A heat lamp would be the best way to keep baby chicks warm during their first three weeks of life however it can be difficult and unsafe for a ‘newbie’ chicken keeper to set up and thus I will write about an alternative method.
You do not need to go out and buy a heat lamp; we had one left over from when we used to grow orchids. If you have something like this, great! If not, what you can use is any lamp (or even better yet tea light candles as they give off less heat) which you make sure has a cover on it so that no fingers can touch the bulb. Light bulbs get very hot and if touched by an animal or human would burn them severely.
Be advised though that light bulbs can give off enough heat where it could potentially harm the chicks if they are too close to them or touching them. Don’t place the lamp/light bulb exactly in their bedding where they sleep but make sure there is sufficient air flow around them.
You can use any type of cover, cardboard with holes in it will do, again just make sure you don’t have anything combustible near the light source for example paper towel due to the fire threat.
When your chicks arrive inspect them carefully and be on guard for any signs of pasty butt (see article on this here ). Even though you’ll be checking their bottoms every day when changing out their bedding I recommend at least checking before placing them under a heat lamp.
Using a hand thermometer, check the temperature in their box to make sure the heat is sufficient. It should be around 95 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celsius. Keep an eye on things for about two weeks and see how it goes. If they have any pasty butt you’ll need to wash/wipe them off with warm water and dry them well before placing under the lamp.
Routinely check the chicks very carefully checking for signs of pasting up during this time until you are happy that they are no longer at risk of this happening (usually around 3 weeks). Note: I am not saying your chicks will all get pasty butt if you use a light bulb but there is more of a chance compared to using a heat lamp.
If you are happy with how things are going, parents can take over the care for their chicks now that they are around three weeks old. You no longer need to provide them with warmth but still need to provide food and water twice a day plus change out any wet or soiled bedding each morning/evening. By this stage your baby chicks should be feathered enough to maintain their own body heat so I would place them in an area of your coop where it’s nice and secure under the roosting bar if there is one available or simply inside near where their food and water bowl(s) are located. If the weather is hot outside then I would keep them confined to an area of your coop which is nice and shady during the day.
Remember to keep checking them regularly, especially if you are aiming for breeding or showing your chickens as they will require more care than other breeds/varieties of chicken which are not being bred.
Cheers, happy hatching!
Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions at [email protected] . I do my best to answer all emails within 24 hours.
I’ve just found out that several international companies now deliver live baby chicks to your door so no need to hatch them yourself anymore! This is great news for many people who would like young chicks but can’t find local breeders or don’t have room for their own coop yet.