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Do Baby Chickens Need A Heat Lamp?


Baby chickens are such fragile creatures that need lots of attention and warmth during the first month of life. Their little bodies are susceptible to becoming too cold in a hurry and are at a high risk of hypothermia when they are less than 4 weeks old. Chilly temperatures can cause many issues including death and illness if you aren’t careful about how warm your brooder box is. 

Baby chicks under the age of 4 weeks cannot regulate their body temperature so they require a heat lamp in order to prevent hypothermia, illness and death. 

It is crucial that baby chicks are kept in their brooder box with an appropriate heat lamp. Normal homes are still 20 to 30 degrees too cold for them to survive without a supplemental heat source. This article will dive into details on what temperature your chicks should stay and how to care for them during the first 4 weeks of life.  

Do Baby Chickens Need A Heat Lamp? 

Baby chickens most certainly do need a heat lamp! During the first month of life, it is extremely important that they are not allowed to get too cold.

Without their mother hen or a heat lamp, then they would not survive. Unless the climate was consistently in the 90° F zone then the young chicks would eventually succumb to the cold and die. When they are only a week old they should stay at temperatures no lower than 95℉. 

In commercial environments and backyards, most people are raising chickens in incubators or under heat lamps. It is fine to bring them up exclusively with their mother hen as their caretaker. But people have found that it is guaranteed to be more controlled and safer for the little ones if we are more involved in their safety and care. 

How Do Baby Chickens Survive Without A Heat Lamp? 

In a natural environment with no human help or interaction, a baby chicken would simply huddle under its mother’s wings and stay warm with her body heat.

An adult hen’s core body temperature is about 105 – 107 ℉. They will venture out from her safety for a few minutes at a time until they are too cold and will retreat back under her for warmth. 

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What Temperature Do The Baby Chickens Need To Stay At? 

The environment where the baby chickens are need to be kept at is 95℉ in the first week and goes down by 5° weekly.

Keeping young chicks in a brooder box with the heat lamp is only necessary for the first 4 weeks. The younger they are, the warmer it needs to be because they haven’t grown in any insulating feathers and are only covered in soft down. Once they are 6 weeks old and are fully feathered they can handle temps around 50℉. Adult chickens can tolerate temperatures as low as 30℉.

Weekly Temperature Breakdown 

It is standard to decrease the temperature in the brooder box by about 5℉ every week until 6 weeks. By the time that they are 6 weeks old, they should be ready to be acclimated to the outdoors. 

Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4
95°F/35°C90°F/32℃85℉/29.5℃80℉/26.6℃

By week 6 they should be prepared to venture out into temperatures between 50 – 70℉. Acclimating them slowly to such a change in temperature is best. 

What Type Of Heat Lamp Should I Get For My Baby Chickens? 

Many heat lamps are available for purchase at feed or pet stores. One that is approved for chicken brooders is important. Also, do not use a reptile heat lamp as these do not get warm enough. 

The lamp should be appropriately secured so that it doesn’t fall into the brooder box. The bulb is extremely hot and could easily kill or injury the fragile little chicks. 

Heating Pads vs Heat Lamps

There are some products for brooders that are heating pads or heating plates. The plates would hover over the brooder like the heat lamp except it only covers a small area while also being safer and less of a fire hazard. 

The heating pads go underneath the brooder and warm everything from below. Please be sure to do your research and read reviews before purchasing a heating pad as some of them are dangerous and produce irregular heat and hot spots. 

DO NOT use any heating device that is not meant for chickens as these can be dangerous and life-threatening to fragile chicks. 

Do you leave the heat lamp on all the time for baby chickens?

YES. Please keep your heating lamp, pad or plate on all day and night while they are still young enough to require it. 

Type Of Bulb And Wattage 

Many of the chicken experts will recommend red bulbs instead of white because these are not as bright and allow for a better day/night schedule.

A 250-watt bulb is appropriate for a chicken heat lamp. You can also go as low as 100 watts for just a few chicks in a small brooder. Make sure you have a setup that is meant for bulbs that get that hot. You wouldn’t want to melt, damage or set fire to the surrounding area. 

How Do You Know If The Chicks Are Warm Enough? 

The first thing to do to help you maintain and confirm an appropriate temperature is to install a thermometer in the brooder box. 

If you don’t want to or can’t install a thermometer then watching the chicks is an easy enough way to understand if they are staying too cold or too hot. If the babies are huddling together under the light then lower the lamp, if they run out of the beam or are panting then they are too hot and the lamp should be raised up and away from the chicks. 

What If I Live In A Warmer Climate? 

If it is summertime or you live in a place with a constantly warm climate, then you wouldn’t have to be as worried about the temperature. It is important that the temperature outside be around 95℉ in order to appropriately ensure they are warm enough. 

If they are in your house and you have the A/C running and keeping the temperature in the 70℉ range, then having some sort of supplemental heat source would be necessary for the chicks’ survival. 

How Do You Set Up The Brooder Box?

A brooder can come in many shapes, styles and sizes. Some chicken raisers use a simple cardboard box, some have plastic totes, some use homemade contraptions and others just bust out their kid’s old rabbit cage. As long as it is large enough for the number of chicks you have and there is a hot and cold space then you’re good to go. 

Hot And Cold Spaces 

When designing your baby chicken’s brooder box it is important that you have an area that is out of the light where they can cool off if necessary. It is also good practice to keep the water out of the direct beam so that it doesn’t evaporate too quickly. 

Adjust The Brooder Temperature 

If you are using a heat lamp the best way to lower or raise the temperature is by moving the lamp either closer or farther away from the chicks. The suggested height for the very young chicks is about 18 inches away from the litter. 

Chicks Leaving The Brooder

The answer to this does depend somewhat on the breed of chicken. The average chicken can be taken out of the brooder and into the coop between 6 and 8 weeks of age. The heat lamp can be moved farther away from them after the first 4 weeks. 

Most breeds that are meant for meat consumption age faster and can be brought out a little earlier than others. 

Keep those chicks warm!  

Heat lamps are a necessity when raising young chickens in a brooder. They are fragile young creatures that lose body heat quickly and can swiftly die if not kept warm enough. Always have your enclosure set up and ready for when you bring them home. 

Temperature stay an important factor for the health of your flocks, for example, hens won’t lay as many eggs when it’s hot.

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Allison Salonko

I'm a Veterinary Technician with 10+ years of experience in the field. I am using my passion for writing in between working with animals and spending time with my family.

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