Newbie w/Heat Lamp Questions...


In the Brooder
10 Years
Feb 17, 2009
I know this is very basic information, but I have never done this before and have some questions about using a heat lamp.

I was at the feed store yesterday buying some of the supplies I will need for the chicks I'm getting soon (only 4 days now!), and a man standing near the checkout counter saw that I was going to buy a 250 watt red infrared light. He started telling me that I didn't want that, that it was much stronger than I needed, and that it would start a fire if I was using a cardboard box (which is what I have been planning to start them out in). I hadn't read or heard anything like this anywhere, and so I didn't know what to think. I tried to ask him what he did suggest using, but he didn't really answer my question. (The lady checking me out didn't seem to really agree with what he was saying, but I don't think she wanted to disagree outright with him). So anyway, I thought I'd ask about heat lamps here and get some different opinions.

What types of bulbs does everyone here use/recommend? Are there any safety issues with using cardboard boxes for brooders, or with using certain types of substrate/litter? Obviously I would be hanging the light an appropriate distance away so as to achieve the proper temperature within the brooder.

I should add that I will only have about 4 chicks. Maybe the 250 watt light is overkill for only 4 chicks? If I used something like a 75 or 100 watt white light, does it make any difference what KIND of bulb I choose? And does it always have to have a reflector? Sorry if these are stupid questions, I just have no idea what I'm doing (although I'm trying to learn).

Hangin Wit My Peeps
11 Years
Apr 20, 2008
Birnamwood, Wisconsin
I have used a cardboard box to brood all my chicks and as long as it's up high enough you don't have to worry about a fire at all. I use the 250 watt red bulb and always have. Just make sure it's about 20-25 inches above the chicks and I lay mine on hardware cloth (made of metal of course) and I got my large watermelon box from walmart for free. It's served us well! It's had many chicks in it and it's now holding my silkies
No fire yet.


11 Years
Nov 5, 2008
Torrance, CA
Its not so much the number of chicks, but the temperature that is important. I live in soCal. so raising the temp from 60 to 95 degrees doesn't take much work. If it is nearly freezing where you live, a heat lamp will be needed to raise the temp that much.

There is nothing wrong with a cardboard box, but you will want to make sure it either has a screen over the top of it, or it has really high sides. I was using a plastic tote bin and walked out last week to find my one-week old baby bantam standing on the edge of the bin! I didn't have a cover on it and he had managed to get up on the 12" sides.


13 Years
Jan 11, 2007
Northern Va.
I've used both a 250 watt and a 100 or 75 watt gooseneck desk lamp. It doesn't really matter as long as the temp is right: 90 - 95 degrees the first week and 5 degrees less each week after that. Make sure you have a place for the chicks to get away from the heat if they want as that is important. Have fun and best wishes!

Autumn Mama

10 Years
Mar 15, 2009
British Columbia,
I'm glad to hear that others have used the 250 as well. I am currently monitering my (Rubbermaid) brooder, with the 250 watt red lightbulb inside a reflector, suspended over the brooder at around 24" and I have achieved the consistent temp of 95 degrees with a cooler spot about 5 degrees lower at the other end of the bin. I also learned that the red light color will reduce pecking in the chicks, as opposed to a white light...

DH and my two LOs just made a lid for it out of 1x 2's and 1' x 1' hardware cloth, so we don't have mishaps with escapees, my cat or falling lamps!!!

Chicks come in less than 36 hours!!!!! WoooHooo!!!
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11 Years
Jun 15, 2008
Indoors I've never used higher than a 100w bulb and that can put my brooder over 100F even in winter. I mostly use 60w bulbs and then 40w to transition them to no heat. Outdoors, in a garage, or in a cool basement you might need a 250 but otherwise it's over kill.


11 Years
Nov 15, 2008
North Kohala, Hawaii
I use both a 250 and a 100 watt heat lamp. The trick is to GET A THERMOMETER! The chicks donʻt care what you are using as long as the temp at their level is right. I usually start with a 250 watt and raise it 2" a week until week three and then switch to the 100 watt and lower it back down. That seems to give the standard 95 degrees stepping down 5 degrees a week until fully feathered out. And donʻt forget, use a porcelain socket and wire bulb guard with all heat lamps, or you will have a serious fire problem.


In the Brooder
10 Years
Feb 17, 2009
Thanks for all the replies!
I will set up the brooder in the next couple of days and experiment with the temperature before the chicks get here. (I do have a thermometer).

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