Some topics of conversation just don’t seem controversial until you end up smack dab in the middle of them. This is one of those topics. While everyone agrees that chicks need supplemental heat, it seems like opinions are strongly divided about how to apply the heat and for how long. Let’s begin this conversation by acknowledging all of these opinions, but as far as OUR chicks go, Valley Hatchery outlines these best practices to help you successfully raise your mail-order chicks.
First off, we recommend 100-105 degrees for 8 hours because your chicks have been in transit for a few days and have depleted their body reserves and no longer have the mass to regain the proper body temperature without help. These are not chicks you hatched yourself that went from incubator to brooder, or who get to live under mama. These guys have been in a box for a couple of days.
Secondly, we recommend a heat lamp instead of a heat plate. Why? Simply put, brooder heat plates will not provide high enough temperature to help mail-order chicks re-establish proper body temperature. A clean, properly and securely installed heat lamp in good working order will be just as safe to operate as a brooder hot plate, while heating a larger area to a higher temperature. However, for these same reasons, brooder heat lamps need to be monitored.
Third, we recommend that you use an actual working thermometer to monitor the temperature in your brooder at chick level to ensure that your chicks have not only adequate heat for survival, but also adequate area to cool off in if they get too hot. Proper ventilation, usually from the top (because heat rises) works best, but you have to ensure that cooler areas of the brooder are available to them as well, for times when they get too hot.
Fourth and finally, we recommend solid sides and ventilated top for your brooder’s construction. While it’s true that you can brood your chicks in almost any container, the ideal container includes adequate room for chicks to roam and play, solid sides to maintain a good heat level, and a wire top through which the heat lamp can operate but also through which excess heat can escape. You don’t want to cook your babies.
We provide a guidance sheet with every chick order and you can find additional help and advice on the Raising Chicks page, which is a centralized collection of all the posts we create to guide new chick parents. If you take a little time to educate yourself and prepare for the challenges of mail-order chicks – – because those are different from locally hatched chicks — then you will have a more enjoyable experience all the way around thanks to the confidence this preparation will give you.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go read up on some coop recommendations too and order some cheeps! 🙂