How to Choose a Heat Source for your Brooder

20180309_092902A baby chick runs to the safety and warmth of its mother’s wings. Here it feels secure and loved. The mother hen’s body heat warms the little chick and when it is ready the chick will dart out into the world to find food and water.  When choosing a heat source for your brooder you will want something that can be as close as possible to a natural mother hen.

Chicks need supplemental heat.  Their little bodies will not keep themselves warm enough until they fully feather out.  Feathering out means that they completely lose their baby down and develop true feathers.  This can happen at different ages depending on your breed of chicken.  The larger the breed, the sooner they will no longer need a supplemental heat source.  Most breeds need it for about six weeks depending on the outside weather.  Brooding in the winter is different than brooding in the summer.  The temperature around your brooder will make a difference in how long you keep your chicks under the heat.

Chicks also need steady heat both day and night.  You will need a heat source that is dependable and allows for a typical  sleep cycle.   A steady white light on them 24/7 is not normal or natural.  A red infrared bulb is better for their sleeping patterns and is supposed to cut down on any pecking activity among the chicks.

The basic heat formula that most people use for baby chicks begins at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for newborns. This is what the temperature of the incubator was. You then subtract 5 degrees for each week of age after that. A one week old would be 95 degrees, a two week old would be 90 degrees and so on.  I find that formula way too warm and could lead to your little chicks pasting up on their fluffy behinds. In the world of the mother hen, the little ones would be exposed to cooler temps much sooner and I think that less heat is better than too much heat when it comes to brooders.  You need to make sure that the chicks are able to escape any temperature that is too warm.


The most common way to brood chicks indoors is with a heat lamp fixture and a 250 watt heat lamp bulb.  It is the cheapest way to go and many people use it especially if they don’t brood chicks very often.  The pros for going this route is that you can purchase them at most places that sell chicken supplies.  You can hang them at any distance from the brooder.  However, many things can go wrong.  The biggest issue is that they can fall into the brooder and start a fire.  They must be hung very securely.  Do not rely on just the clamp.  Use zip ties and chain to secure it.  We always use a double system so if one cord fails the other cord will prevent it from falling. I will put a flat screen on top of my brooder as an additional measure to keep the heat lamp from falling into the brooder.  Make sure that your heat lamp fixture has a porcelain socket, not a plastic one that can melt.  The bulbs will have to be replaced. I have found that they also lose strength as they get older and do not put out as much heat.  Always have extra bulbs available in case your bulb burns out.  If they bulb burns out at night your chicks will become cold and begin to pile up on each other for warmth.  This will cause the ones on the bottom to suffocate.  Always start each season with a new bulb.  I have found a 250 watt heat lamp bulb too warm for small brooders. You can get infrared bulbs at lower wattage. Always dust your bulbs and hoods as dust buildup can cause a fire as well.  Reptile ceramic heat emitters  can also be used as a safer alternative to heat lamp bulbs.

There are also heat lamp holders  that are caged at the top to operate safer.

Radiant heat is another brooder heat choice.  Radiant heat passes through air without warming the air.  There are several products that rely on radiant heat.  Brinsea’s Ecoglow , Titan’s Electric Mama Hen andRentACoop’s heating plate all use less electricity than  a heat lamp bulb and mimic a mother hen.  They are for small batches of chicks but the Ecoglow 50 can warm up to 50 chicks.   The advantages of these are that there is no fire hazard , it uses less electricity (14 watts vs 250 watts) and there is no disruptive light.  It is more like a natural mother hen by creating a little cave to hide under.  You can adjust the height of them as the chicks grow.  You do not have to hang it up as it stands on legs.  You will have adventurous chicks jumping up on top of it and creating messes but it is easy to clean up.  These types of radiant heat brooder heat sources work best if the air around it is above 50 degrees. They are not effective in outdoor use if it is less than 50 degrees.  These products are not as warm as a heat lamp can be and will not heat the air around it.  I think that these are nice if you plan on doing a batch of chicks every year.  It may be expensive at first but it will pay for itself in lower electric costs.  There is nothing to replace on it so you do not need to worry about bulbs burning out.

