Raising Chicks: Chick Brooder Temperature and Light Requirements

Raising chicks can be a fun experience for children and adults alike, but it’s crucial that chick brooder environments be set up correctly. Here are the brooder temperature and light requirements you need to know.

| May 17, 2013

Whether you want to raise two chickens or care for a flock of one hundred, you will likely start by raising chicks. To ensure that these chicks grow into healthy and productive birds, you want to keep stress to a minimum. In this excerpt from Chapter 11 of the classic reference Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (Storey Publishing, 2010), Gail Damerow shows you how to find the perfect brooder temperature and light conditions to make sure your chicks stay comfortable and healthy.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.

As long as you maintain the principles of security and warmth, the possibilities for raising chicks in a brooder are limited only by your imagination. Any brooder must be designed to minimize stress, since stress drastically reduces the chicks’ immunity, making them susceptible to diseases they might otherwise resist. Stress is minimized by making sure the chicks are neither too cool nor too warm; have a clean, safe environment; are provided sufficient space for their numbers; and can always find feed and water.

Stress may also be reduced by approaching the chicks from the side, rather than from the top. Commercial box and battery brooders are designed with this feature in mind. Most other brooders are designed for the convenience of the chicken keeper, who scares the living daylights out of chicks by approaching them from above — after all, most predators swoop down on baby chicks. Whenever you approach chicks from the top, the polite thing to do is talk or hum to let them know you’re coming.

Brooder Temperature

A chick’s body has little in the way of temperature control, although a group of chicks can keep themselves warm by huddling together in a small space — which is why a box full of newly hatched chicks may be shipped by mail. When given sufficient space to exercise, eat, and drink, chicks need an external source of warmth while their down gives way to feathers, starting at about 20 days of age.

Chicks tend to feather out more quickly in cooler weather, but if the air temperature is quite low, they need auxiliary heat longer than chicks brooded in warmer weather. For this reason chicks hatched in winter or early spring typically require brooder warmth longer than chicks hatched in late spring or early summer.

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