After a few tries at hatching chicks year round, we learned that it’s just too much of a pain in the budget to make it worthwhile. The electricity bill gets up there with all the heat lamps running, and we have to keep them on much longer than usual if it’s too cold for youngsters in the grow-out pens.
So this year we started our first round of chicks in April, timed to catch the warming temperatures of spring. They went into the brooder coop, with its single heat lamp, and at one month old, into the first grow-out pen to make room for hatch #2. That’s when our plans went off the rails. We got an uncharacteristically hot spell, and the week-old peepers struggled with overheating. The heat lamp was raised, ventilation hatch opened, and we even dropped the bulb wattage from 250 to 175 to 75 watts. Luckily someone was home most of the time to monitor and adjust.
The month-old chicks loved the warm sunny weather, and were just getting the hang of spending time outside when temperatures reversed course yet again. Chilly, dank rain returned and now the big chicks were chilled and we had to trot out extra heat lamps to help them cope. The tiny peepers got their big heater back, and now we had to monitor them for signs of chilling.
Naturally we turned to the internet for ideas. How to make sure chicks at all stages of growth have enough heat to stay healthy and not so much to cause them distress, no matter what the weather is outside their insulated brooder coop. After first considering a thermostatic control for our existing heat lamps, we recalled an interesting invention touted by experienced flocksters – heat panels.
These devices sit on adjustable legs, a few inches over the brooder floor. The surface gets warm and chicks follow their instincts to get underneath, much like they do with a mother hen. When they are in contact with the panel, they can soak up safe heat, but the air in the rest of the brooder stays cooler. This should help our chickies stay just right, even when temps fluctuate throughout the day. Once they are rested and warm, they will venture out for snacks and exercise, just like hen-raised chicks.
Here are some pictures of how it works, taken from a very informative 68-page thread about the pros & cons of Brinsea’s EcoGlow panel heater vs. Premier1’s version. We ordered the dome covers, because there is already enough poop going on elsewhere. Some folks use saran wrap instead of a cover, replacing it periodically when it get too funky. Peepers getting warm. This is in an inside brooder made from a wire dog crate, with towels on the floor. This brooder uses pine shavings, like we do at STF. Chickies are comfortably piled under the heater. When they are warm & cozy, laying down for a nap takes them out of contact with the panel, and they can regulate their comfort level.
Premier sells a large heater that measures 16″ x 24″ and should be suitable for up to 50 peepers. Our brooder coop is fairly small though, so we bought two of the 12″ x 12″ heaters instead. This way as the chicks outgrow the need for constant heat, we can raise the panels, eventually removing one and finally the other. We’ll be sure to share photos and our review once they arrive. Our current chicks should still be small enough to make good use of them, and we are also interested in seeing how they do on a natural day/night light cycle. Even though the red heat lamps are supposed to minimize disturbances, they are still bright enough that chicks are up all night, eating, peeping, and pooping.
Here is the Premier1 heating panel in action, from their website.
And here is the Brinsea EcoGlow 20, from their website. Fingers crossed for happier healthier chicks, and less-stressed humans, with the help of some modern technology.