and used a heat lamp with a 6-foot cattle tank as a brooder. That, to me, seems like a substantial size for a brooder for 5 or so chicks, considering so many use Rubbermaid tubs as brooders for their small broods, and even that doesn't leave enough space to really get away from the heat and cool off if needed.

    3. Pasty bottom in chicks is usually caused by stress. It should not be happening in healthy chicks unless they have been exposed to a stressor. Apathy on the part of the owner has little to do with it. Overheating is a stress to chicks. Prolonged periods of overheating can lead to prolonged battles with pasty bottom in chicks. On top of that, stressed chicks can become unthrifty, weak, lose interest in food, and, in the worst cases, fail to thrive, which often leads to death. These issues are caused by stress in general, and overheating is a stressor. Changing from a heat source that is putting out too much heat to a heat source that actually allows chicks to get away from the heat can most assuredly remedy these issues if stress from overheating is the cause.
  15. Victoria-nola
    I don't understand the big who-ha need to defend heat lamps when they are dangerous for all the reasons stated here. They are in use and no doubt will continue to be in use. For those who would like an alternative, this is a good article stating those alternatives. It would appear the vigorous defenders of heat lamps own stock in heat lamp bulbs, it seems so out of place. Yes, in fact I think there is every reason to state the dangers of heat lamps. I've known of folks who lost their barn and the animals in it to fires due to heat lamps. Anyone who doesn't want to take that risk should be congratulated. Btw, to avoid fires due to other electrical items, use a spark-arrester-type outlet monitor-- they are sold for use with kitchen appliances-- if the cord gets hot, the monitor shuts down the appliance. I've got heating pads that are 20 years old and still going strong, so the heating pad quitting is not something I have major concerns about. If someone is brooding chicks for money, they should consider having a backup pad on hand, or if someone can afford the double expenditure, but that's really far fetched compared with the regularity with which lightbulbs go out. Under my MHP I put a probe for a digital thermometer so I would always know what temp it was underneath. I liked having that information. But the need to defend heat lamps seems really overblown.
  16. brucifer
    There is more I posted, but my response was truncated by the editor. Anyway, heat lamps are just fine. Many professionals use them day in and day out, and they work. Regardless of what heat source you choose to use, use common sense, and practice safe husbandry with regard to your chicks, children, and pets.
  17. brucifer
    Please, pip, if you're going to argue against parabolic heat lamps, at least be honest in your assessment. Let's break down your negative assessment piece by piece to get at the truth:

    #1 - You stated: "Believe it or not, those large 250 watt heat bulbs have no benefits to chicks beyond providing them heat...." Well, that's what heat lamps are designed to do - to provide heat to a brooder, and they do just that. What more is there to expect? Heat lamps will not fix you a sandwich or walk the dog. If that's what you expect, you're in for a world of disappointment.

    #2 - You stated: "250 watt bulbs are much too hot for the typical small batch of chicks bought by backyard chickeners." Wrong! Many people, including myself, use heat lamps very successfully and have done so for many, many years. When placed above one corner of a brooder, a heat lamp will heat THAT CORNER to the temperature you desire, such as 95ºF, 90ºF, and so on. Just raise the lamp by the cord to lower the temperature, or lower the cord to increase the temperature. It's just that easy. Unless you're using a brooder the size of a shoe box, I assure that the rest of the brooder will be at a LOWER TEMPERATURE. That's a fact!

    #3 - You stated: "...[Heat lamps] are sometimes causing health issues in the brooder from overheating, such as "pasty bottom." Nonsense! Newly hatched chicks can easily get pasty butt no matter what the heat source. Pasty butt has more to do with a caretaker's laziness and/or inexperience in addressing the problem than anything else. Chicky poops easily attach to the down of newly-hatched chicks. Heat lamps have nothing to do with that FACT. If you want to reduce pasty butt, keep a close eye on your hatchlings for the first week or so, and clean up their little bottoms with a warm, damp cloth at the first sign of sticky poop. Changing heat sources will not change a thing with regard to pasty butt. Also, to what "health issues" do you infer? I know of no credibly documented health issues with chicks or chickens that can be attributed to heat lamps. Wild claims without supporting, credible evidence are anecdotal at best and dishonest at worst.

    #4 - You stated: "[Heat lamps] put off so much heat that even raising them a few inches weekly as is usually instructed often doesn’t lower the heat in the brooder sufficiently to wean chicks off of it." Poppycock! This is just blatantly untrue! Removing ANY heat source away to a greater distance will ALWAYS reduce temperature unless the ambient temperature of the room is higher than the heat source. That's a simple fact of thermal dynamics. It's very easy to lower brooder temperature using a heat lamp. It's NOT a problem.

