When is a broody not a broody?

When she’s a Brinsea.

When chicks come out of the egg, they are remarkably independent in a remarkably short period of time. They can see, walk, and feed themselves, but they, like all babies, need a much higher level of heat than adults of their species.

“They” say to place chicks in a brooder with part of it at 95 degrees the first week, decreasing 5 degrees per week until the chicks are fully feathered, at about 5 weeks. This is generally achieved with a 250-heat lamp, either decreasing wattage or increasing distance from the chicks to achieve the desired temperature decrease.

The chicks will tell you; they’ll huddle under the heat source if they’re cold, and cram into the corners away from the light if they’re hot. Spaced about evenly in the brooder comfortable and quiet? Just right.

Leave it to the Brits to shake things the up. From the UK comes the clever and economical EcoGlow Brooder, from Brinsea. Don’t heat the brooder, this device argues; heat the chicks, the way a broody hen would. It goes a little something like this:

The heat comes from above the chicks, the way it would were they naturally brooded, and, instead of using  250 watts, it uses fourteen. Multiply that times 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for five weeks, and this thing pays for itself pretty quickly.

Other advantages: much less fire hazard, the chicks hide under the heat source in a more instinctive way, and they’re not keep awake in an unnatural eat/nap cycle by constant light.

I ordered two, because I couldn’t be sure I was going to have a broody mama for my chicks, and, frankly, it ain’t looking good, so it’s well I did. In anticipation of the poults arrival Friday, I have just set one up.

It’s quite a bit bigger than I thought it would be. This model is sold for 20 chicks, so it can handle my six with ease, even the larger-than-chicks poults. Plugged in, the top is cool to the touch, while the underside feels about the temperature of a heating pad on high. I placed a room thermometer under it, and it’s measuring about 80 degrees.

Ruh roh, I worried. 80 ≠ 95. I was concerned until I read this in the enclosed flyer:

“Because the the heat from the black underside of the EcoGlow is largely radiant, measuring the temperature with a thermometer is of little value. Radiant heat passes through air without warming it. Only a solid object will absorb and be warmed by radiant heat. So a thermometer will register the air temperature but not the radiant heat and will usually show some 5 to 10 degrees lower than the effective temperature felt by the chicks.”

That factored in, 80 degrees is about right. Reports from users say the chicks will actually press their backs right up against the heat plate, as they would against a hen. The height of the platform is adjustable, so I placed mine on the middle setting for the turkeys.

I was starting to feel pretty good about it all, and even a little smug (a rare state these days), until I read this:

“Room temperature should not drop below 50 degrees at night.”

Aaaaannnnd…we’re back to “Ruh roh”. My brooders are in the coop. In the barn. In the outside. Where we keep the cold. A good day has a HIGH of 50 degrees these days. Poopypants.

I think I’m going to have to use both a heat lamp and the Brinsea, at least for the first few weeks. I hate heat lamps. They eat electricity and they’re a fire hazard.

Time to adapt The Plan…

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5 thoughts on “When is a broody not a broody?

  1. Oh no!

    People shouldn’t keep their chicks inside anyway.. I think it’s silly that it has to be at least 50 out :/

    Are you getting excited? I know I am!

  2. They do make radiant ceramic elements that screw into a brooder lamp hood like a regular light. (example at http://www.exo-terra.com/en/products/heat_wave_lamp.php) They’re usually available at reptile supply places. We have the 150W size, and used it for supplemental warming of grown birds in our garage in the winter (somebody was sick and supposed to be kept warmish). It doesn’t make a big difference when it’s 30 degrees, but might provide enough warmth in combination with the EcoGlow. They have a short range, so would need to be closer to the ground than a lamp. If you try this make sure it’s not one with a teflon coating. Teflon outgassing is very bad for baby chicks.

    That EcoGlow looks pretty cool – if they’d had it three years ago when I got my first babies, I wouldn’t have bought a commercial brooder that holds up to 50 chicks. We are getting three new babies next month to supplement our flock, and they’re going to look kinda silly in a huge space like that.

    • Pat, that’s fantastic! I will definitely look into that. I didn’t like seeing my big girls sleeping in red light tonight when I peeked into the coop.

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