If you raise baby chicks indoors without a mother hen, they must have a heat source, such as a heat lamp. A heat lamp will provide both heat and light for your chicks as they grow and develop. Raising baby chicks can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time, and one thing you might be wondering is how long your chicks need the warmth of a heat lamp?
Baby chicks need a heat lamp until they get their adult feathers through at around 4 to 6 weeks old. From 3 or 4 weeks old, chicks can go for short periods without a heat lamp to help them acclimatize to outdoor temperatures.
Keeping your chicks warm for the correct length of time isn’t always straightforward. If you remove their lamp too soon or give them too much heat, it could cause health and development problems. To find out exactly how long you need to keep your chicks under a heat lamp, look at this guide with pictures.
Most baby chicks will develop feathers by around 4 to 6 weeks old which means they don’t need a heat lamp anymore. However, different chicken breeds develop at different rates, so some chicks might need more or less time under the heat lamp.
Baby chicks are covered in fluffy down, which is cute, but it doesn’t keep them warm. Without feathers, baby chicks are extremely vulnerable to the cold. In nature, you see chicks running around without their feathers, but this will only be for short periods – most of the time, baby chicks will be huddled under their mom (or a heat lamp) to keep warm.
Each chicken breed is different when it comes to development. Some breeds, such as broilers, develop much faster than other breeds. Also, chicks born in colder seasons tend to mature faster than those born in summer. Some breeds, such as Silkies, take longer to develop and need extra time under the heat lamp.
If you’re unsure about your chick’s development, before you remove their heat lamp, get advice from an experienced chicken keeper or animal care professional.
You can also watch their behavior to give you a good idea of how they’ll do. Chicks who stay away from a heater longer in a brooder (or away from their mother) may be ready to graduate away from the heater (or mom’s snuggles).
How Long Do Silkie Chicks Need a Heat Lamp?
Silkie chicks take longer to mature, so they need a heat lamp for around 15 to 18 weeks. Silkies are one of the slowest developing chickens, and they usually don’t get their adult feathers till around 4 months old.
Like other chicks, silkies can go outside when they have all of their adult feathers – it just takes them longer to develop. Usually, hatchery silkies mature quicker than show-bred ones.
Chicks need to be under a heat lamp for around 4 to 6 weeks until they get acclimatized to outdoor temperatures. In week one, chicks need a temperature of 95 degrees – then you reduce the temperature by 5 degrees each week until the brooder temperature matches the temperature outside.
Dramatic temperature changes can kill baby chickens, so you must make climate transitions slowly. Look at this table to get a clearer idea about the ideal temperature for chicks:
|Age||Degrees Fahrenheit||Degrees Centigrade||Notes|
|1 Week||95||35||Chicks shouldn’t leave their heat source for more than a few minutes at a time at this age|
|3 Weeks||85||29.5||Chicks can start to spend small amounts of time away from their heat source.|
|4 Weeks||80||26.6||Chicks can spend more time away from their heat source and will benefit from short periods outside if it’s not too cold.|
|5 Weeks||75||24||Chicks don’t necessarily need the lamp on for 24 hours a day at this age – especially if their environment is more than 75 degrees.|
|6 Weeks||70||21||Chicks can spend the whole day outside, and if they have all their feathers, they can stay out at night too.|
The temperatures in this chart are guidelines, not rules. Chickens develop at different rates. If your chick looks too hot or cold, please adjust the temperature accordingly.
The best way to monitor the temperature in your chick brooder is with a thermometer, but even with the correct temperature, chicks can still get too hot or cold. The best way to tell if your chicks are warm enough is by observing their behavior.
When the temperature is just right, chicks will be happy and active, they’ll move around, socialize, make content cheeping sounds, and eat and drink normally. If your chicks aren’t showing normal behavior, this is a sign something in their environment isn’t right, such as their temperature.
To help you judge if your chicks are too hot or cold from their behavior, we’ve listed the signs below:
Signs That Chicks Are Too Hot
- Chicks stand far apart, well away from each other.
- Chicks retreat to the far corners of the brooder.
