Spring is the time of year for many folks to start hatching chicks or buying chicks from the feed store or hatchery. These little chicks cannot keep themselves warm without mom, so artificial heat is necessary for their survival. The most traditional heat source are heat lamps. But not just any heat lamp is sufficient… or safe.
When purchasing a brooder heat lamp, make sure it is a quality lamp with a ceramic fixture where the bulb screws in. Some of the cheap lamps have plastic where the bulb screws in, which can overheat and become a fire hazard when the lamp is left on for a long period of time.
If you are getting your older heat lamps out of storage, check it carefully to make sure everything is secure and working properly, and that there are no frayed or chewed wires (mice love to chew the plastic that surrounds wires).
Use a proper bulb with your heat lamp. A 250 watt red lamp is most common, will keep the chicks warm, and the red coloring will help discourage chicks from pecking each other. I’ve had a lot of success with a regular 60 or 75 watt bulb and a large plastic sweater box or tote for keeping younger chicks warm inside. One important word of warning: DO NOT use Teflon coated bulbs with ANY chickens… chicks or adults. They will kill your chickens. For more information on this, read this article on backyardchickens.com.
It is also very important to make sure your heater is securely fastened. It should be an adequate distance from walls, floors and can’t be broken or knocked over by animals or people.
A good & safe alternative to regular heat bulbs is a product like the Sweeter Heater, an infratherm pet heater that gives off adequate heat without the dangers of overheating or breaking.
Spring unfortunately comes with a sharp upswing in heat lamp related fires which can destroy coops, barns, homes and destroy lives. Skimping on brooder heat is never a good idea if it may mean sacrificing safety. Be sure to make sure your heater is in tip-top shape, good quality, and very securely fastened.
Enjoy your chicks!