Confused about brooder heating/lighting

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by JoannaCW, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. JoannaCW

    JoannaCW New Egg

    Mar 2, 2012
    I've been looking at online instructions for raising chicks. Many of them recommend using a light bulb to heat the brooder in which very young chicks are kept. Many also describe a consistent temperature at which chicks should be kept each week of their early development. Some mention that growers should reduce the hours of daylight to which they're exposed: one lists 24 hrs/day for the first week,. 8-13 hrs for weeks 2-6 and so on.
    Big question: How can I maintain consistent warmth without overexposing the chicks to light? Small question: How gradual is the 24-hr to 13-hr step-down?
    Any advice greatly appreciated.
  2. Shane17

    Shane17 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 14, 2012
    [​IMG]Don't sweat all those numbers too much. My chicks are only 9 days old and the temps range from 80-98. I have a heat lamp above them but if its warm outside my house absorbs the heat and jacks the temp up in the room I keep them in. They seem plenty happy. No panting or loud chirps! The chicks will let you know if not comfy! Usually all that's on in there is the red heat light unless I'm in there with the light on.
  3. mikecnorthwest

    mikecnorthwest Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 27, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    My Coop
    I agree... don't sweat the numbers so much. I start my chicks around 95 the first week and then reduce from there about 5 degrees a week. That being said, if the temp dips to 85 the first week and the chicks look happy, I don't sweat it. As for light, I brood in a rubbermaid container in the garage and will keep the lights on in the garage 24/7 for about 3-4 weeks. For the last couple of weeks I turn the light on in the morning and turn them off at night.
  4. felidaet

    felidaet Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 10, 2008
    Vancouver, Wa.
    I brood mine in the garage in a large wood brooder for the first 5 - 6 weeks. I leave a red heat lamp on 24 hours a day. The only daylight they see at this point is when I take them outside to play for a few minutes on a warm day. We also hold them a lot when they are in the garage and so they see white light whenever we are out there. If it is a warm day without a breeze I will open the garage door for awhile to let in fresh air.

    After they move to the coop they will experience daylight through the windows in the coop. I will leave them locked in the coop for a week or two (until they are about 8 weeks old) before I start letting them out in the run.
  5. damselfish

    damselfish Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 8, 2008
    Southwest Missouri
    When they're talking about "growers" and all this daylight exposure stuff, they may be referring to meat birds. I don't know anything about that, and whether that would be good advice or not.

    For your basic regular backyard chickens, you're supposed to start around 95 degrees. We use a red heat light. Supplemental light just comes from windows, we don't leave any other light on at night. We used a white heat light the first week we had chicks and of course had to leave it on to keep them warm. Man, those chicks were loud. Probably because they couldn't get any sleep! Then we went and got a red one.

    Some here like the reptile warmers (heat only, no light) but I have not seen or tried one.

    Use the 95 degrees as a beginning estimate, lay a cheap thermometer down on the floor of the brooder and use it to get the heat just about right. From there, just watch the chicks. If they're all huddled together under the lamp, they're cold. If they're as far from the light as they can get, they're hot.

    Chicks can definitely handle much cooler temps as long as they have somewhere warm to go. I have learned to think of the heat lamp area as equivalent to running back under mama's feathers for a warmup or to sleep. The rest of our brooding room in the coop is much cooler, but they have that heat source to run back to. Do not try to make your whole brooder 95 degrees. More space is better so they can find a comfortable temp for themselves.

    Do not freak out, I was exactly where you are four years ago, reading everything I could get my hands on and worrying that I would do something wrong.

    Oh, and [​IMG]. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2012
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    :frow Welcome to the forum! :frow Glad you joined us. :frow

    Many things you read online about chick and chicken care is written for the commercial industry. It is a great source of knowledge from all their science and experiments, but you sometimes have to take what they say and adjust it for your conditions. I think what you are seeing about the length of day is that commercial growers use length of light to control certain things. When they are just baby chicks, they keep the light on constantly so they will eat and get off to a good start, but they gradually cut back the length of light so they can control when those pullets start to lay. They don’t want their pullets to start laying too early when they lay all those strange pullet eggs which they can’t sell as Grade A Large, plus they want the pullets bodies to grow a bit so they are less likely to have medical problems. Don’t let that last worry you. The chickens they are dealing with are special commercial breeds especially bred to lay large eggs early in life.

