Topic/Question of the week - Brooding and supplementing heat for chicks

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by sumi, Jul 31, 2016.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité

    Jun 28, 2011
    Tipperary, Ireland
    There has been a lot of discussions and questions asked on brooding chicks and heating and we thought it'd be handy to have all the questions, answers and expert opinions together in one thread for reference and discussion. All of you, please tell us your thoughts and practices when it comes to brooding chicks and supplementing heat. What worked best for you, things to do and NOT to do, etc. We'd especially like your opinions on:

    - What temperature is the best for small and growing chicks?
    - When is cold too cold?
    - At what age can they start going outside for short periods and
    - At what age can they move outside full-time?
    - When do you turn the heat lamp off?

    For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here:
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2017
    Laurenwasha2014 likes this.
  2. Pork Pie

    Pork Pie Flockwit

    Jan 30, 2015
    Good idea,Sumi. I'll be using an incubator for the first time soon, so I will find this thread useful
  3. BantyChooks

    BantyChooks Pullarius

    Aug 1, 2015
    My Coop
    Quote: Standard advice often given in feed stores for heat lamps is to start at having one corner be 95 and decrease it by five each week. I think this is way too much heat. Baby chicks are tougher than we give credit for!
    I use a heating pad w/o auto shut off (MHP) that allows the chicks to select their own body temperature.
    I had 3wk olds running around in 50 degree F weather, only occasionally popping under the heating pad.
    When they are in the house, (70) 1 1/2wk olds only use the heating pad occasionally in the day to duck under and at night while they sleep. By two weeks it is only at night, and by three they are off. Mind you, this is is 70 degree temps. According to the "chart" they should be at 85. Hmmmm.... Nope! [​IMG]

    Quote: Chicks are too cold when they start peeping noisily and huddling together.

    Quote: Any age. I keep mine in for 1-2 weeks just cause they are so stinkin' adorable, but others like @Blooie have theirs outside from day one.
    Quote: When they are avoiding / no longer going under it.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  4. sumi

    sumi Égalité

    Jun 28, 2011
    Tipperary, Ireland
    Good answer @BantyChooks , thank you!

    I've hatched 3 littles just over 3 weeks ago and they've been outside all day for more than a week now. Inside, from day one, I've kept the heat lamp positioned to make a "warm" area, nowhere near 95F, I'd guess closer to 75F and they've been happy with that.

    Outside, well, someone forgot to tell Ireland it's summer, it hasn't been very warm here, daytime temps dipping to the 60's at times, especially during rainy spells, which are frequent here. I've been keeping an eye on the biddies, when I thought in the evenings that it's getting way too cold for them outside, they were happy-happy, running around still, so I left them out there until 10pm some nights.

    They are still using the heat lamp in the evenings and at night. I've been watching them, where they position themselves to sleep, they are seeking the warm spot still, so I will keep them there until I see they start avoiding the heat at night and let them sleep without the lamp for 2-3 nights, before moving them to the outside pen full time.

    I found not pampering them with too much heat really helps them toughen up, feather out and grow.
  5. BullChick

    BullChick Not who you think

    Apr 17, 2012
    Coffee shop
    This year, starting in April when nights were in the low thirties, I put five ducklings in the coop without heat at three weeks. I had the heat lamp all ready to turn on. But they never made a sound all the way up to midnight. At six in the morning, they were still quiet and sleeping.
    I have now put chicks and other ducklings out at one and two weeks. I have yet to need heat. I know this will not work for everyone. But somehow has worked for me this year. I am in Pennsylvania. Not a warm climate.
  6. silkiecuddles

    silkiecuddles FortheLoveofSilkies

    Mar 1, 2015
    - At what age can they start going outside for short periods and

    As long as I have time to sit and watch them, mine get to be out as young as a couple days. I think it's best to let them get outside and build up immunity to things in the dirt as soon as possible.

    - At what age can they move outside full-time?
    To stay in the favor of my family ( :gig ) my chicks are outside from pretty much as soon as I get them. They're brooded in a large dog crate with a heat lamp till they're large enough to go in the coop and old enough to not need a heat lamp.

    - When do you turn the heat lamp off?

    Right now in Florida, the heat lamp is completely unnecessary during the day and most nights for my five Silkie chicks (8 weeks old). I've been leaving it off 24/7 recently, because the way I see it, they would more easily die of excess heat than of lack it.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2016
    2 people like this.
  7. 21hens-incharge

    21hens-incharge Addict

    Mar 9, 2014
    Northern Colorado
    I think the most important thing is learning what they need by paying attention to the sounds they are making.

    Yes that loud peeping and huddling means they are cold.

    I found also that the 95 degrees recommended was excessive and they avoided the heat.
    It is very important to have enough space OUT from under the heat lamp that if they are getting to warm they can get away from the heat.
    Just as with adult chickens VENTILATION is a MUST. The heat can build up fast in the totes that many people are using to brood chicks.

    I tend to have mine outside as young as 2 weeks on nice days in a play yard that has some shade and some direct sun. Again that allows them to choose how warm they are. I like to have them outside full time by one month old. Younger would be nicer for them. I have raised chicks on the floor in the barn as well and these were my strongest and most reliable hens in the end.

    When to turn off the heat lamp depends a lot on what breeds and what the ambient air temps are. Once they are feathered the heat lamp is not needed, that I do know.

    This go around I am lucky enough to have had a broody bantam willing to adopt the new laying hens.

    They are only about 4 days old now and they are under her only when they want to be. I find them under her off and on during the day but staying under her at night. They have been out running around the brooder at less then 65 degrees ambient air temp. This group will have mama to take care of them so will be outside by next weekend. (I have to make a broody and grow out pen or they would be out there right now)
  8. Mountain Peeps

    Mountain Peeps Change is inevitable, like the seasons

    Apr 23, 2014
    My Coop
    - What temperature is the best for small and growing chicks?
    It's recommended that you start your brooder at 95 or 90 degrees F. I started mine around 90 degrees and my chicks were fine. Like @21hens-incharge said, the best way to gage the temperature is to observe the chicks. If they are scattered by the outer parts of the brooder and panting, they are too hot. If they are huddled under the heat lamp, peeping loudly, they're too cold. If they are coming and going from place to place and peeping normally, they're content.

    Lower the temperature by 5 degrees each week until the temp matches room temp.

    - When is cold too cold?
    Like I stated, your chicks will answer that for you. You can be pretty sure that anything below 90 degrees is too cold for chicks under one week of age.

    - At what age can they start going outside for short periods
    I agree with @silkiecuddles . As long as you are with them to keep them safe, your chicks can go outside within their first week. A mother hen usually takes her chicks out within a few days, so why wait with your chicks?

    - At what age can they move outside full-time?
    This depends on breed and coop conditions. Is the chicken coop finished? Don't move your young birds out if the coop is not completed. Do you already have full grown chickens? If so, you can move your chicks out when they are around 8 weeks to begin introducing. Bantams or slow-developing breeds sometimes take longer to mature and, thus, might need a little longer in the brooder, but, generally speaking, you can move your chicks out once they around 8 weeks. However, like the other members have stated, there are alternatives and you can keep your chicks outside from day one, as long as the living conditions are appropriate.

    - When do you turn the heat lamp off?
    When the temperature reaches room temperature.
    Shepshill likes this.
  9. sjturner79

    sjturner79 Songster

    Mar 5, 2015
    South Australia

    I start a bit below incubator temperature, and drop it daily.
    As others have said if they are huddle in a pile and cheeping loud then it's too cold.
    I start taking mine outside on day 1 in summer or around 5 days old in winter. The move into the coop without heat once they have thier first feathers.
    Shepshill likes this.
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I think these have been answered pretty well already but I’ll give my opinion. I don’t raise chicks in the house, my 3’ x 6’ brooder is in the coop to start with, so some of these questions don’t really apply to the way I do things.

    - What temperature is the best for small and growing chicks?

    There is no perfect temperature. If you have a roomful of people some will be too warm, some will be too cold, and some will be just right. Chicks are just as different. To me, the best set-up is to have one area warm enough in the coolest temperatures and an area cool enough in the warmest temperatures. Inside a house with climate controlled conditions this isn’t too challenging but outside where you can get huge temperature swings day to day let alone overnight, you need a larger brooder. It doesn’t matter if one area is too warm as long as they have an area cool enough. It doesn’t matter if there is ice in the far end of the brooder in winter as long as one area is warm enough. I find that straight out of the incubator or straight from the post office the chicks are really good about self-regulating their own temperatures as long as they have a choice. That takes all the stress and worry out of it for me.

    - When is cold too cold?

    Also, when is it too hot? That’s another important part of this. As others have said, your chicks will tell you. There are threads on here where people have had broody hens raise chicks with ambient temperatures often below freezing, sometimes well below freezing. I’ve had hens hatch and raise chicks in some pretty strong heat waves, daily highs well above 100 degrees F, sometimes above 110. The hens can manage. The more extreme the temperatures on both ends the more the risk so try6 to not get ridiculous. There are no magic numbers where everything is great at one temperature but if it gets one degree warmer or cooler disaster looms. It is a gradual change to the risk with a change in temperature.

    - At what age can they start going outside for short periods and

    Observing my broody hens they pretty well keep chicks covered the first day or two, depending on how warm or cold the temperature is. But after a couple of days the chicks start spending more and more time out from under the hen, scratching, eating, and running around. So I consider the first day or two as when they probably need more warmth. If you get them through the post office they have pretty much passed this more critical time by the time you get them.

    When I put mine in the brooder straight from the incubator they normally spend a day or two in a warm spot. But as long as it is not very cold in the rest of the brooder, it usually doesn’t take them many days before they are exploring and playing in the rest of the brooder. Again I don’t think there is a magic number for when you can take them outside in any conditions, but I think the age they can go outside with you watching them is measured in a very few days, not weeks.

    - At what age can they move outside full-time?

    It purely depends on your conditions. If you can provide an area outside that is warm enough in the coolest conditions and cool enough in the warmest conditions, the can immediately go outside. You also have to consider how the coop is made, how well does it provide protection from weather and predators.

    If you have adult chickens already, they need protection from the adults. Integration is another huge topic. Again there is no magic age for this, it depends on your conditions. Since mine are raised with the flock in my outside brooder, I can integrate pretty young. I also have a lot of space, I consider space a key factor.

    - When do you turn the heat lamp off?

    Not everyone uses a heat lamp. I do but others use many different types of heat sources. As long as you can safely provide an area warm enough it doesn’t matter what kind of heat source you use. We all have our personal preferences and experiences, but different methods have been used for a long, long time. The ancient Egyptians used to incubate and brood chicks using heat piped in from a fire. This was thousands of years before electricity was used. People like to think this is new and marvelous. It’s not.

    A few years back in a heat wave I turned the daytime heat off at 2 days and the overnight heat off at 5 days. The chicks were telling me that they did not need it or appreciate it. During the winter when ice is still forming on the far end of my brooder I usually leave the heat on, day and night, until five weeks. I’ve moved chicks from my brooder to my unheated grow-out coop at five weeks with the overnight lows in the mid-20’s F. My grow-out coop has good ventilation up high but also really good draft protection down low where they are. My chicks are acclimated to the cold because they have been playing in the far ends of my brooder when it was cold there. I also generally have 15 to 25 chicks at a time so they can help keep each other warm if they need to, though I really doubt they need to that much. Once they feather out they are very well insulated against cold. If yours are living in tropical conditions, five weeks may be too young for them in temperatures below freezing.

    That’s basically it for me. I don’t believe in any magic numbers for any of this. It’s going to depend on your unique conditions. Just watch your chicks, they will tell you if they are doing OK or not.

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