Bad Experience Brooding with Ceramic Heat Lamp

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by my sunwolf, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'm a small-scale producer, so I really shouldn't have experimented... but I wanted a safer way to brood chicks than the 250W red heat lamps (I am terrified of a barn fire--it borders on neurosis!).

    First I bought two Brinsea EcoGlow 50s, plugged one in to test out on a batch of 40 Silkies, and noticed that the birds were COLD. I read through the directions again and again, and finally in fine print was "Do not use when temperatures are below 50˚F." Well, that was dumb. Of course, that info was NOT on the website; only when I received my EcoGlows did the instructions let me know this small bit of very important information. We brood hundreds of chicks in our BARN each year, starting in February/March time frame. It was definitely going to get below 50˚F! I tried supplementing the heat with a lamp, but it still wasn't hot enough. I ended up having to ditch the EcoGlows, and went with my old 250W enemy.

    Next, I purchased two 200W ceramic bulbs and 100W ceramic bulb on ebay for maybe $15 or $20 each. These are specifically for keeping reptiles warm, but I have read a few things that say they work great for chicks. When they arrived, I installed the two 200W and one 100W hanging VERY low (within 12") over a batch of 110 Cornish X + 25 Silkies. They were FREEZING, and huddling like crazy. Temps were freezing outside. I had some immediate pile-up issues, and I felt sick.

    I switched the 100W ceramic bulb out for a 250W red bulb, since I clearly was having bad luck. They all piled under the 250W bulb, and more loses. I had made the mistake of assuming that you can't get a thermometer reading for a ceramic bulb: turns out that you can.

    I have since researched that the problem with ceramic bulbs: they only emit heat in one concentrated spot right under the bulb, but no ambient heat. Good for reptiles, not so good for big batches of chicks.

    I had this setup, of red lamp with two ceramic bulbs, for a few days and lost a few chicks each night to piling while the temps were in the 20˚F range.

    I finally got so frustrated from losing so many chicks that I built an Ohio hover brooder (sort of, since I am no builder, but it does the job) from recycled wood. I tried a ceramic lamp in one end and a 60W white bulb in the other, set it up, and the chicks all clumped near the white bulb. I thought this was because they were too hot next to the ceramic bulb, but when I looked closer, the ones still beside the ceramic bulb were desperately huddled together. The bulbs were clearly only able to keep the chicks right in front of the lamp warm, even in the hover brooder. I had another couple of deaths from piling.

    Essentially, I have decided that these ceramic reptile lamps are the WORST possible way to brood chicks, natural daylight rhythms be ******. Whoever suggests them is probably only brooding 20 chicks in their house where temps are stable.

    Now, I have a 60W on one side and the 250W on the other side of the hover brooder. Temps will get into the 30s tonight, and into the teens later this week. I'll let you know how it goes. I may have to change out the 60W for something of higher wattage for the first few weeks.

    Another thing which I forgot to take into account is that Cornish X are particularly vulnerable to cold when they are young, which may have been why they were having such trouble with piling. I have NEVER had this much trouble brooding before, and I have brooded with much nastier weather and much less wattage on the lamps. I'm beginning to think that the Cornish X's weakness may also be to blame in this awful brooding experience, since I've never brooded Cornish X this early in the season before.

    Just had to share this awful experience [​IMG] Our goal, to raise 600 meat birds this year, might be a little lofty at this rate.
    1 person likes this.
  2. Gingersnap722

    Gingersnap722 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2013
    Wow, so sorry to hear about your experience. I hope the set up you have now works much better!
  3. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

    Feb 18, 2011
    Sorry about all the chicks you lost. Do you know what brand of ceramic bulbs you have?
  4. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you [​IMG] I am really hoping that everything works now, for the sake of these babies.

    Hm, interesting that you mention it because I'm not sure. I think they are the "Heat Emitter" brand, if that exists. I've heard of some new infrared bulbs being coated in Teflon, and I know that the fumes generated from hot Teflon kill birds. However, I didn't think that this applied to the reptile bulbs.
    1 person likes this.
  5. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    ...yeah, just went out to check on them now that the temp is dropping (it's at 35˚F right now), and they were peeping like crazy, the "I'm cold" not the "it's nighttime" peep, and all huddled next to the 250W lamp and not the 60W. So, replaced the 60W with a 250W red lamp. I'll go out and check again once the lamp has a chance to warm up. Now the brooder has two 250W bulbs on each side, so essentially there is no cooler side... that would be, oh, climbing out from under the brooder. Don't think they would dare with the temps so cold!

    I was pretty sure the hover brooder is supposed to do good with lower temps and lower wattages... but if ANY of these chicks survive, I will be grateful for the hover. I even have a few bales of straw on top of the brooder for insulation.

    Ugh. Just such a frustrating experience. Did I mention I have never had as much brooding trouble before?
    1 person likes this.
  6. Gingersnap722

    Gingersnap722 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 13, 2013
    I can't imagine the frustration. Come on little babies! And can Spring get here already??? Well, for you folks in the cold weather anyway.
  7. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you Karen, I've seen those but couldn't figure out what they were called to buy them! If I'm going to do a whole lot more winter/early spring brooding I may definitely invest.

    I think that the Ohio hover is working, especially with two 250W lamps at night. I'm turning one off during the day. I've noticed the Cornish X are not too good at self-regulating as other chicks. Next time, we are delaying chicks until at least April, and looking into the Freedom Rangers.
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I don't think either the plate heaters and especially the CHE's are meant to be used in such a low ambient temperatures.
    It's not the product but the applications that are the problem here.

    I got a CHE and testing it inside in about 65 degree room it does not radiate heat as far as a light bulb for a reptile it's great but for more than a few chicks, not enough.

    Kind of makes sense with the CHE but Brinsea should definitely note the ambient temp on the website.

    My hatch is due tomorrow!
  9. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    Yeah, this is essentially what I realized during my HUGE mistakes! I understand now how they use so little electricity...

    I'm very interested in the "sweeter heater," which looks like it has much more power than the CHE or the plate (like Brinsea's), but I also like the idea of the hover brooder as I always prefer something that I can build myself. Of course, the fire hazard is still there with the application of the lights.

    I also think a big difference is # of chicks. 100+ babies and cold temps, and the hanging lamp setup doesn't seem to work at all. I have done 100+ babies, and cold temps, but never both at once.

    aart, what are you hatching and how many?
    1 person likes this.

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