heat lamps Anyone who has ever hatched chickens knows that it can be difficult and time-consuming. Most would agree, however, that it is a very rewarding task. When you hatch chicks for the first time, it may seem like there are so many things that could go wrong, and that you have to prepare so much in advance. At Brinsea, we strive to help make the process as simple and straight-forward as possible. One aspect of hatching chicks that can be difficult and dangerous is brooding. In this article we will look at the dangers of heat lamps, which is a common issue that many people face. 


Brooding Basics


Chicks need to be well taken care of after they hatch. The first thing you have to be aware of is that chicks can chill easily, especially if they are taken out of the incubator too soon. The down on chicks’ bodies does very little to keep them warm, which is why, in nature, the mother hen broods her chicks. Never remove chicks from the incubator unless they are completely dry. If taken out too early, they can chill and die. 


For the brooder space, you need to make sure that the chicks have enough room. The heat source should not warm the entire area of the brooder, because then the chicks will have nowhere to go if they get too hot. Make sure to keep the food and water away from the heat source as well. Allowing the chicks to be able to decide when they want to be underneath the heat source is important to keeping them healthy. If you carefully observe their behavior you will be able to see if they are getting too hot or too cold. 


Chicks that are too hot will pant or try to get as far away from the heat source as possible. Chicks that are too cold will huddle together underneath the heat source. Both of these scenarios can be dangerous for the chicks, so watch them carefully if you are unsure of the proper temperature to keep your brooder. Also watch carefully if you are unsure if your chicks have enough room to spread out and cool off if needed. 


One tip we recommend is that you keep spares for your brooder. Either light bulbs or wafers; whatever the case, it is important to keep a few extras on hand in case the main one fails. 


Pasty Butt


Pasty butt, also known as pasted vent, is a dangerous side effect of too much heat. Poop builds up around the vent area on the chick and eventually blocks the vent. This can be fatal if it isn’t properly treated. Pasty butt can be caused by a few different things, including stress and certain infections. Overheating is also a common cause, and this is closely related to heat lamps. Radiant heat sources eliminate the possibility of overheating chicks, which effectively eliminates one source for pasty butt.


The Right Temperature


Similar to the aspects of incubation, brooding is affected by the ambient atmosphere. For example, if you are brooding your chicks in the middle of summer, a heat source may not be as crucial as when you brood during the winter. The right temperature also depends on how many chicks you have, since more chicks can keep each other warm easier than just a few chicks. 


In general, you want to keep the heat source temperature in the 90s for the first two weeks, and then decrease by 10℉ every two weeks after that. To help ensure the correct temperature, we recommend using multiple thermometers placed at different spots within the brooder. This lets you know if the heat is being distributed evenly, and it can also alert you of any drafty spots. This only applies to heat that is produced by a light bulb or heating lamp.


The Heat Source


There are many different options when it comes to choosing your heat source. Common choices include incandescent bulbs and infrared bulbs. Both of these will do the job of heating just fine, but they come with some downfalls. Another choice is a radiant heat source, which we will discuss later. You can also use ceramic or halogen bulbs, as well as an incandescent floodlight. 


With a regular light bulb, you face the problem of chicks that don’t become accustomed to a day/night routine. A light that is always shining may actually keep them from sleeping. Infrared bulbs shine a red light, so you won’t have to worry about the problem of a day/night routine. The red light can also keep the chicks from pecking at one another. Chicks peck at red items, so a lamp that makes everything red will keep them from focusing on one red thing in particular. 


Infrared bulbs, however, so come with the danger of fire. Cardboard is a common material that is used to make brooders, and wood shavings are a common bedding material. Both of these are very flammable, and heating a brooder 24/7 can result in disaster. Every so often there is a story in the news about a barn or even a house that burned down because of a heating lamp. Fire safety and energy efficiency are two factors to take into consideration when choosing your heat source. 


Radiant Heat


A radiant heat source attempts to mimic a mother hen as closely as possible. Heat sources that use radiant heat are much safer than lamps, and they are not a light source so you won’t have to worry about your chicks’ sleeping habits. Radiant heat sources (like Brinsea’s EcoGlow Chick Brooder) can also be more cost-effective since they require less electricity than a traditional heat lamp. The question you may be asking yourself now is, what is radiant heat?


If you want a general idea of what radiant heat is, just walk outside and witness how the sun warms your clothing. Artificial radiant heat uses electromagnetic waves that are invisible to the naked eye. These waves effectively transfer heat from one object to another, and they don’t warm the air as they pass through it. Only objects that absorb the electromagnetic waves and convert them into heat. 


Chicks can safely touch the underside of a radiant heat source, much like how they would nestle up against a mother hen’s warm belly. The height of Brinsea’s EcoGlow can be adjusted as the chicks grow to ensure they are kept warm for as long as necessary. 


Heating plates (which is what the EcoGlow is) may cost more initially, but they save you money in the long run by being economical, and they can save you from experiencing a disastrous fire in your barn or home. Since you can’t measure radiant heat with a thermometer, it is important to pay attention to your chicks’ behavior to make sure they are not overheated or too cold.


When Chicks are Done Brooding


As your chicks begin to grow feathers, the amount of external heat they require will lessen. You will know when the right time is to stop brooding because your chicks will be completely covered in feathers instead of down. These feathers act as a wonderful insulator for the now pullets and cockerels, which means they don’t need artificial heat any longer. This is an exciting time when they can be moved from the brooder to the coop! 


Visit Our Website


For more information on raising chicks from incubation to brooding, you can visit our website. If you don’t find the answers to the questions you’re looking for, feel free to message us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and we would be happy to help. Happy hatching!