Your brooder, your heat lamp and your chicks.

One of the most critical issues for new chicks is warmth.  Without a consistent heat lamp at the right temperature they will quickly chill and die.

This page covers what the optimum temperatures are at critical times in your chicks' lives, what the options are for heating and which is best in different circumstances.

Some of my chicks under Brinsea's radiant heat source.Some of my chicks loving their radiant heat lamp.

Keeping your chicks warm : what's the ideal temperature?

You will need to keep a careful eye on the temperature in the brooder; hatchlings move into it having spent at least a few hours drying out in a nice, hot incubator at around 99ºF / 37.5ºC.  To move from that to no heat is not an option - chicks can become chilled and die very, very quickly.  They need help to stay warm until they are properly feathered.

There are generally agreed specific instructions for heat levels which should start at week 1 by keeping the temperature at 95ºF / 35ºC. 

Here's what ideal brooder temperatures look like :


Temperature ºF

Temperature ºC



















Bear in mind, though, that brooder warmth will also be affected by the temperature of the room it's in and the number of hatchlings - because more chicks will keep each other warm.  So if, for example, you're brooding in the middle of a hot summer, you may not need a heat lamp in your brooder at all.

You need also to be aware that they must be kept draught free : a brooder which has some warm spots but other places where wind is whistling through is going to cause problems.

Don't take any chances - use a couple of thermometers to measure the brooder temperature, particularly in the early weeks of incubation.

Why not just one?  So that you can make sure the heat is distributed evenly - you're looking for the same reading in different places.

Remember - your chicks are the experts!

Thermometers and temperature grids are good, but the best indicators of whether they're warm enough are your hatchlings themselves.  Watch their behaviour, listen to the noises they make.

Are they spread out around the walls of your brooder, keeping well away from the heat lamp?  Are they showing any indication of panting?  They may well be too hot.  Chicks who are too hot can develop problems including dehydration and pasty butt.

Are they huddled together close to the heat source and peeping loudly?  They're likely to be too cold.  Chicks chill easily and can quickly die.  Increase the heat in your brooder until they are more comfortable.

Chicks who are comfortably warm without being either hot or cold will go about their business eating, drinking and exploring, spread out around the brooder, peeping cheerfully but not distressed.

The best brooder heat indicators are your chicks.

Which kind of heat is best?

This is a critical part of brooder safety. The traditional source of warmth in brooders is the heat lamp.

A 250 watt infrared bulb suspended above the brooder is the recommended amount. A red bulb is the most efficient as it doesn't stop the chicks from sleeping, as white light does, and can help prevent pecking.

Many people use heat lamps successfully and without incident. However, others don't. Heat lamps plus flammable materials like cardboard boxes or wood shavings are potentially lethal. Even those who consider they have their heat lamps well secured have been startled to find they really weren't.

If you wish to use a traditional heat lamp, that's absolutely your choice - and you can buy one by clicking this image. Just be very careful indeed not to put your chicks at risk.

The benefits of the radiant heat lamp.

For safety reasons I made a decision to use only a radiant heat source.  For me, that is Brinsea's heat lamps - I have both the small and the large versions.

The small one I use in the first stage brooder and all the chicks I've ever brooded have always loved it. The EcoGlow 50, which can keep up to 50 newly hatched chicks warm, I use when my little flock transfers to a larger brooder box.  It is equally effective and it's very easy to adjust the height as the babies grow.

A radiant heat lamp provides a source of comfort as well as warmth.  The heat warms the chicks' bodies as they touch it and they have a safe place under which to shelter and sleep when life gets too stressful for them. 

My chicks love their Brinsea EcoGlow 20 radiant heat lamp.

8 day old chicks still need a heat lamp.

There's no need to worry about the temperature under the EcoGlows : it's regulated for you.  The chicks are warmed to exactly the right degree; all you have to remember is to raise the height as they grow. 

With the small Brinsea heat lamp I raise it to a different level each week.   Once they're too big to get underneath it I either raise it using bricks, or switch to the larger EcoGlow 50.

For more information about these and an honest review of both, go to this page - it will open in a separate window so you can return here when you've finished.

How long do chicks need heat for?

This depends on a few things :

  • Where you live and the time of year you're brooding, which will dictate how hot or cold the general temperature is.
  • The breed of chicken : some heavy breeds won't require heat for as long as smaller breeds.
  • At what point your chicks have grown enough feathers (as opposed to the down they're born with).
  • So it's a matter for your judgement.    Again, watch your chicks : as a 'rule of thumb' if they're spending most of their time away from their heat lamp, they're ready for it to be switched off.

How to measure temperature in the brooder.

It's important to understand that the temperature throughout the brooder needs to be warm. With the Brinsea EcoGlow 20, the temperature in the room itself must be at least 50ºF (10ºC) - it's not powerful enough to sustain the right temperature if the ambient temperature is lower.

If you're worried at all about whether your brooder is warm enough, buy a couple of inexpensive thermometers and keep them at different points in the container. You'll then know for sure whether you need to raise or lower the temperature.

Terrarium thermometers like this one are ideal (click the image to buy); the probe remains inside the container while the thermometer itself remains outside, making it impossible for chicks to peck at and much easier to read.

Is there something else about brooding chicks I can help you with?

These articles will give you an understanding of the needs of hatchlings in their first days and weeks out of the incubator.

Just click on the pics to visit those pages.

From incubator to brooder - how to transition your chicks.
Chick brooders - what they are and how to make them.

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