AL­TER­NA­TIVES: HEAT LAMPS AND HEAT PLATES

Your Chickens - - Feature | Hatching -

So what are the al­ter­na­tives to the nat­u­ral ap­proach of a Mother Hen? The tra­di­tional source of warmth is a heat lamp with a red 250 watt bulb sus­pended above the brooder.

It’s widely be­lieved that brooder tem­per­a­tures should start off at 35°C for the first week, de­creas­ing by 3°C there­after un­til the sixth week. From ob­serv­ing my own brood­ies in­ter­act­ing with their chicks out­doors, I know that the chicks weren’t sub­jected to th­ese con­stant tem­per­a­tures for such a pe­riod of time. In­stead, the chicks al­ter­nated from warmth — if they be­came chilly from ex­plor­ing, they would quickly snug­gle be­neath their mother.

Although many peo­ple use heat lamps suc­cess­fully and with­out in­ci­dent, heat lamps are a po­ten­tial fire haz­ard — there are count­less news sto­ries of an­i­mal deaths and chicken coops burn­ing down as a re­sult of a heat lamp fire.

The size of the brooder and po­si­tion­ing of the heat lamp is im­por­tant — if the brooder is too small, weaker chicks are likely to be tram­pled on and pushed out of the way by oth­ers in their search for heat. De­hy­dra­tion is a risk too. A lower wattage bulb may suf­fice in a smaller space. Ide­ally, the brooder should be long and nar­row in shape so that the heat lamp can pro­vide warmth at one end, repli­cat­ing the warmth of a Mother Hen whilst leav­ing a cooler end for the chicks to ex­plore as they feel com­fort­able.

Heat lamps de­mand en­ergy and, as they are con­stantly on, they are not only ex­pen­sive to run, they do not al­low the chicks to fol­low the nat­u­ral sleep cir­ca­dian rhythm. Shat­ter re­sis­tant bulbs of­ten have a coat­ing made of poly­te­traflu­o­roethy­lene (‘PTFE’), com­monly known as Te­flon. When th­ese bulbs are used, they heat up and, if the glass wall of the bulb be­comes hot enough, the coat­ing can re­lease toxic fumes which are po­ten­tially fa­tal to con­fined birds, i.e. your chicks. If you do use a heat lamp, en­sure that the bulb is not Te­flon coated.

No mat­ter how care­fully you think you’ve se­cured the heat lamp, there is al­ways a worry that it could be ac­ci­dently knocked or come in con­tact with a flammable ob­ject or a chick or loose feather fly­ing up into it. Plac­ing an in­tense heat sur­face in a con­fined area with highly flammable ma­te­ri­als: wood shav­ings, feath­ers, card­board boxes and liv­ing crea­tures are a recipe for dis­as­ter.

There are safer op­tions avail­able such as a ra­di­ant heat plate. Work­ing on the same warm­ing con­cept as a Mother Hen is the EcoGlow Brooder from Brin­sea Prod­ucts Lim­ited (http:// www.brin­sea.co.uk). The EcoGlow Brooder works on the prin­ci­ple of ra­di­ant heat, for ex­am­ple, the warmth of sun­shine. Warmth is di­rectly trans­mit­ted from the el­e­ment on the un­der­side of the brooder to the chick, rather than re­ly­ing on a heat source warm­ing the air as is the case with tra­di­tional heat lamps. As such, there is no heat source to spark a fire, giv­ing you peace of mind that the chicks are com­pletely safe and there is no fire risk.

The EcoGlow Brooder has three height set­tings for dif­fer­ent sized chicks, pro­vid­ing a safe place to shel­ter. As there are no dis­rup­tive lights, the chicks adapt to a nat­u­ral di­ur­nal cy­cle. The wa­ter­tight con­struc­tion and low volt­age de­sign en­sure that the brood­ers are fully com­pli­ant with strin­gent elec­tri­cal safety stan­dards.

Con­sum­ing around 18 watts, de­pend­ing on the am­bi­ent room tem­per­a­ture, as op­posed to a typ­i­cal 250 watt heat lamp, the EcoGlow Brooder is more eco­nom­i­cal to run. This rep­re­sents a con­sid­er­able sav­ing given that the brooder needs to op­er­ate 24/7 for sev­eral weeks.

Think­ing like a Mother Hen will give you a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of your role in rais­ing happy and healthy chicks in a brooder safely.

Heat lamps do not al­low the chicks to fol­low the nat­u­ral sleep cir­ca­dian rhythm.

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