How Much Heat Should Baby Chicks Have?
Baby chicks have the remarkable ability to find their ideal zone of warmth in the brooder and if you simply note your chicks’ positions, you’ll know whether the brooder temperature is too hot, not warm enough, or juuuuust right.
If the heat level is just right, chicks will be evenly spread throughout the brooder. With adequate food and fresh water, you’ll hear them making contented peeping sounds.
Temperature Too High
If your chicks are spread out around the perimeter of the brooder the temperature is likely too high. Raise the heat lamp another couple of inches and/or switch to lower wattage bulbs. The chicks will be silent and you may notice them panting and heads drooping.
Temperature Too Low
If the brooder is too cool, chicks will huddle together directly under the heat lamp. They will be noisy, a sign of distress. Lower the lamp closer to the floor of the brooder and/or put in higher watt bulbs.
Chicks huddled together in one spot on the perimeter of the brooder suggests they are uncomfortable and requires investigation. This distribution may be caused by a draft, external noises that are scaring them or uneven light distribution.
Warmth is critical to baby chicks, but their need for artificial heat diminishes as they age.
So how do you know if your brooder is the right temperature for your new chicks? In addition to noting your chicks’ positions in the brooder, a thermometer is a great tool. Brand new baby chicks prefer temperatures just under 100 degrees. However, their need for heat decreases about 5 degrees per week until they are about 10 weeks of age.
|Approximate Heat Needs by Age|
|Week 1||90 - 95°|
|Week 2||85 - 90°|
|Week 3||80 - 85°|
|Week 4||75 - 80°|
|Week 5, 6, 7||70 - 75°|
|Week 8||65 - 70°|
|Week 9||65° minimum|
Where to Place Lamps?
Suspend two lamps, each fitted with an incandescent 60-watt bulb, 12-18 inches above the floor of the brooder. Gooseneck lamps work, or infrared heat lamps can be purchased at your feed dealer. These can be fitted with special heat bulbs, but often an incandescent bulb will produce enough heat.
How Many Lamps?
Two lamps are important. If one burns out in the wee hours of the night, the other will keep the chicks warm until morning. Placing a sheet of cardboard over the brooder helps retain heat, but be very cautious about keeping anything flammable away from hot bulbs.
Other Tips for Getting New Chicks Off To a Great Start
- Always have a supply of fresh water. Dip chicks’ beaks into the water as you put them in the brooder so they know where it is located.
- Feed a quality chick starter ration like NatureWise® or Country Feeds® from a chick feeder. For chicks you are raising as layers, feed should be available 24/7.
- Sprinkle a little of the chick’s feed on the floor of the brooder to keep chicks busy and entertained.
- Line the brooder with a few newspapers and sprinkle some wood chips on top. Scoop out droppings twice a day and keep the brooder clean and dry.
- Have the brooder set up and heated, with food and water in place, before you bring chicks home from the feed store or the post office.
Looking for more information on raising chickens? Check out our other available information:
- Birds of a Different Feather: Types of Poultry
- Helping Chicks Thrive
- Heat Lamps for Chicks
- When Pullets Start to Lay Eggs
- Care Tips for Healthy Hens
- The Molting Process
- Lighting in Winter
- Knowing Your Birds Inside & Out: The Poultry Digestive System
- How Much Does a Chicken Eat
- Disease Prevention
- Frequently Asked Questions about Nutrena® Poultry Feeds
- Keeping Hens & Horses