Safety Tips For Using A Heat Lamp

by Manda H

Published July 25, 2023

As someone who has been raising chickens for over 20 years, I must say that nothing has ever caused me more anxiety, in raising chickens, than how I would feel each and every time I had to turn on my heat lamp to protect a new batch of baby chicks.

Fire Hazard

I have often told people that I have probably done everything wrong at least once or twice, before finally figuring out a much better way.  Over the years I have strived to tweak everything to work the best that it can so I can have the greatest success.  When it comes to brooding baby chicks safely it is very important to do things correctly.  Failure to brood them safely can result in the death of baby chicks and can even result in a fire, which can put others at risk.

You occasionally read or hear about a local farmer who lost a shed or even a barn to a fire. Cause of fire?  Heat lamp. They have a well-earned reputation for being a fire hazard. 

Today I want to share with you some safety tips in reducing the risk of fire.  I will be honest with you, I have had heat lamps fall and catch bedding on fire. A little over 15 years ago I even lost a small building. I’ll share tips with you that I didn’t research on the internet. These are real-life tips that I have found to be tried and true through my own experiences.

Heat Lamp Safety- Meyer Hatchery

Wattage

The first thing to consider when using a heat lamp is what wattage to use. Red heat lamp bulbs are typically 250 watts and emit red light. This bulb wattage is very important to use when brooding in cool months, especially in unheated buildings because it emits a great amount of heat.

Less Commonly used, but my personal favorite is the 125 Watt Bulb. It is a much lower wattage than the red light, but it is clear. This can cause a little issue with chicks because anything interesting at all on the other chicks and they can see it clearly.  I am diligent in making sure chicks do not have any kind of injuries and personally, I have not had any issues with the clear bulb. This is my very much preferred bulb to use when brooding inside of the house.  It works great when the room temperature is hovering around 65-70 degrees and constant. This allows the chicks to have access to some greater heat, but without blasting them with the strong 250-watt.  Generally speaking, I can keep the light about 18-24 inches away from the chick level and have no issues with the bedding getting extra warm and chicks can be under it without experiencing intense heat.

Securing your light

When setting up your heat lamp you need to take into consideration how well the lamp is secured.  Do you have any cats who might try checking out the chicks? Dogs? Toddlers?  Can anything bump that lamp at any point? How about gravity?  What can you do to not just secure it one way, but twice? Three times over? This is not an area in which you want to fail. 

Now, what are you using for your brooder?  Is it cardboard? Galvanized metal? Plastic? After running it for an hour or so, if you feel the sides, is it cold? Warm? How warm?  I will admit, I have melted more than one plastic tote when using a heat lamp and the heat was too intense for the size.

My preferred brooder nowadays is a galvanized stock tank.  I usually have about 18, or so, chicks at a time. I prefer at least 2.5 feet long and putting the heat lamp at one end. This allows the chicks to head to the warmth, but as needed, walk away and venture around. I keep their feed/water more towards the middle of the brooder so they do not have to leave warmth to get it, but it also does not force a chick to be in the greater intense heat in order to eat/drink. I love galvanized because it is not flammable itself.  I still have to take into consideration the bedding and the cord, but at least I know the brooder itself will not become fuel in the event of a fire.

If you are raising ducks it can actually pose a bit of a danger if you put your water close to the heat lamp and then give your ducks fresh cold water.  Once they get their face in and do their typical splashing, if any of that really cold water hits that heat lamp bulb when it’s really hot, it can cause the bulb to explode.

When it comes to the bulb housing, they have a bit of a bracket that goes over it that reduces the chances that the heat bulb will come into contact with the bedding. This does reduce that risk, but I have had more than one baby chick who felt that the bracket looked like a comfy place to try to sit.This puts your heat lamp at risk for falling unless it is secured properly.

Heat Lamp Safety - Meyer Hatchery

It is important to note that any time you visit your baby chicks that you should check your heat lamp. Make sure nothing is warm that should not be warm. Make sure you do not smell anything off, especially that of warm electrical. Make sure that the lamp is plugged in snugly. Keep a fire extinguisher around and know how to use it.

Do you have any other tips or suggestions on how to safely use a heat lamp when raising your baby chicks or other small livestock?

Baby Chick Starter Home Kit - Meyer Hatchery
Heat Lamp Stand - Meyer Hatchery
Brooder Thermometer - Taylor Thermometer - Meyer Hatchery

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