A Sweeter Heater uses radiant heat as well. Instead of being a free standing unit, it is hung from above or as a side panel as in the cozy products panel.  Sweeter Heaters come in different sizes and are the best heaters for people who brood chicks frequently.  Hang it above on chains so that they are just above the chick’s height.  Raise it higher as the chicks grow taller.  Since it swings on chains, the chicks will be reluctant to roost on top of it.  Radiant heat has one temperature and no light to keep chicks up at night.  The unit is completely sealed so there is no fire danger.

I am in the process of changing out all of my indoor heat lamps and replacing them with Sweeter Heaters.  I have used heat lamps with brooders for ten years, but I have always had that nagging feeling that I should replace them.  I brood chicks all year long so it was best to switch to the Sweeter Heater method.  It will be cheaper in the long run on the electric bill and I will have the peace of mind that no bulb will burn out and leave all of my chicks in the cold.

Chicks will let you know if they are too warm or too cold by their behavior.  Cold chicks huddle up and cry (cheep). Too warm of chicks stretch out to the corners of the brooder to get away from the heat source.  Chicks that are just right will wander around all over the brooder doing typical chick things like eating and drinking.

If you are still undecided on what kind of chick brooder to get, check out “The Perfect Chick Brooder“.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson


VJP Poultry newborns 4


How We Quarantine Silkies at Rooster Camp and Rooster Hilton

20170814_142330     At VJP Poutry we are never idle.  We are always trying to improve how we do things for the good of our flock.   Some of you have seen our Rooster Camp if you have ever returned a rooster.  Now we have a second rooster containment area we call the Rooster Hilton.

It is important to have a separate quarantine area for new birds.  Failure to quarantine new flock members can result in death to an entire flock.

To Quarantine means to completely isolate newly acquired birds from an existing flock for a significant period of time. During this time they are watched for signs of diseases and parasites.

A chicken may look healthy while hiding illness. Quarantine lets you watch without exposing the rest of the flock to health dangers.  Moving chickens from one home to another is a major stressor , which can cause latent diseases to become active.  This leads to a health threat for the rest of your flock.  The bare minimum quarantine time is two weeks but 30 – 60 days is preferred by professionals

Once the quarantine period is over and they still appear healthy, they can be integrated gradually into an existing flock. Use Quarantine whenever you need to have a separate space for someone.

Our Rooster Camp almost looks like a campground for chickens.  There is green grass to walk in and tarps to keep the rain off the birds.  There is a large, homemade, wooden dog house into which the roosters go at night.  The dog house is very secure and can keep predators at bay.  Its a nice, clean place for roosters to stay and relax.

20170814_142408     The new project is the Rooster Hilton.  We needed a second place that was better at muffling the sounds of crowing.  It is located back behind the rooster fence, next to the coops.  The fencing was purchased from Amazon.   We placed pea rock on the ground and built a wooden base on which to place the  dog house.  We had to create and install our own secure door as the dog house only came with plastic flaps.

Rooster Camp and Rooster Hilton will be used to house returned rooster and possibly an extra area if we need to separate chickens from the rest of the flock.  I always feel like I never have enough room to do all the projects I’d like to do.  This won’t be the last addition we make a VJP Poultry.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson


How To Give Your Silkie a Bath

20170808_135221     There will come a time when you may need to give your little silkie a bath.  Maybe she has been playing in the mud or maybe you have plans for showing her.  Either way, giving a silkie a bath is a very easy thing to do.

First of all, gather all of the supplies you will need ahead of time so you won’t be searching for them while your bird is in the water.  You will need some kind of shampoo and some white vinegar to use as part of a rinse.   You will need towels and a bucket for the final rinse.  A blow dryer should be handy too.

20170808_141742     You have a couple of choices as to where to give the bath.  A sink works well especially if you have a water sprayer  attached.  A bath tub can work too.  I have used several buckets in a bath tub and then just moved the bird from bucket to bucket.

Start by soaking the bird in warm water.   The water should not be too cool or too warm.  Keep the water shallow enough so that her head won’t go under the water line.  Water should never go into the chicken’s nostrils.  Always keep one hand on your bird.

