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How Warm Do Chicks Need To Be?

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Baby chickens are the cutest things. Looking at them, hearing their chirps, and holding them can instantly make you smile.

However, chicks do have a number of requirements you need to be aware of.

newborn chicken on a farm

Aside from food and water, a major requirement of chicks is temperature.

The optimal temperature for chicks changes with their age and must be monitored and adjusted for the first five to seven weeks. After that, they will have enough feathers to regulate their temperature on their own.

So how warm do baby chickens need to be?

You should make sure that your chicks have around 95°F (35°C) during their first week. The temperature can be reduced by 5°F weekly until they are ready to leave the brooder.

How do you provide sufficient heat for your baby chickens? Are there ways to identify cold or hot chicks? Continue reading.

Temperature Requirement of Chicks

If chickens and other birds are warm-blooded, why do they need an extra heat source? Well, there are two reasons.

The first reason is that even though chickens are warm-blooded, their body needs time to develop the ability to produce enough heat.

Secondly, most chickens today are crossbreeds that are not as hardy as older, original species, so they may need extra care.

During the first week of life, a chick’s metabolism and internal processes are becoming established, all of which require heat their body cannot provide yet.

Because of this, chicks need a consistent temperature of 90-95°F (35°C) during their first week.

As they get older, and their body develops, chicks rely less on external sources of heat. This is why the temperature needed decreases over time.

The table below shows the temperature requirement of chicks from week 0 (hatching) until they are ready to leave their brooder:

Age of ChicksTemperature Required °FTemperature Required °C
1st week92 – 95°33 – 35°
Weeks 2-385 – 90°29 – 33°
Weeks 3-580 – 85°27 – 29°
Weeks 5-870 – 80°21 – 27°
Weeks 8+room temperatureroom temperature

Providing sufficient temperature for your chicks is the first step to keeping them healthy. Now, let us discuss how you can give them this heat.

How to Properly Heat Chicks

How do you properly heat your chicks? It is a very common practice to use a brooder, which is a contained space that can be heated and maintained.

Many people use a heat lamp in their brooder. However, some may prefer not to use heat lamps because of the large electricity draw and the risk of fire.

Whether you choose to use a heat lamp or not, here are some various tips for you:

With a Heat Lamp

Decide on the Number of Lamps

Newly hatched baby chicks get warm under the lamp in brooding pen

Some people use just one heat lamp that emits a lot of heat while others choose to use multiple, less heat-emitting lamps.

An advantage of using multiple lamps is that if one gets faulty at night (or when you are not available), your chicks can make use of the other until you fix it.

On the other hand, using just one heat lamp can be easier to manage.

Pay Close Attention to the Height of the Lamp

It does not matter how hot a lamp might be, it will be useless if it is too far from your chicks.

But, a lamp too close to your chicks can also cause harm.

You should properly set the height of the lamp so that it is not too far nor too close to your chicks.

To know the proper height of a specific lamp, place a thermometer on the floor of the brooder, then keep setting the height of the lamp until the temperature is within the range at the height of the chicks (by looking at the thermometer).

Location of the Lamp

The location of the lamp is worth considering. If the lamp is too close to the walls of the brooder, the temperature within the brooder will not be evenly distributed, and heat can get lost easily through the walls of the brooder.

Placing the lamp in the middle of the brooder allows the chicks to regulate how much heat they want.

If they are too warm, they can move away from the lamp; if they are cool, they can migrate closer to the heat.

Without a Heat Lamp

If you choose not to use a heat lamp, there are still options for you to heat the chick’s space. These options will work in any season, but keep in mind that you may have to tend the brooder much more often if you are not using heat lamps in cooler climates or in the winter months.

Extra care must be taken to keep the temperatures within the range during cold winter temperatures.

Properly Insulate the Brooder

If you line the outer walls of the brooder with mylar or good insulation material, heat will not leave the brooder easily.

Insulating the brooder also prevents cold from reaching your chicks within.

Use Bedding

Small chicks in wooden chicken coop

Whether you are using lamps or not, you should always use thick bedding in the brooder that the chicks can burrow into. Some bedding materials for brooders are:

  • Towels
  • Sawdust
  • Straw/hay
  • Wood shavings

You can also use newspapers to line the floor, but the primary use of newspapers is to absorb moisture from the dropping of your chicks, not to keep them warm.

Heat up a Rice Sock

This is an awesome trick to keep your chicks warm.

Pour rice into a sock then heat the sock in an oven (slowly, at low temperature) or a microwave. Then place the heated rice sock in the brooder. Chicks in need of extra heat will go close to the sock.

This method of keeping chicks warm is not sustainable over long periods of time because the rice will gradually cool off.

You will need to monitor and reheat the rice repeatedly.

Give Your Chicks Company—Yours and Theirs

Treat your chicks nicely. They will appreciate your company.

Try to cuddle and play with them if need be. You can cuddle them with a blanket or towel to keep them warm.

Check out this article for more information about raising chickens without a heat lamp.

Chicks naturally seek the warmth of one another when they are cold, so having a big enough flock in the brooder will help them stay warm as well.

The greater the number, the warmer they can keep one another.

You now know awesome ways to keep your chicks warm. How do you tell if they need extra or less heat?

Chicks resting under the light bulb warmth on straw

How to Tell If Your Chicks are Too Hot or Cold

Here are some ways you can examine your chicks to know if they are comfortable with your heat source.

Pay Close Attention to How Distributed They Are

If your chicks are huddling together in one location, it is likely they are cold. However, they could also be huddling because they are scared of something, so you should not just conclude that they are cold then increase the heat.

When they continue to huddle together, check the temperature of the brooder, and see if it matches the requirement of their age.

Chicks with proper temperature will be evenly distributed across the brooder.

Are They Close to or Far from the Heat Lamp?

If all your chicks are assembled very close to the heat source, they may still be too cold. You can help by lowering the height of the lamp or by adding a second heat source.

Examine their Legs

Cold chicks have puffed legs with moist skin, while chicks that are too warm generally have legs with dry, thin skin.

You should carefully examine their legs to better decide if your chicks are too cold or too hot.

Final Thoughts

Chicks require a temperature of around 95°F in their first week. You should reduce the temperature by 5°F weekly until they are ready to leave the brooder.

Remember to use a heat lamp or the various tips in this article to keep your chicks warm.

Also, examine the behavior and physical condition of your chicks to make sure they are happy and healthy.


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