    When they want the pullets to start laying, the commercial growers increase the length of light to make them think it is spring and they should start laying. It’s not the length of day that triggers that. It is that the days seem to be getting longer. Just like it is not the length of light that triggers a molt. The days getting shorter triggers a molt.

    I know that is a long explanation, but don’t worry about the length of light they are seeing. It is not important to your chickens. As long as I am providing heat to the brooder, I leave my light on 24 hours a day. It does not hurt them.

    And I strongly agree with keeping one area warm and let the rest cool off. They will find their own comfort zone. I keep my brooder in the coop with a good draft guard but only heat one area. The rest cools down as it will, sometimes in the 40's or 50's. It's surprising how much time they spend in the cooler areas, just going back to the heat when they need to warm up.
  7. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Flock Master Premium Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    You have received good information in the posts above. The red light will be calming and allow to sleep at night, but also to see to eat if the are hungry. Mine ate day and night until they were out of the brooder at 6-7 weeks. The biggest problem is raising the red heat lamp up so high as to not overheat them when they are a couple of weeks old. They only make the red lights in 250 wt, then you can only find 25 wt "party bulbs," so you may have to use some 60, 75, or 100 watt incandescent bulbs (not fluorescent) which tend to cause the chicks to become more rowdy. 100 wt bulbs are now off the market unless you can find old stock.
  8. wilbilt

    wilbilt Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 20, 2012
    Nor Cal
    My wife and daughter picked up six chicks at TSC two days ago. Our first experience raising chicks.

    I had a large plastic tote set up as a brooder. I first bought a 125W clear heat lamp, but it would not keep the temp up to 95. I replaced it with a red 250W bulb, which would get it up to 100 when sitting right on the wire top of the brooder. This was with the brooder in the living room just to test the setup.

    I then moved it to the bathtub in our bathroom, which is situated in a corner with a window on each wall over the tub. With the brooder in the tub (less airflow around it) and after adding the bedding, the lamp would keep it at 110+ sitting on top. I hung the lamp from a swag chain over one end of the brooder, which makes it easy to adjust the height by moving up or down a couple of links on the hook in the ceiling.

    The tub is situated at the southwest corner of the house, which means it gets lots of sunlight, especially in the afternoon. It got a little warm yesterday, so I moved the light up a few links. It got cool last night, and the temp was down to 80 in there when I got up this morning. The chicks were fine, they had moved under the lamp but were not huddled together, just sort of evenly spaced out at the warm end and resting comfortably. At this point, it seems they do fine with variations in the temperature of 20 degrees or so. We just check the temp once in a while. If they are unhappy, they certainly let us know.
  9. JoannaCW

    JoannaCW New Egg

    Mar 2, 2012
    Thank you all! It's good to get advice from people who are actually doing this on something like the scale that I envision, and to know that I needn't get hung up on all the fine print.
  10. RaeRae2

    RaeRae2 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 28, 2011
    I agree to not worry too much about specific numbers. I kept my chicks at 95 degrees the first week, and now I raised the red lamp up a few inches, so the hottest spot of the brooder is about 87-90. I suspended my light by a rope from the ceiling. The rope can be raised or lowered according to how much heat you want. I move the thermometer around the brooder, and the very outside, coldest edges are in the 50s. I find that at 10 days old, they mostly hanging out where it is 75-80 degrees. But they do have the hotter ring right under the lamp to get into if they want to warm up. I find that they only stay in the hot spot for 5 minutes at a time, and then move to the cooler spots where it is in the 75-80 degree range. I have 26 chicks in there, and they have lots of room to get out of the heat if they want to, or else they all fit nicely under the lamp, if they want to do that also.

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