A friend who also has baby chickens asked me if my chicks are warm outside in their coop at night this spring. I’ll share my answer here, in case any of you are raising chicks and are wondering the same thing.
*First off, let me get the disclaimer out of the way: I am a first time surrogate mother hen. I have no idea what I’m doing and am guided only by a strong sense of trust in the natural world.*
That said, are my chickens warm enough at night? I think so. It’s been in the 30’s and 40’s the past few nights. I woke up this morning to find ice in the birdbath, so it must have been chilly last night. I think of chickens as I think of tomato plants: they prefer it warm and sunny, with nighttime lows in the upper-40’s at the lowest.
My chickens are in a hen house with a door that closes at night. The floor is covered with a few inches of pine shavings for warmth and comfort. The 250 watt red heat bulb hangs from the ceiling, aimed at a corner.
At this moment (about 10 pm) it is 62 degrees outside. I checked on the chicks and almost all of them are huddled in a big mass. An hour ago, it was a tight mass, away from the heat lamp. I knew it meant they were too hot (not that they don’t have enough room to spread out if they’re too hot… why do they stick together so?). Just now, they are still in a mass, but it’s a looser formation and some of them are drifting toward the heat lamp. By the time dawn breaks, when it is coldest, they will be loosely gathered under the lamp. At that point they will be neither too hot nor too cold – they will be comfortable.
I placed the heat lamp so that it sheds warmth on one corner and should keep the chicks warm even if the temperature drops considerably at night. If it’s warmer, the chicks have a nice, big hen house to spread out in. In the morning, when it’s still chilly outdoors, they venture out of the house to greet the day. Their door is always open during the day, and the heat lamp is always on for them. If they want it, it’s theirs. I have found though that they often do not seek it out. They are feathering out nicely. Surely that has something to do with it.
Are my chickens warm? I think so.