What are people's ideas for keeping baby chicks warm without a heat lamp?
I've tried keeping chicks in my house before, but they create a problematic amount of dust, and I'm allergic to dust. The house is the only place on our farm with electricity... the barn is too far away to run power cords. So I'm interested in non-electric methods of keeping chicks warm in a barn. I suspect deep litter isn't warm enough by itself. Using insulation and heat-reflective emergency blankets in some kind of enclosure for them may help. And of course there's seasonality to consider - it will be easier in mid-summer. Any ideas for spring though?
Less than a month or so you need heat. As in 95F in the first week, 80-85 at 4-5 weeks. You cannot get around this. Just insulation is absolutely not going to cut it -- they are not generating and retaining enough heat on their own. They will die.
Seems to me the only solution short of a generator is a kerosene heater or similar. If the chicks have not yet arrived figure this all out ahead of time and make sure you can keep that temperature up -- use a thermometer that will show daily maximum and minimum so you know how low it gets at night. Of course mid-summer is the time to do this, but even then you will need heat.
In the future, if you can, consider letting hens do the work. They are far better at it than we are and your peeps will be stronger, happier and far smarter. I know.. it's not always realistic or possible but it is by far the best way.
Edit: I forgot to say this: if you think about the way a chick is raised by it's mom, the heat should be like that, so that there is a place of direct, full-on high heat and areas of less heat. This allows them to self-regulate and is why heat lamps are so good.
'mama heating pad' method.
I use an electric heating pad suspended over the chicks making a small heated tunnel that they can run under when they get cold. It is more hen-like in it's application of heat than a heat lamp. It is also a lot less energy demanding than a heat lamp and a lot less likely to burn your barn down. Since a heating pad doesn't take a lot of power, maybe you could use a small inverter and power the pad with a car battery? trade the battery out every couple of days with a second battery on a charger at the house.
I've never tried it. I would agree that you would need to have some girls to keep em warm. Don't know why you couldn't put a moveable structure close to your house that you could run a cord too. The first two weeks have been critical for me and I couldn't imagine trying to do it in an unheated building. The first two weeks there are also very small and haven't created much of a mess for me. i keep my box top relatively closed (in the first two weeks) so I don't much dust from that. Here is a brooder that I tried for the first time and mixed results with it but had problems not related to it.
Last time we raised hatchery chicks we didn't use a heat lamp. We did keep the brooder box indoors, where the temps were probably in the 60s. During the day we put a milk jug filled with hot water from the tap into the brooder box, and we hung fleece flaps over it so they could snuggle between the fleece and the water-bottle. At night we put in a smaller cardboard box, insulated with mylar and fleece, with an insulated central compartment holding a metal maple-syrup tin which we filled with boiling water before going to bed. Heat-wise this worked fine; the chicks feathered out fast and were ready to move outside (it was APril in upstate NY--nights got below freezing) at 3 weeks old. (We still gave them a hot-water bottle at night for a while.) Our big mistake was leaving the inner corners square--two chicks got squashed into sharp corners and died. After we rounded the corners we stopped losing chicks.
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