Baby Chick Heating Schedule

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What Should Be My Heating Schedule For New Chicks?

brooder chick light schedule

Chicks are sensitive to cold temperatures and require a brooder designed to maintain optimal conditions. Baby chicks require the highest temperature immediately after they hatch and benefit from a slight reduction in temperature every week. Within 5 to 8 weeks, chicks should have all their adult feathers and be ready to join the other chickens in the coop. Let’s take a look at the optimal temperature schedule for your baby chicks and what can happen if the brooder gets too cold or too hot.

The general rule is to start with a brooder temperature of 95°F for the first week. Then, reduce the brooder by 5°F each consecutive week until reaching room temperature. However, as with anything, these are simply guidelines. To customize your brooder, note how the chicks react to the temperature and adjust the heat source accordingly. Realize that some chicks prefer a starting temperature of 100°F while others will be happiest with a temperature of 80°F after only three days in the brooder.

heat for chicks in brooder

Week 1 - 95°F

As soon as the chicks hatch they should be placed in a brooder that maintains a steady 95°F at or near the ground level. Measure the heat with a thermometer and make adjustments to the heat source. Since chicks are small and don’t have much insulation, 95°F ensures that they will be comfortable during the first week of life. If all the chicks are bunched together below the heat source, it means they are too cold and if they are far from the heat source, they are too hot. Adjust the heat accordingly and note how the chicks react to hone in on the optimal temperature settings.

Week 2 - 90°F

The general recommendation is to reduce the temperature of the brooder by 5°F every week, but some people choose to maintain 95°F during the second week. If the chicks are noticeably cold after dropping the temperature by 5°F, consider leaving the brooder at 95°F during the second week. However, in the majority of cases, the chicks will respond well to 90°F during the second week.

Week 3 - 85°F

Assuming the temperature was dropped by 5°F during the second week, drop the brooder by another 5°F during the third week. At this point, the brooder should be 85°F. Again, notice how the chicks react to the change in temperature. If they appear to be cold, consider increasing the temperature a few degrees.

Week 4 - 80°F

Drop the temperature by another 5°F during the fourth week so the brooder is at a comfortable 80°F. During this time, the chicks should be noticeably bigger and have most of their adult feathers so they can maintain their body heat.

Week 5 - 75°F

During week 5, drop the temperature by another 5°F so the brooder is at 75°F. Chickens that are 5 weeks old should have all of their adult feathers and enjoy 75°F.

Week 6 - 70°F

During week 6, drop the temperature to 70°F or room temperature, as the chicken should have no problem maintaining their temperature at this stage. It may be time to move the chicks over to the coop with the adult chickens this week or next, depending on the temperature of the coop.

Heating The Brooder With A Heat Lamp

The advantages of a heat lamp are the low cost, availability, and simplicity of setting it up. It is fairly easy to maintain a set temperature with a 250 Watt heat lamp by simply raising or lowering it. It shouldn’t take too long to find the perfect height to maintain 95°F and adjust the height accordingly every week to lower the temperature by 5°F.

However, the heat lamp has some obvious disadvantages, as they are a fire hazard and they don’t allow chicks to become accustomed to the normal circadian rhythms. For the most part, beginners start with a heat lamp for the reasons above. Secure a heat lamp in place with a chain, not just clips, so it doesn’t fall and start a fire.

Heating The Brooder With A Heat Plate

Heating the brooder with a heat plate is the professional option and beginners should start with this as well. A heat plate is placed above the floor of the brooder and the chicks gather below it for warmth. While more expensive, a heat plate isn’t overly hot so it won’t cause a fire and the heat plate allows the chicks to experience light and dark cycles instead of 24 hours of light.

Broody Hen Natural Heat

Some farmers include a broody hen into the chick brooder so the chicks can stay warm naturally. A broody hen will provide warmth and protection while teaching the baby chicks how to forage for food. However, not all broody hens are fit for the job, as many will not adopt chicks and some will even kill baby chicks they don’t want to care for.

What Can Happen If My Baby Chicks Get Too Cold?

If baby chicks get too cold, they will all pile onto each other in an attempt to stay warm. Cold chicks will peep constantly, letting you know that something isn’t right. Cold chicks often develop Pasty Butt, a condition where their excrement clogs up their bottoms. If not immediately cleaned, chicks are unable to defecate and will quickly die.

What Time Of Year Should I Add Baby Chicks To The Brooder?

The best time to add baby chicks to the brooder is during the spring months so they can be transferred over to the chicken coop after about six weeks, during the summer. On the other hand, taking chicks out of the brooder and placing them into the chicken coop in the middle of winter is a shock and can kill them.

Where To Place Your Brooder For Optimal Heat

If you are just starting and want to set up your chick brooder in your garage in the middle of winter, it is best to consider other options. If you can move the brooder indoors, it is easier to maintain the proper temperature. If you have your heart set on adding chicks to the brooder during winter and the garage is the only option, realize that it may be difficult to maintain brooder temperature when the external temperature is below zero. Also, realize that chicks will need to be left in the brooder for up to 12 weeks before introducing them into the coop. At 8 weeks old, chickens can survive a minimum temperature of around 50°F, which drops 10°F for each consecutive week. Chickens that are 12 weeks old can survive a minimum temperature of 10°F.

What Should Be My Heating Schedule For New Chicks?

This basic temperature guideline is simply that, a guide. All chicks are different so adjust the temperature of your brooder accordingly. As a general rule, start by maintaining 95°F for the first week and drop the temperature of the brooder by 5°F weekly until reaching room temperature. The first couple of weeks are critical so check on your chicks consistently to make sure they are happy with their environment.

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