- Hot chicks will be quiet and lethargic and might have drooping heads.
- Chicks might pant and lift their wings away from their body to cool down.
- Overheated chicks will have a poor appetite.
If your chicks are too hot, you need to raise your heat lamp to cool them down. Also, you must make sure your brooder has cool areas, away from the heat, where your chicks can retreat if they get too hot. Baby chicks can die from overheating and dehydration.
Signs That Chicks Are Too Cold
- Chicks all huddled up together closely under the light.
- Cold chicks will be noisy – making a distressed sound.
- They feel cold when you touch them – especially their legs.
If your chicks are too cold, you need to lower your heat lamp to give them more warmth – you can also use reflectors to spread the heat around your brooder. Some bulbs are coated with a reflector material, or you can buy reflector domes for your bulbs.
Chicks need to stay inside until at least three weeks old. After three weeks, if the temperature is warm outside, they can go out for short periods, but not overnight. Short periods outdoors help chicks acclimatize for the time when they move permanently outside at around 6 weeks old.
When it’s time for chicks to live outside, to make it less stressful, make the transition slowly. You can help chicks become accustomed to the outdoor climate and the hustle and bustle of outdoor life by giving them some outdoor playtime.
Can 2-week Old Chicks Go Outside?
At two weeks old, unless they have their mother to keep warm, chicks can’t go outside and should spend the minimum time away from their brooder. From 3 or 4 weeks old, if the weather is pleasant, chicks can go outside for short periods.
If you put chicks outside, make sure they have a safe, secure run and build their outdoor time up slowly. Always supervise chicks outdoors because they’re extremely vulnerable to predators.
Can 6-week Old Chicks go Outside?
Most chicks can go outside at six weeks old, but some breeds develop slower than others, so don’t put your chicks outside permanently until they have all of their adult feathers. Also, if it’s cold outside – less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit, wait until it’s warmed up a bit before you put your chicks out overnight.
If the lamp is also the heat source, chicks need it 24 hours a day – especially in the first 3 weeks. Chicks don’t need light 24 hours a day, but they do need heat. At 3 or 4 weeks old, you can switch the lamp off for short periods if the environmental temperature is around 75 degrees.
Chicks can sleep with a light on, and in the first few days, they need lots of light – at least 22 hours per day. In the dark, they can’t find their food, water, or their heat source, so they need plenty of light to help them settle into their new home.
It’s good for chicks to get used to the night and day cycle before they go outside. If you have an alternative heat source, such as a brooder, you can give your chicks dark periods from a few days old. Start with just half an hour of a dark time and build the time up gradually.
If your light is your only heat source, it’s better to keep it on for the chicks 24 hours a day until they’re 3 or 4 weeks old. At this age, chicks can regulate their temperature better, so they can have periods without the lamp if their environment is around 75 degrees.
You don’t have to use a heat lamp to keep chicks warm – you can also use a heated brooder, heated pads, or even a broody hen. Many chicken breeders don’t like using heat lamps because of the fire risks associated with them.
If you have chicks arriving, make sure you have a brooder set up with a suitable heat source. If you don’t want to use a heat lamp, you can also use the following methods:
Method #1 – Hot Water Bottles
You can use a hot water bottle to help keep chicks warm, but this isn’t an ideal long-term solution because you have to refill it with hot water regularly. A hot water bottle is a good temporary heat source if your heater is broken or for nursing a sick chick.
If you use a hot water bottle to keep chicks warm, make sure it has a cover so they don’t touch the hot surface directly and burn themselves. Use a fleecy cover to make your chicks extra cozy.
Method #2 – A Large Flock
Baby chicks will keep each other warm, and the more chicks you have, the better they can maintain their temperature. It’s hard to say exactly how many chicks you need so they can keep each other warm. Some breeders recommend a minimum of 25 chicks, while others say chicks can keep each other warm in a group of 6 to 10.
Method #3 – Heated Brooder/ Heated Pads
Using a brooder or heated pads is one of the safest and most convenient ways to keep chicks warm without a heat lamp. Chicks stand under a heated brooder to keep warm as if it’s their mother. Heat pads can go on the floor of your brooder for the chicks to sit on, or you can place them on the wall of your brooder.
