Brooding baby chicks in cold weather — how low can you go?
As it turns out, cold-weather brooding can go low indeed. Back in the 1950s, when the electric companies were promoting electric brooding as safer, more reliable and more convenient than the coal and kerosene brooders that folks used to use, one group did a demonstration. The group suspended four heat lamps in a walk-in freezer set at a constant 20 below zero, 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, 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 degrees. If temperatures are lower than that, subtract one chick for every degree below 50 . For example, 20 below zero is 70 degrees lower than 50, 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!