When I sent the "Beginner's Guide" DVD to Michigan State University for review, one Poultry Specialist had some strong opinions that the ways that my DVD shows to brood chicks might not work well in cold weather climates. If you live where it is colder than California, please take a minute to read her comments about setting up your chick brooder.

1) For the size of the round homemade brooder shown, a single 125 watt heat lamp is inadequate to keep all but a few chicks warm in anything but really warm ambient air temperatures. You would need to set the lamp down really low, which then only heats a small area.

2) Single heat lamp set-ups are very risky, especially where ambient air temperatures are low. Heat lamps burn out unexpectedly, sometimes well before their rated hours are used up—I have had bulbs, rated at 3000 hours burn out at 10 hours and 6000 hour bulbs die at 1000 hours. If the brooder is in a garage or barn or even a basement in late winter/spring anywhere except really warm climates, you will lose or severely stress your chicks if they go without heat if any length of time. Two heat lamps should always be used when chicks are in brooders where lamp burn-out will not be immediately detected. The lamps should be sized so birds don’t over head, also—I use 100 watt red bulbs designed for reptiles as my backups.

3) Heat lamps should be red, not white. The narrator recommends using red lights in the commercial brooder to prevent picking and cannibalism, but uses a white lamp in the homemade brooder. The white heat lamps usually provide very intense visible light, which encourages picking. Also, per his presentation at our clinic in 2006, Poultry Nutrition Specialist K. Staggs stated that white heat lamps can induce some metabolic problems in broiler chicks and that only red heat lamps should be used.

4) Chicks may not be able to do without same supplemental heat at 5 weeks old in cold climates and in early spring. Supplemental heat may be needed for up to 12 weeks, depending on climate and weather.

5) Newspapers should not be used in homemade brooders. ... In all but the warmest climates, placing chicks on concrete without some sort of insulating material over it is also a poor practice. Cold floors may be a contributing factor to crooked toes. It will rob heat from chicks trying to sleep in it and over time the unyielding surface may contribute to tissue damage on hocks and breasts, especially in heavy breeds. If not brooded on wire in brooder battery, my references and even the hatcheries recommend using litter (softwood shavings [never hardwood], ground corn cobs, chopped (not whole) straw) covered with non-slippery paper (paper towel) or cloth (old sheets, towels, pillowcases work great and are easily laundered for future reuse) for the first couple of days until the chicks learn what their food looks like.

Many thanks to the Poultry Leader from Michigan who subimtted this review. Please consider her issues if you live in a cold climate.