Method #4 – Insulation and Deep Bedding
Deep bedding and snuggly items will also help keep your chicks warm without a lamp. Give them a deep layer of pine shavings, mop heads, and feathered dusters to snuggle into. Don’t use cedar shavings for baby chicks because these can be toxic.
You can also make your chicks a small hut within the brooder and cover the outside with mylar insulation. Chicks will be cozy and warm huddled together inside.
Method #5 – A Hen
The best way to keep chicks warm is with a broody hen. A broody hen will keep the chicks warm, and she’ll also protect them and teach them how to be chickens. However, you can’t use any old hen for your chicks – you must use a broody one.
You know a hen is broody if she’s defensively sitting on a nesting box for long periods. If none of your hens are broody, you can leave some dummy eggs in a nesting box to try and get one in the mood.
When Can You Stop Using a Heat Lamp for Chicks?
Chicks can go for short periods without a lamp from 3 or 4 weeks old, depending on their development and environment. It’s good to give chicks a break from the heat to help them acclimatize to outdoor temperatures. You can usually stop using a lamp altogether when the chicks are 6 weeks old.
If your chicks live in a warm room in the house, with a temperature of at least 75 degrees, they’ll be comfortable for long periods without the lamp at around 3 or 4 weeks old. If your chicks are outdoors in a barn and it’s less than 75 degrees, you will need to keep them under a heat lamp for longer periods until they’re more developed.
Heat lamps can be dangerous and cause fires. To use them safely, choose ones made specifically for chicks and brooders. Always use the right power source and check the lamp and fixtures daily.
Some heat lamps can reach temperatures of up to 500 degrees on the surface, so chicks will burn if they touch it, and a hot lamp can also set fire to bedding on contact. Furthermore, if you have faulty or incorrect equipment, this could start an electrical fire.
If you use a heat lamp for your chicks, look at these tips on how to use it safely:
- Never put a heat lamp close to bedding or water.
- Always use purpose-made heat lamps with secure fittings and attachments and use the correct wattages for lamps and bulbs
- Always use high-quality products that are fit for purpose and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- From two weeks old chicks can jump and fly, so make sure they can’t reach the lamp.
- Use porcelain or ceramic sockets for heat lamps – plastic ones can melt.
- Use a wire guard around the brooder or lamp so if it does fall it’s less of a fire risk.
- Always use a metal chain to suspend your heat lamp rather than a rope or cable.
- Never use bulbs coated with PTFE polytetrafluoroethylene – they release toxic vapors when heated.
Even with all the proper safety tips in place, know that using a heat lamp is still a fire risk. Friends of mine with a variety of heat lamp setups have had fires, and sometimes there’s just no way to know when it’ll happen. Always be careful.
Keeping baby chicks warm can be as low or high-tech as you want it to be. Using a mother hen is the lowest-tech method, and it will work, as long as you aren’t introducing outside chicks (or hens) to the flock. That’s when you need a quarantine period.
In any case, here are some awesome products and options to keep your chicks warm.
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- Need a brooder? This collapsible brooder (available on Amazon) is great because it stores easy but can also hold a lot of chicks!
Best warming products – listed in order of recommendation.
- While a heat lamp can be awesome, this brooder heating plate by RentACoop (click here to see pricing on Amazon) is my preferred way to heat chicks, as it’s a lot safer.
- A heating pad (like this one on Amazon) can be a solid option for keeping chicks warm. I’m less comfortable with it, but it’s probably still safer than a heating lamp.
- If you are going to use a heat lamp, make sure you use a hanging heat shield (like this one, click here to see the best price on Amazon) to reduce your risk. You’ll also need a bulb.
Best temperature measuring products – these aren’t 100% required. They’re just nice to have if you want to be extra sure about the temperature in the chicks’ brooder, like if you’re brooding the chicks outside.
- Old-school thermometers are more reliable (like this one on Amazon), but they aren’t as easy to read.
- Digital thermometers are easier to read, but they can be more finicky if the battery gets too low. Here’s a solid option available on Amazon.
Pro tip: Be sure to check your local animal feed store’s prices before you buy online. Sometimes you can get a better sale price there, but sometimes it’s really hard to beat online retailers.
Now that we’ve talked about all the heat lamp information, let’s make sure we’ve got all of the commonly asked questions about heat lamps (that are slightly off the topic of chicks) answered. We won’t go into all the depth here, because we don’t get too far off-topic.
Even so, if you have a question I haven’t answered yet, please use my contact page to get a hold of me so I can answer your question and update this article.
How Long Do Ducklings Need a Heat Lamp?
Ducklings don’t need a heat lamp for as long as chicks, and usually, they don’t need heat at all by 4 – 6 weeks old. Ducklings can also have time without a heat lamp from around 2 weeks old.
Ducklings still need a temperature of 90 degrees to start with, just like chicks, but instead of reducing it by 5 degrees per week, you reduce their temperature by 1 degree a day.
How Long Do Baby Turkeys Need a Heat Lamp?
Baby turkeys develop at around the same rate as chicks, so they need a heat lamp for around 6 weeks. Just like with baby chicks, baby turkeys need a temperature of 95 degrees with a drop of 5 degrees per week.
How Long Do Baby Quails Need a Heat Lamp?
You need to keep baby quails under a heat lamp for around 6 weeks, and they need a temperature of 100 degrees for the first two weeks. After two weeks, you need to reduce their temperature by one degree each day.
By 4 weeks old, baby quails will no longer need a lamp if their environment is around room temperature, and by 6 weeks old, baby quails are usually ready to go outside.
Your baby chicks will need a heat lamp for around 5 or 6 weeks. Start your chicks at 90 degrees, and then reduce the temperature by 5 degrees per week.
Your chicks can have periods without the lamp from around 3 or 4 weeks old, and from 6 weeks, if they have all their feathers, they don’t need a heat lamp. If you’re still unsure whether it’s time to remove the heat lamp, always seek advice from a professional or experienced chicken keeper.
Now that you know more about keeping your chicks warm, make sure you read this article next so they stay healthy with clean water: How To Keep Baby Chicks’ Water Clean (with pictures).
Cite this article as: “How Long Do Chicks Need a Heat Lamp? Guide With Pictures.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 21 April 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/how-long-do-chicks-need-a-heat-lamp-guide-with-pictures/.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Armitage, Neil. “Do Chicks and Baby Chickens Need a Light at Night?” Cluckin, 22 Dec. 2021, cluckin.net/do-chicks-and-baby-chickens-need-a-light-at-night.html.
- Newchik715. “Do Silkies Grow 10 Times Slower?” Backyard Chickens – Learn How to Raise Chickens, 26 Mar. 2011, www.backyardchickens.com/threads/do-silkies-grow-10-times-slower.472346.
- Patrick. “How Fast Do Silkies Grow. With Pictures of Growers.” My Blog – Scrumptious Silkies, 6 Oct. 2021, silkie.org/how-fast-do-silkies-grow-with-40-images-of-growers.html.
- Meyer Hatchery, meyerhatchery.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360015096152-Turkey-Brooding-101-How-to-Raise-Heritage-and-Broad-Breasted-Poults-from-Arrival-to-Outside. Accessed 31 Mar. 2022.
- Starr, Kimberly. “Broody Chickens: The Complete Guide.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 2 Apr. 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/broody-chickens-the-complete-guide.
- Starr, Kimberly. “Light And Heat Requirements For Baby Chicks: The Essential Guide.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 18 Mar. 2022, backyardhomesteadhq.com/light-and-heat-requirements-for-baby-chicks-the-essential-guide.
- “Quail Care: Purely Poultry.” Purely Poultry, www.purelypoultry.com/quail-care-ezp-84.html. Accessed 31 Mar. 2022.
- Welch, William. “Top 10 Safest Alternatives To Heat Lamp For Chickens.” Sand Creek Farm, 29 Dec. 2021, sandcreekfarm.net/safest-alternatives-to-heat-lamp-for-chickens.