    #5 - You stated: "...These metal lamps are so hot that they are dangerous to touch, making it risky to have children or other pets around the brooder...." If you have pets or unsupervised children around your brooder, shame on you! THAT is irresponsible! Pets chewing on electrical cords or...
  18. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    I don't believe I've overstated the very real danger of these heat lamps at all. There are so many fires reported every spring from 250 watt heat bulbs, and many more likely not reported, that it needs to be stated. Experience means nothing. Just within the past few weeks, there was a post on the BYC Facebook group about a family losing their home to a heat lamp fire, a family experienced in poultry keeping who had used heat lamps before. It only takes one time. The fact is, the surface of a 250 watt red bulb can reach high enough temperatures that they can ignite dust, wood shavings, cardboard, paper, and feathers on contact. There have been many who have witnessed birds flying into these lamps and igniting their feathers. The wire guard that comes with these lamps WILL NOT prevent a chick from flying into the bulb, and it also WILL NOT prevent the lamp from igniting the bedding if it does happen to fall for any reason. Putting these things in a small, combustible enclosure filled with combustible bedding and active, dusty, energetic flying creatures who are covered in combustible material is a recipe for disaster whether you are experienced or not.

    I don't think I said anywhere except in the Broody Hen section that any of these devices are completely fire proof, but please correct me if I'm mistaken. They're a lot safer than heat lamps, but any source of electricity can start a fire. I probably should have put that more clearly in the article. You are incorrect, however, in your statement that there's no way of telling if the heat plates and heating pads are actually functioning. Heat plates, or at least the kind I've used, have a small light on them that shows that the device is on and functioning. I've never used Mama Heating Pad and have not owned a heating pad that doesn't have an automatic shutoff, so maybe they don't have this feature, but every heating pad I've owned for other purposes has also had a light on it to show that it's on. It likely depends on the brand.

    As for the money spent, as I stated in the article, heat plates do cost more up front, but they also save a lot on electricity costs and do pay for themselves in that regard. It may look like someone is 'shelling out big bucks' at first, but in the long run, heat plates are cheaper to run, especially compared to running multiple heat lamps at a time. There are professionals that have adopted heat plates for this reason, and because of their safety by comparison to heat lamps. There are also professionals that swear they can sex their chicks by lifting them by their feet, beak, or neck. Not everything that professionals do is right or the best thing for every chicken keeper, and dangerous things don't become safe just because they have been used for a long period of time. Heat lamps, like it or not, are dangerous and MUCH more of a fire hazard than other options I have discussed in this article. You may disagree, but that doesn't change the facts.

    Thank you for your feedback
  19. brucifer
    Victoria, if you want to hatch eggs naturally, get a broody hen. Short of that, there are several effective ways to heat a brooder. The heating-pad method is fine. I'm not knocking it at all. I'VE USED IT. IT WORKS! However, if the heating pad goes out, you had better have a back up ready or else your chicks will chill and die.

    My issue with the article is that the author unfairly put down parabolic heat lamps as a heating source, the method most professionals and experienced breeders use. That was totally unnecessary to make a point. The alternative heating sources can stand on their own merits WITHOUT heat lamps being vilified as dangerous. BTW, in the heat-lamp photo in the article, the heat lamp is without it guard. THAT is dangerous. ALWAYS use a guard!

    Now, if you want to use a heating pad, or a hot plate, or a ceramic heat-emitting bulb, go for it! Enjoy your method! Just don't put down tried-and-true parabolic heat lamps for the same of promoting your method. Heat lamps are fine and are simple to use. It doesn't take someone with a lot of smarts to easily set them up in safely and effectively. Happy hatching!
  20. Victoria-nola
    I have used the Mama Heating Pad (MHP) method for chicks and for guinea keets with great success. I think people should read more about MHP. The risk of fire is real. And I've burned myself on heat lamps. All the reasons for trying something else are so valid. With MHP, the chicks more naturally acclimate (people have had chicks in the outdoor coop in freezing winter temps), they can be placed out in the coop (in a separate brooder or crate) and join into the main flock so much more easily. At 3 weeks old my chicks were mingling with the big girls with no problems whatsoever. So much less work, worry, and much easier integration. The difference is astounding. Closest thing there is to a broody hen.
  21. Jack Speese
    I too have to agree with brucifer. This is indeed an interesting article and these options are indeed intriguing and worth considering. But heat lamps, used safely, have always worked well for me for chicks, ducklings, goslings, turkeys and gamebirds. Obviously one should definitely get the right kind of heat lamp with a ceramic bulb socket, keep it clean and free of dust, and hang it securely so that it cannot fall, that goes without saying. And in cold weather, I always have a back-up (second lamp) in case a bulb blows. Even here in the south, you can still get nighttime temperatures that drop below 50 degrees in the spring. I've also raised plenty of chicks under broodies or their natural mothers and that to me is the method of choice, particularly for waterfowl, but the constraints mentioned in the article are certainly valid, plus you have to have at least some hens of a breed that still has the instincts to brood and raise chicks.
  22. brucifer
    Sorry, I disagree with the premise of the article. It's not an accurate or fair assessment at all regarding heat lamps..

