The first choice of an artificial heat source for many chicken keepers throughout the years has been the traditional heat lamp. Alternatives to heat lamps have become more and more common along with the knowledge that they carry such a fire hazard. Heat plates are my favorite supplemental heat source for chickens. Today we are going to talk about how heat plates work and how to use them in the brooder and in the chicken coop.
Why You Should Use Heat Plates for Chickens
Heat plates are an amazing heat source for new chicks and for adult birds. Let’s dig into how they work, why you should choose them over a heat lamp, how to use them, and my favorite brands to purchase.
How Do Heat Plates Work?
Heat plates work by emitting safe radiant heat. This heat comes from the underside of the warming plate. The chicks gather under the plate for warmth in the same way that they would gather under a mother hen.
The heat from a heat plate will not warm the ambient temperature of the entire coop or brooder so the chicks can choose when they need more warmth and when to be out from under the heat. In fact, heat plates for chickens won’t heat the air at all… They will only warm a solid object (like a chick) that passes through the radiant heat emitted from the plate.
Heat Plate vs. Heat Lamp
I will start this section by saying that I NEVER recommended using a heat lamp in a chicken coop, brooder, or barn. The risk of fire is FAR too great.
Several reasons why I avoid traditional heat lamps include:
- If a heat lamp falls, it can shatter and cut your birds.
- If an animal touches the bulb, it can be burned.
- Heat lamps produce disruptive light that can mess up the sleep cycles of your birds.
- When water splashes on the bulb, it can shatter.
- If the lamp overheats bedding material (which they are known to do) or if it falls, it can start a fire.
- They don’t distribute heat evenly.
Heat plates are a much safer alternative to heat lamps because they emit a safe heat with no shatter risk.
A few benefits of heat plates include:
- Less electricity usage
- Very low fire risk
- No shatter risk
- Mimics mother hen
- Emits safe radiant heat
- Low surface heat
- No artificial light
- Adjustable Height
How to Use Heat Plates in the brooder and the Coop
Using Heat Plates in the Brooder
Heat plates can be used in chick brooders in order to keep baby chicks warm. I have used this heating method with multiple batches of new chicks with great success.
Day-old chicks need a temperature of 95 degrees F in the brooder. This temperature can be reduced by 5 degrees each week until they move in with the rest of the flock. Using a heat plate is a great way to provide this temperature to your chicks with less risk.
Place a heat plate in the brooder and adjust the height of the legs to match the height of the chicks. You want the chicks to be able to feel cozy and close under the plate. It is alright for the chicks to touch the warming plate as it doesn’t get hot to the touch. Adjust the legs up as the chicks grow.
If you are using a heat plate with ducklings, you will need to lift the brooder plate a little higher since ducklings are larger than chicks. You can also try a vertical standing heat plate.
Radiant heat will emit from the bottom of the heating plate and this will warm the area directly beneath it. The entire brooder box will not be heated so the chicks can choose when they want warmth and when they don’t, just like with a mother hen.
Using Heat Plates in the Coop
You can typically find me in the camp of “ adult chickens don’t need supplemental heat ”, however, not everyone feels that way. I also have mild winters so my chickens really are fine with a windbreak and deep litter.
If you like to add artificial heat to your chicken coop in the winter, vertical standing heat plates can be used. This is a MUCH better option for a heat source than a heat lamp.
Vertical heat plates work in the same way as chick brooder heat plates except they stand up and emit heat from the front instead of from underneath. This type of heat plate usually has a built-in thermostat that allows you to toggle between brooder and heater.
Which Heat Plate Should You Buy?
There are two heat plates that I have used with great success- the Brinsea EcoGlow and the Producer’s Pride brooder and coop heater. Let’s discuss these two excellent options for heat plates for chickens.
The Brinsea EcoGlow is a 12v radiant heat brooder heater. This heat plate has adjustable legs that can be moved up and down to accommodate your birds as they grow. It also comes with a plastic cover for easy cleaning. You can purchase a heat plate rated for 20, 35, or 50 chicks. This is my favorite heat plate for chicks and ducklings.
The Producer’s Pride Brooder & Coop Heater can be used horizontally and vertically. You can adjust the height of the heating plate to three different heights. I prefer to use this one as an extra brooder heater for chicks or as a heat source for ducklings and adult birds.