How Long Do Chicks Need a Heat Lamp? (A Complete Guide)

Chicks in a poultry farm under a heat lamp

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How long do chicks need a heat lamp?” the answer depends on several factors, ranging from age to weather conditions. Without a hen to keep these baby fowls warm, they need some extra help.

Basically, chicks need consistent warmness to survive, and providing this in the form of a heat lamp is a tried and tested method. However, it is hard to get the right temperature if you don’t know what you’re doing.

In this guide, you’ll find info about when to pull chicks from the heat source, when to introduce them to the outdoors, and more. You will also learn about the temperature range required for chicks of various ages. Let’s begin!

How Long Do Chicks Need a Heat Lamp?

Chicks on one side of a brooder

In order to raise chicks without a mother hen, invest in a heat lamp or, preferably, a safer heat source. From hatching up to the sixth week, baby chicks need a warmth source to provide supplemental heat, ranging from 70 to 95 °F.

In the 1st week to the 4th, the brooder, an area where you raise baby chicks, should have a temperature running between 80 and 95 °F. This can be achieved with the help of a heat lamp that mimics the hen’s body heat.

Implementing this is especially crucial in the first few days after hatching. Note that baby chicks can die within hours without a heat lamp because they cannot regulate their internal temperature independently.

When chicks are fully feathered, usually around the sixth or seventh week, they can tolerate the temperature outside. They probably don’t need a heat lamp anymore and can be moved away from the heat source.

Why Are Mother Hens Able to Bring Chicks Outside in Cold Weather?

During the wintertime, mother hens can take their chicks outside because they have high internal body heat. A hen’s body typically maintains a temperature of 105 to 107 °F.

This inner heat of female fowls allows chicks to experience the outdoors without needing a heat lamp.

The following is a photo of a hen keeping her chicks comfortable during an outdoor trip:

Mother hen with chicks tucked in its wings

In my experience raising chickens, I’ve seen that chicks can only resist chilly weather when they’re close to their mother. They take short exploratory trips and quickly return to the warmth of their mom if it gets too cold.

How to Keep Chicks Warm Without a Mother Hen

Raising chicks without a mother hen requires alternative methods to keep the chicks warm.

Most commonly, heat lamps can be purchased, serving as an excellent heat source for the chicks in the brooder. While efficient, be cautious, as heat lamps can be dangerous if not handled correctly.

Another safe heat source is a chick brooder plate. These plates mimic the warming underside of a mother hen, providing a safe and cozy space where the chicks can huddle.

Having used brooder plates in my own practice, I’ve found them to be excellent in providing the necessary warmth without the potential fire risk of heat lamps.

If you’re looking to buy a safer heat source, hot water bottles with an insulated cover will provide a substantial heat level — and this is also great for when your electricity goes out.

What Is the Right Temperature for Baby Chicks?

Heat lamp inside a brooder

The right temperature for baby chicks varies according to their age. During their first week, they require a heat source like a heat lamp, with the temperature in the brooder set to around 90 to 95 °F.

Note, though, that the temperature of the heat lamp should decrease by about five degrees each week until it reaches 70 °F. This allows the new chicks to adapt gradually to cooler conditions.

By the time they are six weeks old, chicks can usually control their own body heat. Thus, once they reach their seventh-week mark, they should be able to go outside without any additional heat source at all.

The table below shows the ideal temperature for chicks according to their age:

AgeIdeal TemperatureImportant Notes
1 week old95 °F (35 °C)Newly hatched chicks need to stay near their heat source, be it their mother hen or a heat lamp.
2 weeks old90 °F (32 °C)Baby chickens will begin to explore a bit, taking short breaks away from their heat source. If you’re using a heat lamp, ensure it’s positioned out of their reach.
3 weeks old85 °F (29.5 °C)Chicks are now managing to spend a little bit of time away from their heat source. However, keeping them under a heat lamp for longer periods is better until they’re more developed.
4 weeks old80 °F (26.6 °C)Allow your chicks to spend increased time outdoors, yet make sure to monitor them closely.
5 weeks old75 °F (24 °C)There’s no need to keep the heat lamp turned on 24/7 for the chicks, especially if the surrounding temperature is already around 75 °F.
6 weeks old70 °F (21 °C)Chicks don’t need a heat source. They’ve developed their initial real feathers, which allow them to regulate their body temperature.
7 weeks old and upReady to explore the outdoors!Chicks can now withstand temperatures as low as 30 °F or -1 °C.

Overall, maintaining the ideal temperature for chicks is critical. Too cold, and they can die from hypothermia. Too hot, and they can overheat. So, monitor your flock’s temperature and adjust accordingly.

How to Know If Chicks Are Warm Enough

Ensuring your baby chicks maintain the appropriate heat is crucial for their health and well-being. Here are some signs to help determine if your chicks are warm enough:

  • Huddling pattern: Observe the chicks’ behavior. If they huddle under the heat lamp, they’re likely too cold, and the light needs to be lowered. If they move away from the heat lamp, they might be overheating, requiring you to raise it. A comfortable group will be distributed evenly in the brooder.
  • Listen to your chicks’ chirping tunes: Chicks love to produce soft, regular chirp sounds when content. If the temperature is too cold or too hot, they’ll likely make loud, distressed chirping.
  • Monitor chick temperature: Use a thermometer to check the temperature in the brooder. It should decrease from 95 °F during the first week to 70 °F by the sixth week. Any lower than 70 °F is too cold, and any higher than 95 °F is too hot.
  • Activity level: Healthy, warm-enough chicks are lively, eating, and drinking well. If your chick is too cold, it will not move much and appear unenergetic; it needs some heat adjustments.

Conclusively, keeping your chicks warm is very crucial. So, ensure they have access to move closer or get away from the heat source and adjust the temperature as needed. Overall, proper warmth is key for healthy growth.

How to Set up a Heat Lamp for Baby Chicks

Chicks under a heat lamp up close

Generally speaking, correctly setting up a heat lamp is essential for your baby chicks’ comfort and safety.

The first step is picking the right bulb. The bulb’s power will depend on the size of the brooder. For small ones, a 100-watt bulb is sufficient. In a larger space, opt for a 250-watt bulb to spread the heat around effectively.

The color of the bulb matters, too. Red or white bulbs can be used, but red is often preferred as it’s thought to be less stressful for the chicks.

Furthermore, the lamp socket you select should be ceramic that’s designed for incandescent light bulbs. This will prevent short circuits and fires from occurring.

The positioning of the lamp is crucial as well. It should be securely hung, neither too high nor too low. Ideally, it should not be closer than 12 inches to the bedding to avoid overheating or burning your chicks.

As their age increases, lower the lamp closer for warmth or move it higher to decrease the temperature.

Watch the following video for a visual demonstration of how to set up a heat lamp for chicks:

Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chicks | Brooder Set Up

When Can Baby Chicks Go Outside Permanently?

Determining when chicks can go outside permanently depends on their development and external conditions.

To be specific, baby chicks need heat lamps up until their sixth week. This artificial heat source is essential because chickens, during this phase, can’t regulate their body temperature efficiently yet.

However, note that things take a positive turn as they grow. By their seventh week, baby chicks usually have developed their initial feathering.

These feathers play a crucial role in helping chicks control their body heat naturally. As such, the reliance on the heat lamp decreases considerably by this point.

That said, before moving your baby chickens into their permanent home, there is another factor to consider: the outside temperature.

Most of the time, when the outside’s lowest temperature aligns with the target brooder temperature, you can stop using a heat source and start letting your chicks roam freely outdoors.

Proper Ways to Move Chicks Outside

Chicks exploring outdoors with the mother hen

Moving chicks outside is an essential step in their maturation, but this transition requires careful attention. From considering the temperature to ensuring a clean environment, this section will show you how to do it right:

1. Gradual temperature adjustment

Even if chicks have outgrown the need for a heat lamp indoors, moving them outside abruptly can stress them out.

Begin by exposing them to outside temperatures for short durations, gradually increasing the time each day. This allows them to adjust without relying solely on the heat lamp.

All in all, always remember that drastic changes can be harmful to your chicks’ health, so take it slow. Meanwhile, if you feel they need heat for a little longer, there’s no harm in keeping them inside until they’re ready.

2. Keep the heat source available

Even as chicks transition to living outdoors, it’s vital to ensure they still have access to a heat lamp.

Primarily, suppose the weather is particularly cold or wet. In that case, your baby chicks need a heat lamp to keep their body temperature at a comfortable level.

For this reason, ensure you still provide space where the heat lamp can be placed so your chickens can stay warm, especially if the weather conditions are not ideal.

3. Secure outdoor enclosure

Before bringing your chicks home to the great outdoors, ensure their space is safe. The outdoor enclosure should be secure from predators and have proper fencing to prevent them from wandering away.

All things considered, shifting from a heat lamp-protected environment to an open world can be daunting for your baby fowls, so security is essential.

4. Safe coop introduction

Introducing chicks to an existing flock can be tricky. It’s not just about making sure they don’t need the heat lamp anymore; it’s also about social dynamics.

Therefore, chicks should be gradually introduced to older chickens in a safe coop environment with enough room space.

This helps minimize territorial disputes and ensures the chicks get accustomed to their new home without stress.

5. Provide adequate food and water

While chicks are getting used to the outdoors, their dietary needs might slightly change. Hence, ensure they have constant access to fresh food and water.

Note that the energy they use in exploring their new environment and adjusting to temperatures without the consistent use of a heat lamp will, most likely, increase their appetite.

6. Maintain cleanliness

Cleanliness is essential for the health of your chicks. Once they transition from the controlled environment under the heat lamp to the outdoors, they’ll be exposed to more dirt and potential bacteria.

Fortunately, regularly cleaning their coop, changing their bedding, and ensuring an overall neat space can significantly reduce the risk of diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions

A couple of chicks heated by a lamp

Can 4-week-old Chickens Live Outside?

While four-week-old chickens can spend short periods outside, they shouldn’t stay there permanently. They still need the heat lamp to maintain their body temperature.

It’s only by their seventh week that baby chicks can live outside without needing a heat lamp. Until then, ensure they have access to a warm space indoors.

Should a Heat Lamp Be On 24/7 for Chicks?

Yes, a heat lamp should be on 24/7 for chicks, but only until their fourth week. This ensures they maintain a consistent temperature as they can’t regulate their body heat effectively yet.

After this period, as chicks can slowly regulate their own internal warmth more effectively, the need for round-the-clock heating starts to decrease.

Do Chicks Need a Heat Lamp in 90-Degree Weather?

In 90-degree weather, chicks typically don’t need a heat lamp for warmth. It’s crucial, however, to use a thermometer to ensure the brooder’s temperature stays in the proper range for your baby chickens’ age.

While the intense heat may not be necessary, hatchlings still need light. Therefore, you may consider keeping a white bulb on to provide light without overheating your chicks.

We hope you found this guide on managing heat lamps for chicks both informative and useful. If you have any questions or experiences to share, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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