    I'm fine with the presentation of optional heating sources for brooders; however, parabolic heat lamps are as safe as any other heat source IF USED RESPONSIBLY. The guard MUST be in place, and young children should ALWAYS be supervised around electrical devices, ANY electrical device. Furthermore, ANY heat source carries a risk of fire. A ceramic heat-emitter bulb can cause a fire; a heating pad can short and cause a fire, and a hot plate can also cause an electrical fire. Also, if a person doesn't have enough sense to raise a heat lamp to lower the temperature in a brooder, to lower the lamp to increase the temp, and to use a reliable thermometer to monitor brooder temperature, then that person has no business raising chicks. Get a pet rock instead!

    As far as the benefits of parabolic heat lamps, there are several: First, they're inexpensive, and THEY DO THE JOB. In fact, many professional poultry breeders use parabolic heat lamps in conjunction with their brooders. Instead of using those flimsy clips that come with the heat lamps, they usually suspend each lamp from the ceiling or hang each from a stand directly over one corner of each brooder. It's a simple set up, and it works. That's how I use mine, and my brooder temps are easy to adjust and spot on. No pasty butt chicks. No broiled chicks. My chicks thrive!

    Another nice thing about heat lamps is that you can readily tell whether or not the heat source (lamp) is working because the light goes out when it's not working, and it's quick and easy to change out a bulb. Good luck finding out when a heating pad gives up the ghost or when an expensive hot plate bites the dust. Do you have a back-up or spare hot plate? I doubt it! Sadly, your chicks can easily become chilled before you know it, and chilled chicks die. BTW, I used a heating pad before they became popular. They work great, but like any heat source, you need to monitor a heating pad and have a back-up plan in case it goes on the fritz.

    Studies have shown that the infra-red heat source of parabolic heat lamps actually helps chicks to get along with one another. Chicks have no problem sleeping with the light on or off. They sleep several times per day regardless. Now, if you want to shell out big bucks for a fancy heat source such as a hot plate, go for it, but don't knock us who have successfully used heat lamps for many, many years. Again, go to just about any professional breeding operation, and more likely than not you will see that they use parabolic heat lamps. Most professionals have a vested interest in their poultry, practice safe husbandry, and know what they're doing. If parabolic heat lamps are good enough for the professionals, then they are good enough for many BYCers as well. Be safe!
  23. Molpet
    love my Mama Heating Pad
  24. KuneKune
    this is great laying out all the options in a clear way
  25. Treerooted
  26. DancingWthDucks
    Great article! I personally have never used a heat lamp, for the reasons that you mentioned in the article, instead I use heat plates and definetely recommend them.
  27. cluckcluckgirl
    This is an amazing presentation to show other options!
  28. Ren2014
    Great article! I use the Mama Heating Pad with my ducklings and they love it.
    (going to google wool hen now:)
  29. yyz0yyz0
    Ok, everybody chant with me: Heating Pad Heating Pad Heating Pad Heating Pad Heating Pad Heating Pad Heating Pad Heating Pad.
    Can you tell I luv me some heating pad brooder? HAve used it both inside and out and love it, works so well and draws so much less power than the heating bulb.
  30. mymilliefleur
    Yes! I ditched my heat lamp several years ago for the mama heating pad method and I have never looked back. We have asked our local feed store to consider selling an alternative to the heat lamps and to get the word out on how much safer and healthier they are. Great article pip!
  31. pipdzipdnreadytogo
    Thanks for the comments, everyone! : )

    EggSighted4Life, I had to look up what a wool hen was and, wow, that's awesome! I've got classes today, but will be looking more into it and possibly adding it to the page when I have more time! : D
  32. EggSighted4Life
    Nice article! Wonder if there is room to add the wool hen as an option?
  33. ChickenGrass
    Great article.
    I totally agree with using heat plates.
    It's all I have ever used and all I ever will use!
  34. ChickenGrass
    Great article.
    I totally agree with using heat plates.
    It's all I have ever used and all I ever will use!
  35. Blooie
    Well done! Multiple options all in one place and a good dose of common sense! So glad that you mentioned Mama Heating Pad and @aart 's homemade brooder plate. I know that folks like their heat lamps but don't often see beyond what the feed store recommends so this was a breath of fresh air!
  36. henny1129
    Very informative! Loved it!
  37. CuzChickens
    Great article. I have not quite had the money to break away from heat lamps yet, because they are pretty cheap, but I hope to have a heating pad system rigged up by the time I hatch some chicks in February.

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