Brooding Baby Chicks in Winter

Brooding baby chicks in cold weather — how low can you go?

As it turns out, cold-weather brooding can go very low indeed. Back in the Fifties, when the electric companies were promoting electric brooding as safer, more reliable, and more convenient that the coal and kerosene brooders that folks used to use, one group did a demonstration:

They suspended four heat lamps in a walk-in freezer at a constant -20 F, and brooded a dozen or so chicks there. It was so cold that ice formed on the waterers on the sides away from the heat lamps, but within the circle of light the chicks were snug and comfy and did just fine.

The rule of thumb for overhead heat-lamp brooders is that one 250-watt heat lamp can handle 75 chicks at 50 F. If temperatures are lower than that, subtract one chick for every degree below 50 F. For example, -20 F is 70 degrees lower than 50 F, so you would be able to brood five chicks (75-70=5) per heat lamp. With four lamps, the freezer demonstration could handle 20 chicks!

Stop for a second and realize how much more confidence you have in all-weather chick brooding, now that you’ve grasped this little-known fact. And that’s just a tiny fraction of the chick-raising lore I’ve collected in my book, Success With Baby Chicks. Don’t forget that we all brood chicks in the late winter or early spring, when it’s still cold! Baby chick season is upon us, so you need to buy the book now, before the chicks arrive.

I Publish Books! Norton Creek Press

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this issue. Most of my posts are based on input from people like you, so leave a comment below!

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, is an expert on free-range chickens, and is a semi-struggling novelist. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years. In addition, he holds down a day job doing technical writing at Workspot.

3 thoughts on “Brooding Baby Chicks in Winter”

  1. It’s a great book and will be permanently on my shelf (as opposed to: read once and then donate). I changed a few of the things I was doing due to reading it and as a result only lost 4 chicks out of the 100 I’d ordered (in batches) in 2009. Any tips on turkeys though? The dang things seem born to die. They were raised with the chicks and I lost 4 out of 6 and then 3 more out of 5 more.

  2. Salting the flock of baby turkeys with a few baby chicks helps a lot, since the turkeys want to be shown how to eat and drink. (Preferably broiler chicks, because they’re calmer. With other breeds, be prepared to remove them if they start beating up the turkeys after a while Probably any breed is okay for the all-important first few days.) Glass-jar waterers help attract them through the glint of the glass, and pecking the feed with your fingers helps attract them.

    Turkeys chill easily during the first few days, so using a draft excluder and providing more heat than usual helps.

    Other than that, you just do the same things you do for baby chicks, only more so. And use a high-quality turkey starter. They’ll die if you feed them cheap chick starter, and won’t do so great on a quality chick starter.

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