Brooder Temperature

Little fluffy chicks need help staying warm. Their downy feathers aren’t good insulation. A cold wind goes right through them. A mama hen provides protection under her thick coat and next to her warm skin. But, chicks don’t stay under the hen all day. They venture out and about. In nature, most sensible hens hatch their chicks late in the springtime when the weather has warmed up. Still, weather is variable, and the chicks, even just a few days old, experience a range of temperatures.

Those of us who order chicks through the mail keep our babies warm with a heat lamp in a protected box called a brooder. The rule of thumb is that the first week the brooder should be at 95 degrees F. Each week thereafter the temp is dropped (by raising the lamp up) by 5 degrees. But in reality, it’s more complicated than that. Chicks can easily get overheated, especially if you have only a few babies in a small plastic carton. Last year I heard from two different people whose chicks were dying. I finally figured out that they were too hot. Instead of judging if the temperature is right using a thermometer, use the chick’s behavior as a guide. To do  this, there must be enough room in the brooder for the chicks to get out from under the heat lamp! There should be shadowy, cooler areas.

Comfortable chicks are evenly spaced. They are generally quiet. If there’s a lot of high-pitched cheeping, they’re distressed. These chicks are just right.

evenly spaced

Chicks will go from very active to asleep in a blink of an eye. Sometimes, they fall asleep in mid-step! They sleep near each other but not piled up.


If it’s too cold, they’ll huddle directly under the heat lamp. It got down to about 20 degrees last night. The air in the shadows was quite chilly, but the chicks were fine under the lamp. I could tell that they were okay because there’s still some space between them, and they were quiet.


If they’re too warm, they’ll move away from the lamp. Here they’re keeping their butts warm, and their heads in the shadows.


They look like a group of Brownie Scouts around a campfire. I’m waiting for them to burst into a version of Kumbaya. If the chicks entirely avoided going directly under the heat lamp, I’d raise it up a notch, but as I watched them, they finished their naps and hurried hither yon, under the lamp, and drank and ate. The chicks were able to regulate their body temperature by moving around the brooder.

Taking good care of the chicks is all about paying attention. Of course, that means that I have to spend time watching the chicks, which is about the best excuse ever to procrastinate from my work.


  1. Such great photographs to illustrate your points.
    We’ve enjoyed watching your happy chicks,
    and it’s getting me excited to bring new babes into
    our flock, later this summer.

  2. My children and I are loving checking in on your chicks everyday. We’re gearing up to get our first flock (8 in total I think)!

  3. Hi Terry, I’m wondering about the breed of your extra chick. Can you identify it yet?

  4. I’m taking all this info in and makes me crazy waiting on mine. My family is ready to ship me off somewhere, except for hubby. He is getting into it as much as me!(which is a good thing since he is building the coop). Love the split wood in the brooder, and your chickies seem to also. Watching Pip and Caper has convinced me I have to have the calendar. Love the pic of Candy and one of the brothers. Hope you have another calendar next year.

  5. Love your new babies. Reminds me of ours a year ago. Never thought of putting a spilt piece of wood in for them, my husband made up a little roost for them out of two blocks of wood and a small dowel and they were perching almost immediately. It was so cute?.. Am looking forward to watching them grow. Thanks so much for doing this for all of us! PS: I got two golden sex links (GSL) when I got mine and they are my best layers now…an egg a day.

  6. They are so cute Terry, thank you for sharing the photos and your knowledge, as always!

  7. Do chicks play with each other? Do they start a pecking order at this early age?

    I have truly been enjoying watching these guys. Can’t wait to see them grow!

    • I’ve never seen chicks play. They investigate. They peck. They eat. But they don’t interact the way other species, such as puppies, do.

  8. Love the butt-warming circle. Great picture for learning to read body language.

  9. So enrjoying the chick cam, thank you Terry! I’m curious about the towels for the babies at first that I now see have been ‘switched out’ for shavings. Do the towels help keep it warmer for those 1st few days?

    • The towels give the secure footing. Also, the chicks will eat anything the first few days, and I don’t want them stuffing themselves on shavings, so I wait until they learn where the chick food is before putting down inedible loose matter.