How Long Do Chicks Need a Heat Lamp?

heat lamp for chicks featured image
In cold conditions, baby chicks will require a heat lamp until they are 7 weeks old and are spending hours outside their brooder. In warm to hot conditions, you can switch off the heat lamp after weeks 4 to 5. 

One of the most important parts of any brooder is its heat source. Heat lamps are necessary for regulating a baby chick’s internal body temperature. Without one, chicks will not be able to keep themselves warm enough to survive.

So, how long do chicks need to have a brooder heat lamp? What is the best way to set one up? In this article, we will look at everything that you will need to know about heat lamps for your brooder.

How Long To Use Heat Lamps on Baby Chicks

A chick will usually need to have a heat source in their brooder until they start getting some of their adult feathers. This is usually right around the 6 to 12 week mark.

Once you notice that your chicks are entering their cockerel and pullet stage, it is usually safe to fully remove the heat lamp from the brooder. As they get their first coat of adult feathers, chickens are able to start maintaining their internal temperatures better.

pullets under heat lamp sitting down
These pullets are almost ready to have their heat lamp switched off

Keep an eye on your cockerels and pullets when you first remove the heat lamp from their enclosure. If their behaviors start to change, they still might need the extra heat source. It’s always okay to add a heat source to your primary chicken coop to make sure your adult chickens are staying warm and toasty during colder temperatures.

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Ideal Temperature for Heat Lamps

Baby chicks will need constant heat from the moment that they are born. Before they hatch, fertilized eggs will be constantly heated in an incubator at around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Upon hatching, baby chicks are transferred to a brooder that will also need a consistent heat source. The temperature in the brooder should start at around 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week that the chicks are alive.

As the chicks grow larger and stronger, they will be less reliant on the heat lamp to maintain their body temperatures. So, each week the temperature of the heat lamp can be reduced by around 5 degrees until it hits right around 65 to 70 degrees.

Chart: Ideal Brooder Temperatures by Chick Age

Week 195°F35°C
Week 290°F32°C
Week 385°F29°C
Week 480°F26.5°C
Week 575°F24°C
Week 670°F21°C
Week 7Minimum 65°FMinimum 18°C

From week 8 onwards, your brooder may need to be kept at a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit based on your current season and outside temperature. 

As long as the temperature outside is above the right temperature for your chick’s age, then it is usually okay to turn the heat lamp off. Every breed reacts to cold weather differently, so just make sure your pullets and cockerels are well prepared before removing them from a heat source.

Benefits and Drawbacks of using Heat Lamps

Heat lamps are mostly seen as a fantastic asset when raising chicks. The primary benefit of a heat lamp is seen in its immediate purpose: it provides a constant source of heat that keeps your chicks alive.

All full-functioning brooders require a supplemental heat source and heat lamps are usually the cheapest and most effective method of heating a brooder. While nothing beats a mother hen’s natural heat, having a heated brooder box is often far more efficient with large quantities of chicks.

However, having a heat source that is constantly powered by electricity also presents a series of drawbacks. A heat lamp that isn’t properly installed or monitored should be considered a serious fire hazard.

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Most common and cheap heat lamps that can be found on Amazon or at Walmart can be effective, but they are also usually flimsy and of low quality. Investing in a well-constructed heat lamp will prevent technological errors from causing a fire.

Additionally, there are heat lamp alternatives such as heated pads or other coop heaters such as the Brinsea EcoGlow that will drastically reduce the probability of a fire as it uses radiant heat instead of a light. 

Radiant heat uses electromagnetic waves that are invisible to human and chicken eyes, and thus will not affect your chicks’ sleep patterns. The EcoGlow’s radiant heat is also far more consistent and easy to regulate than a heat lamp, so adjusting the temperature each week is a much simpler process.

Heat Lamp Safety

Even though heat lamps provide many great benefits to raising chickens, they can also be serious fire hazards. 

If you’re using a traditional heat lamp reflector that hangs from the ceiling, you’ll want to make sure that the bottom of the steel cage guard is at least 12 inches above the bedding of the brooder. It’s also suggested that you use a secure clamp to prevent it from falling directly into the brooder.

baby chicks and baby ducks under heat lamp
12″ inches above the bedding is the minimum for heat lamps. Note that ducks and chickens can share the same heat lamp.

Building a chick brooder that is enclosed at the top will also prevent a fire from starting. Simply using chicken wire or another metal fencing material as a ceiling will function as a barricade in case your lamp happens to fall.

Monitoring the temperature of your brooder is not only important for the health of your chicks, but also for the overall safety of your brooder. If you start to notice that temperatures are unusually high, take a look at your lamp to make sure it is working properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Leave The Heat Lamp on at Night For Chicks?

Yes, you will need to keep your heat lamp on 24/7. Chicks require a constant heat source to maintain their body temperature, so a heat lamp must be on at all times.

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In fact, you might want to consider having two heat lamps going at all times just in case one were to malfunction. This will ensure that your chicks will stay warm during the nighttime in case one of the lamps were to fail while you’re asleep.

What Type of Light Bulb Should I Use For Chicks?

Most heat lamps will require a Type R incandescent bulb. For smaller brooders, you’ll want to use a bulb that’s around 100 watts, while larger brooders will need a 200-250 watt bulb. Use caution when using higher wattage bulbs, as they can more easily lead to your chicks overheating.

Even though a white light bulb works just fine, many chicken keepers swear by red-colored heat lamp bulbs. This is because the red light is perceived differently from daylight, so it could be beneficial to your chick’s sleeping patterns. 

It’s also been noted that chicks tend to peck at other chicks less often when their heat light is red. This could be that the red light makes their wattles and combs more difficult to see, making them less of a target for pecking.

How To Tell If Chicks are Too Hot or Too Cold?

Your chicks’ behaviors are often the best indicators of if they are too warm or too cold. If they are constantly huddled together and are usually directly below the heat lamp, look at these as signs to turn the temperature up.

If your chicks are avoiding being underneath the heat lamp, have slouched posture and drooping wings, and aren’t chirping as much as usual, then they are likely too warm. Overheated chicks can also develop a condition known as pasty butt where their vent will be covered in their dried up droppings.

Chicks that are happy will actively move about their brooder, eat and drink normally, and chirp nonstop. Having a source of fresh water in your brooder at all times will also help your chicks better regulate their body temperatures.


Raised in Wisconsin, Leland has spent most of his life adjacent to the rich farmlands of the Midwest. He has visited many farms while exploring his home state, which eventually led him to work directly with farmers on a variety of projects. Between building furniture with Amish-milled wood and helping a local farmer construct a greenhouse, Leland developed a deep interest in homesteading and wants to one day have farmland of his own. Leland is able to combine his love of writing and recent passion for agriculture by writing articles focused on a variety of aspects of farming and homesteading.

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