Sad to say, brooding baby chicks with heat lamps presents a fire hazard. How much of a fire hazard? That’s up to you. Here are tips for dialing down the risk.
1. Avoid self-disassembling clamp lights.
Cheap clamp lights are exactly wrong for brooder lights. The clamps are weak, the screw holding the swivel together tends to come undone, the sockets aren’t rated for 250-watt heat lamps, they don’t have heavy-duty cords … they’re an accident waiting to happen. Stay away.
2. Use a real brooder lamp.
- A heavy-duty porcelain lamp socket that can withstand the enormous heat of a 250-watt heat lamp.
- A guard in the front. If the lamp falls to the floor, the guard will prevent the lamp from coming into contact with the floor, and will also tend to cause it to roll so the lamp is no longer pointing at the floor.
- Instead of a clamp, a loop for hanging the lamp.
- A heavy-duty cord.
3. Use the brooder lamp correctly.
The picture below shows how to do it right:
- Use a real brooder light.
- Suspend the light securely, using lightweight chain or something equally strong and heatproof.
- Just for luck, wrap the power cord so it acts as a safety cord if the chain somehow comes loose.
- Not shown in the picture is the guard at the front of the fixture.
4. Stop using 250-watt heat lamps!
Stop using 250-watt heat lamps. They’re too hot! As you dial down the wattage, everything gets easier. Use 125-watt and 175-watt heat lamps instead. Or even ordinary reflector floodlights, which are available all the way down to 30 watts.
Can you get by with a single 125-watt heat lamp? Here’s the rule of thumb for wattage: At 50 °F minimum room temperature, a 250-watt bulb can accommodate 75 chicks. A 125-watt heat lamp can accommodate half as many, which works out to 37.5.
Of course, if you’re brooding a lot of chicks, you can still use 125-watt heat lamps. Just use twice as many! I like using two lamps anyway, because if one burns out, the heat falls to half instead of falling to zero, and the odds of losing any baby chicks are greatly reduced.
5. Lock the door to the brooder area.
Kids find baby chicks irresistible, and even if your own kids are perfect little angels, the neighbor’s kids (and their friends and cousins) may not be. So controlling access to your brooder area can prevent all sorts of childish misadventures.
6. Bonus tip.
I’ve written a whole book on baby chick brooding, Success With Baby Chicks, with more than 150 pages of chick-rearing tips. Check it out!