When the bird is soaked with water, you can start shampooing.  Any shampoo will work.  I like a dog flea and tick shampoo to start with.  You might use a little blue Dawn dish soap on heavily soiled areas if your silkie is white.  A bluing shampoo works well with white birds.   Make sure that the bird is thoroughly wet before shampooing or the feathers will end up purple from the bluing.

Next you will want to rinse all of the shampoo off with the sprayer or by rinsing in a separate bucket.  Lastly, dip her in clean water that has had some vinegar splashed into it.  The vinegar cuts the soap film on the feathers.

You will want to quickly wrap your dripping bird up into a towel.  Try to absorb as much water as possible with the towel.  It is easy for the bird to become chilled at this point so keep her wrapped up and warm.

The blow dryer should be plugged in and ready to go.   Make sure that you use it on the “low” setting.  Too high of heat will burn your silkie.  I start blow drying the crest while she is still wrapped up in the towel.  Slowly unwrap the towel and continue  blow drying the whole body.

Blow drying takes a long time.  You can take short breaks and comb out the feathers with a slicker brush.  It is important that she is dry when you return her to her group.  If the weather is cool, she can become chilled.  Never bath a silkie right before they go to sleep.  They will still be damp under their wings which can lead to them being chilled.

They may not like it the first time you bath them, but the more you wash them,  the more they get used to it.  After a few times they will begin to behave and enjoy it.  Do silkies need to be bathed? No, they do a nice job of grooming themselves.  You will, however , be amazed at how fluffy and soft they become after their bath.  Good luck with bathing your silkies!

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson


Silkies For Sale – 8/7/17

Minnesota Fall Poultry Shows are all about Silkies

20170804_115235Attending a Poultry Show is an educational experience.  Whether you are showing yourself or are there just to see what everyone else brought, you will come away with a better understanding of what silkies and other breeds  are all about.

I’d like to get people thinking about the two Minnesota Poultry shows that happen in the fall. These are the shows where most people showing silkies will be at in this area.  The first is the Minnesota State Poultry Association Show, otherwise known as the Hutchinson Show.  The show is located on the McLeod County Fairgrounds. Here is a link to their site

The second fall show is the Brown County Pigeon and Poultry Association’s New Ulm Fall Classic.   Information can be found here.

Entry forms can be found on both sites.  Silkies are classified as Bantams.  If you bought them from VJP Poultry, they are bearded.  The breed is silkie but the variety is the standard color – white, black, blue, buff, splash, grey , partridge and self blue (lavendar).  These are all things you will need to know when filling out your entry form.

All birds entered must originate from a hatchery or breeding flock that is classified U.S. Pollorum – Typhoid clean under the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) or be negative to a Pollorum – Typhoid test within 90 days prior to the opening date of exhibition. You will need a form showing your test results when you send in your entry form for the show.

If you bought chicks from VJP Poultry you can get a Statement Of Origin form. This form shows that we are NPIP and we are Pollorum – Typhoid clean.  You will not need to have your chicks tested unless they are older than 12 months of age as long as you have this Statement Of Origin form.  After they have turned one year old, they will need to have the testing done again in order to be shown.

The first step you would take if you are considering showing is to separate out your best birds into a conditioning area.  Males and Females should be separated as well. During the months leading up to the show you will want to be be conditioning your birds to have them be at their best.  The silkies in the pictures on this page are birds I am considering for this fall’s shows.

It is important to know what the Standard of Perfection for a silkie is.  Here is alink to the silkie standard.     Understanding what the silkie standard says will help you in choosing which birds you want to put in this conditioning pen.

Silkies you are considering should be kept indoors.  The sun can discolor feathers and grass will leave green marks on them.   The birds should also be on a bedding that will protect the foot feathers, such as pine shavings.  Rocks or hard bedding will break those feathers.  Feed them a good diet, high in protein such as a game bird conditioner feed.  Calf Manna pellets can be fed as a supplement as well as additional vitamins.

Don’t forget that you will need show cage waterers and cage cups for food. You want them to be as small as possible because the show cages are small to begin with. You do not want your silkie getting wet before judging starts.

You don’t need to jump into showing immediately. Attend some shows this fall to get an idea of what you need to work with next year.  Some much can be learned by talking with others who are showing your same breed of bird.  Observing winners and taking pictures helps you to remember what makes a Show Quality Silkie.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson