Weaning chicks from heat.

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by lazy gardener, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    OK. You've got your first ever chicks set up in a brooder. They have food, water, and heat. They are happily chirping around, and growing. Their wing feathers are growing and they are taking exploratory flights across the brooder. Now what?

    Believe it or not, it's time to start weaning them from heat. If you are using a heat lamp, and you have those chicks in the house, you are most likely astounded at the amount of chick dust or dander that those little buggers are creating. That brooder needs to be big enough that the "un-heated" end of the brooder is as cool as the temperature in your home. As for the "heated end", the chicks only need a small area that is heated, enough room to snuggle under to warm up (without pig piling) so they can get back to the business of playing and growing. If your chicks are cramming into a corner, and complaining, then they are cold. But, if they lay under the heat, and are up and running around the rest of the time, they are just right. Throw out that whole idea about 5*/week. The first day or two, you are going to want to keep them around 90* so their little bodies can recover from shipping stress. But, after that, you can start decreasing their heat temperature.

    How to easily decrease their temp when using a heat lamp: If the chicks are in the house, you do not need one of those honking big 250W heat lamps. Those things can cook a cake. Decrease your wattage to a 60 - 75W bulb, and see how that works. You can also use a dimmer switch that can be plugged into your lamp. This allows for easily controlling the amount of heat put out by the bulb. Don't forget: a heat lamp is a fire risk. Firmly secure it by at least 2 if not 3 methods. Never trust the clamp that comes with that metal lamp shade.

    If you are brooding your chicks outdoors, they need to be in a predator proof area, and you might need that 250W bulb if you live in a cold area.

    As the chicks feather in, they will need less and less heat. by the time they are 3 weeks old, they may only need heat at night. You can work on weaning them from the heat by turning the heat off altogether, starting a few minutes at a time, and increasing that time a bit every day. Turn the heat off several times/day. This works especially good when you give them a treat to get them active: scrambled egg, some meal worms, earth worms, a fresh scoop of grit, a plug of sod from an untreated lawn.

    You can also take them outside for supervised play dates when ever the weather is nice. I advise you to use some sort of enclosure to keep them safe. If you trust that you can easily catch them and don't need a pen for them, think again. While you are trying to catch one chick, the rest are running in the opposite direction. A stray dog or a hawk could easily turn a fun time into a disaster.

    By the time your chicks are 4 weeks old, they should be off heat completely, and very well feathered. By the time they are 4 - 5 weeks old, they are ready to move outside (if you've been able to stand having them in the house even this long). They DO NOT NEED ANY HEAT. All they need is a secure coop with good ventilation, no drafts at perch height, and 4 s.f./chick in the coop.

    Want to make brooding chicks even easier? Try this tried and true method:


    Heating pad brooding removes much of the guess work. It allows the chicks to set their own pace for weaning from heat. It gives them a natural day/night cycle instead of having bright light shining on them 24/7. It cuts down on aggression and other behavioral issues. It allows safe outdoor brooding without all of the concern about the heat lamp not providing the right amount of temperature. It does not have the fire risk associated with a heat lamp. It is easier on the $$$ budget.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
    Birdwatcher804 and song of joy like this.
  2. ChickenMammX4

    ChickenMammX4 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2015
    SW Ohio
    This is a great thread! I've read Blooie's posts on brooding in the coop and I for one, plan to never brood in the house again. We did move our chicks out at 3+weeks old with no heat. The temps were 60sF day/30sF night. They were in a dry, draft-free coop with plenty of pine flakes to burrow in. They grew into hardy, healthy chickens. The chicks loved being able to stretch their legs and enjoy the outdoors.

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