When I started reading about heat plates vs. lamps for the brooder, I wondered why I used a heat lamp for so many years. I try to keep things as natural as possible on our homestead. There are pros and cons to each type of heat source and I’ll go over them all with you!
Why I stopped using a heat lamp in my brooders and invested in a heat plate instead.
What is a heat lamp?
A heat lamp is the stereotypical heating source you see used when raising chicks (or ducklings, quail, geese, etc.). Many beginning homesteaders use them, and I used them for 4 years. You can buy red bulbs or soft-white bulbs to attach to a metal ‘base’. I used a base with a sturdy clamp on the bottom to position the heat lamp over the brooder.
Other folks opt for a stand for the bulb to hang above one the brooder, similar to this one. When I first started raising chicks I used white bulbs. I quickly learned that chicks are more likely to peck at each other and switched to red bulbs!
What is a heat plate?
A heat plate is a rectangular plate that simulates a mother hen keeping chicks warm beneath her feathers. Heat plates have four adjustable legs for raising and lowering the plate as your birds get older, needing less heat.
The benefits of a brooder heat plate vs heat lamps
|Pros of a brooder heat plate||Pros of a brooder heat lamp|
|Simulates a mothering, broody hen||Often more inexpensive than brooder heat plates can be|
|Provides chicks with the natural stages of development||Readily available at local farm stores, in case of emergency|
|Doesn’t produce any extra light or unneeded heat||Can be used on other livestock if needed (babies who need extra warmth, etc.)|
|Allows for domestic fowl to adjust to the natural day/night cycle||Better for climates that drop below 50 degrees F|
|High efficiency, saving $ on electricity!||Easier to use when raising large amounts of domestic fowl (20+ birds)|
|Takes up less space when storing||Can reach more square footage when utilizing a very large brooder|
|No bulbs to replace!||—|
|Each leg is adjustable to accommodate the runts of the flock||—|
|The heat is centralized, allowing for a slightly smaller brooder if needed||—|
|Suited for tropical, moody climates (like Florida, hello!) since the plate’s heat is centralized and contained.|
|The chicks can safely touch the warm side of the brooder plate without being burned (like touching the mama hens belly!).|
The cons of a brooder heat plate vs heat lamps (There aren’t many!)
|Cons of a brooder heat plate||Cons of a brooder heat lamp|
|Since the chicks are developing quicker, you have to stay on top of adjusting the legs||They get very hot, very quickly making them an extreme fire hazard. Hot lamps + bedding = FIRE|
|If you’re raising a large number of domestic fowl, you might need more than one brooder heat plate or a larger one||Since the lamps get so hot, you have to be careful to protect young children, animals, etc. from coming in contact with them.|
|They’re more expensive than brooder heat lamps (although they’re a one-time purchase!)||Since there’s a continuous light, your young fowl aren’t able to adapt to a regular wake and sleep cycle as they should.|
|The cord is a little awkward, coming out the side (also not that big of a deal)||Since the brooder heat lamp is so bright, keeping the flock inside is hard unless you have a spare room…or don’t mind a BRIGHT night light|
|Not the best for outside brooders in extremely cold climates||Additionally, keeping them in the barn or hen house also provides light for any other animals roosting and resting.|
|—||Aggression can also be triggered by the continuous light.|
|—||Some say constant light exposure to young fowl can delay development.|
|—||The bulbs eventually burn out and have to be replaced|
|—||The bulbs are glass so if the lamp falls for some reason, you could have a dangerous, unfortunate mess to clean up.|
|—||They’re bulky and difficult to store away when needed|
|—||They’re not ideal when using a plastic tub for a brooder (heat melts plastic)|
|—||Chicks can overheat quickly if they can’t get away from the hot lights|
|—||Chicks can be burned if they come in contact with the heat lamp|
Why did I use a heat lamp for so long?
Honestly, I just didn’t know about brooder heat plates. Everything I read said to buy a heat lamp, so that’s what I did. Luckily, I never had a problem with the heat lamps.
Also, I would still recommend them to individuals to use under surveillance. I had the time to check my heat lamps, make sure the clamp was still secured and my chicks weren’t overheating.
Additionally, I’ve always provided very large brooders for my chicks so the large heated area wasn’t a concern for me. My time is much more limited and I felt uneasy knowing the dangers of a heat lamp vs heat plates. I was craving the ‘piece-of-mind’ factor.
Why I finally made the switch and why it took 4 years.
I decided to finally invest in a brooder heat plate because we had only 2 chicks hatch in a batch of 7 incubating eggs. I needed them closer to me so I could monitor them since we had a few mess-ups during incubation.
The best place for me to do that was in our feed shed. The thought of adding an extremely hot lamp into our already moist-enough feed shed didn’t sound like something I wanted.
Also, I only had a small plastic storage bin to put them in and the heat lamp would’ve made the brooder far too hot, not allowing the chicks to escape the warmth if needed.
It took me 4 years to make the switch from a brooder heat lamp to a heat plate because:
- I was unaware
- Stuck in my ways once I was aware.
- Afraid to pay the money and end up hating it.
I’m one of the most frugal people there are, and love a good deal. Ask my sister or my husband or mother-in-law or older sister or, okay, you get the point. Spending money on buying “fancy” appliances on the farm is a really large decision that I don’t take lightly.
They often take weeks to decide on and 75% it’s a big fat “NO. It’s not worth the money” or “No…it can wait a little longer. I don’t need it now”. Seriously, take a look at my yard. I’ll give you 10 reasons why I (for some ridiculous reason) still have not invested in a proper lawnmower.
But anyway, I will tell you now that I’ll pay the money over and over again to use a brooder heat plate vs dealing with the potential dangers of heat lamps any longer. To know that I can go to sleep and not worry about busted glass, chicks attacking each other or fires is enough for me.
What brooder heat plate brand I use, and why.
I chose the “Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder for Chicks or Ducklings” heat plate. This heat plate great reviews. Equipped with an extremely long cord, a light confirming the brooder is on and working, and 4 adjustable legs, this heat plate is suitable for any brooder size.
Another reason I chose the Brinsea heating plate is I’ve used the Brinsea Products Mini II Advance Automatic 7 Egg Incubator for 4 whole years now and love it. I’ve incubated dozens of eggs in this little incubator.
I absolutely love that the eggs are automatically turned. It’s see-through so I can watch the eggs progress when hatching and there’s a countdown to HATCH DAY! The incubator was an investment my husband and I made when we moved onto the homestead (he talked me into it) and I would make the investment 1,000 times over!
The Brinsea brooder heat plate has been an incredible addition to my livestock toolbox and I recommend it to any person looking to try a heating plate. Brinsea has proven to be an extremely reliable brand. Honestly, when it comes to raising livestock, they deserve quality, reliable products to provide them with the best chances to thrive.
How I feel about my decision and what my final word is on brooder heat plates vs heat lamps.
As far as raising chicks moving forward, I have officially converted to a brooder heat plate lover! I do own three brooder heat lamps still and don’t plan to get rid of them, because I do think they could prove useful in other situations.
For example, we’ve had a few ‘cooler’ nights here on our Florida homestead so I’ve hung the brooder heat lamp over our almost-fully-feathered teenage chickens. I hated to do it, because they’re brooding out in the hen house with the main flock, but I also didn’t want them to get chilled.
I’d also note that if I had a second brooder plate, I would’ve supplied the teenage chicks with it instead, but it’s currently occupied by six 2-3 week old chicks!
If you have the time to closely monitor your brooder heat lamps and chicks’ behavior, I would say to go ahead and use them, but save up the money for a heating plate in the future.