Spring is here, and that means it’s time for chicks! We love these little guys so much, and we can’t help but collect them all. But when you raise chicks by hand, there can be a few hiccups. The main concern is how warm to keep your babies. Heat lamps are dangerous and pose a fire risk. So what can you use instead? Let’s look at 5 safe alternatives to chicken brooder lamps and which one we love the best.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Baby Chickens?
Before we get into our brooder heater alternatives, we should first talk about if chicks need heat. Will baby chickens die without a heat lamp? There is a lot of conflicting information online if you’ve ever looked into this. The truth is that it matters where your chicks are and if the weather is ideal.
Chicks raised by their mothers need no extra heat. As long as they have a draft-free coop and a doting mother, they have all they need. Your chicks and hen will know to keep close to share body heat. And you will never see your chicks roaming too far in the first few weeks.
But if you hatched your chicks in an incubator or bought day-old chicks, you will need supplemental heat. Chicks can’t regulate their body temperature due to their small size and lack of feathers. So for the first week of life, they will need to be kept at 90-95 degrees. And every week after, you will drop the temperature by 5 degrees.
At these young ages, they are prone to dying without a brooder heat source. If you keep your chicks in an area that stays no less than 75 degrees, then it’s too cold for your chicks. So unless your chicks are outside in the heat of summer, or you keep your house this hot, you will need a heater.
Can I Leave A Heat Lamp On All Day?
You might be wondering why heat lamps have such a bad reputation. Well, if you put a light that heats up with pine shavings and feathers in the air, you have a recipe for disaster. Whole coops and brooders have burned down if the lamps get bumped or shattered.
Not to mention there have been reported cases of chicks getting burned by these lamps. In short, these lamps aren’t for 24-hour use. The longer you use them, the more of a risk there is. So how do you keep chickens warm without a heat lamp? Let’s take a look at 5 safe alternatives to chicken brooder lamps.
Brooder Heating Plates
One of the most common brooder heaters today is a heating plate. These plates work by heating your chicks from above with minimal electricity. Just like with a momma hen, your chicks will gather under the plate to stay warm. Plus, your heater might even come with a built-in thermostat to adjust as the chicks age. And the best part is that they come in many sizes and shapes.
You can get regular plates that are simple to use. Or you can jazz it up with a few extras. Brands like RentACoop sell a skirt of feathers to give your chicks the feel of being with their mothers. And some plates are designed to prevent roosting on top to cut back on messes.
What are the best heat plates on the market? We love the RentACoop Chick Brooder Heating Plate. This heating plate is adjustable to allow for growth as the weeks pass. You can also buy attachments like the feather skirt mentioned above and anti-roosting cones. You will love how simple this plate is to use.
A close second would be the Premier Chick Brooder Heating Plate. This plate is simple and easy to use, but nothing too fancy about it. It has adjustable legs, and people love how durable it is. So you can use it for years to come.
And finally, we have the Brinsea Products Ecoglow. Ecoglow is known for being one of the first creators to use radiant heat in the brooder. These heaters are made to last through the ages. And they even come with a free protector to keep the tops of the plate clean.
Ceramic Heat Emitter
Next on our list is ceramic heat emitters. You use these emitters like you would any heat lamp, but they are safer. For one, these heat emitters don’t shatter as lights do. These lamps are strong and don’t even produce a light source at all. So it’s automatically safer than chicken brooder lamps.
Another reason we love ceramic heat emitters is that they are perfect for everything. You can even use it in the coop during the winter. You can keep these heat emitters on all night without even disturbing your flock’s sleep.
If you decide to go with a ceramic heat emitter, we recommend the Simple Deluxe 150W Reptile Heat Bulb and Digital Thermostat Controller Combo Set. This set comes with everything you need to get started. And we love that it comes with a thermostat. Sometimes adjusting the temperature on these emitters is difficult. But with a push of the button, you can raise or lower the warmth with no hassle. So you won’t have to keep adjusting the entire brooder heater when your chicks get too hot.
If you keep your chicks in the house, you won’t need much heat to maintain a warm brooder. This is especially for small brooders that overheat easily with large heat lamps. To solve your warming problems here, we recommend using a regular light bulb as a heat source. 40-60 watts is perfect for small brooders with only a few chicks.
To do this, you will need a desk lamp with a clip, preferably one with a gooseneck. Clamp the light to the outside of the brooder and adjust the height as necessary. The closer the lamp is to the brooder, the warmer your chicks will get. We also recommend keeping a thermometer in the brooder to track the temperature daily. And don’t forget to turn off the lamp at night to prevent overheating.
Next on our 5 safe alternatives to chicken brooder lamps are heating pads. Many chicken breeders have great luck with using heating pads as a heat source. But there is some caution to this method as well. Heating pads can short if the wires become exposed or wet. So you won’t put the heating pad in with the chicks directly.
Some people find that placing a pad under a small brooder works best. And some people place the pads under a towel and bedding to prevent accidents. However, this all depends on how large your brooder is and how many chicks you have. Some ingenious people have created their own heat plates by putting two heat pads into a frame.
The type of heating pad used also determines how safe they are for your chickens. There are special pads made for chicks like the YUYUSO Chicken Heated Pad. There are also reptile heaters like the Aiicioo Under Tank Heater Thermostat. The Aiicioo has a built-in thermostat to adjust the temperature as needed, which many heat pads don’t have. And if you need a larger pad, the VIVOSUN Seedling Mat might be precisely what you need.
What can I use instead of a heat lamp? So simple, and yet we don’t know why more people don’t use it. If your chicks are a few days old, a feather duster might be all that you need. These dusters mimic the mother hen, and your chicks will come running to lay underneath. With so many little bodies under it, it creates excellent insulation that keeps your chicks warm.
But this only works if your chicks are old enough to start regulating their bodies. You wouldn’t want to do this with day-old chicks because they don’t produce body heat yet. But if your chicks have begun getting their feathers, this is the perfect no electricity brooder heater.
When Do Chicks Outgrow A Heater?
Chicks are very delicate things, and most of them get sick in the first few weeks due to temperatures. But when is it time to ditch the chicken brooder lamps altogether? Most chicks can stay warm by the time they are six weeks old. But if the weather is warm enough, your chicks can go outside as early as four weeks.
It all depends on the nighttime temperatures. If the weather is staying consistently above 60 degrees at night, your chicks are ready for the outdoors. But if it’s still getting cold, you will want to keep them in the brooder until at least six weeks. By this age, they can self-regulate their body temperature and have the feathers necessary to stay warm.
However, there is another exception to this rule. If your chicks are six weeks old and the temperatures are below 40, you might still need that brooder heater for a bit longer. But once all of the outside weather and age align perfectly, you can kick that heater to the curb. At least until your next clutch.
Out of these 5 safe alternatives to chicken brooder lamps, we love brooding plates the best. They are safe and easy to use. And you will never have to wonder if your chicks are too hot or too cold. You can’t go wrong with a tried and true method like this one.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!