Silkie chickens take a longer time to mature than many other breeds.
Raising these chicks requires breed-specific knowledge.
How long do they need a heat source?
Silkie chicks need a heat lamp or other heat source until they are 15 to 18 weeks old. This is because it takes a longer time for their adult feathers to come in.
Keep reading to learn why chicks need heat, how to tell if your chicks are being kept at the correct temperature, and what other options are available besides heat lamps.
Why Do Chicks Need a Heat Lamp?
Fluffy little chicks are adorable, but their fluffy feathers do not do a great job of keeping them warm enough.
Because of this, chicks need an external or artificial heat source until they grow their adult feathers.
It’s important for their health to keep their body temperatures in the ideal range.
Most chicks develop these feathers between 4 and 6 weeks old, but Silkies take a much longer time than average chicken chicks.
They need a heat source until they are 15 to 18 weeks old.
Chicks born during the winter usually grow adult feathers more quickly than those born in spring or summer.
Mother hens can provide warmth for their chicks, but if you raise them without a hen, you need a way to keep them warm.
Heat lamps are the most popular option, especially since they provide light at night.
When chicks are 3 or 4 weeks of age, start acclimating them to outdoor temperatures.
This means letting them go short stages of time without the heat lamp.
Chicks raised by mother hens will also spend some time outside of the heat of their mom.
However, be careful not to let them go too long without an external source of warmth.
How much time is okay depends on their age and how cold it is outside.
Start with just a few minutes when you start acclimating them and gradually increase the time.
Watch for signs the chicks are too cold, which we’ll cover below.
If you’re looking for a heat lamp, here’s a heating bulb on Amazon we like to use because it’s affordable yet safe for your chicks.
Why Do Silkie Chicks Need a Heat Lamp Longer?
Silkie chicks typically don’t grow their adult feathers until they are 4 months old, so they need a heat source for 15 to 18 weeks.
Silkies develop much more slowly than most chicken breeds, and they aren’t one of the hardy breeds.
Once a chick has developed all of its regular feathers, it can leave the heat sources and go outside.
If you want your baby chickens to mature more quickly, opt for hatchery Silkies.
They tend to develop more quickly than ones bred for showing.
Further Reading: Do chickens need a heat lamp for their whole lives?
What Is the Right Temperature?
Newborn chicks should be kept at a temperature of 95° degrees Fahrenheit (35° C).
As they get older, they can tolerate slightly cooler temperatures.
Chicks cannot handle drastic temperature changes, so it needs to be a gradual process.
Reduce the heating lamp’s temperature by 5° degrees per week until you reach the same ambient room temperature as outside.
In winter, keep the temperature at 70° degrees Fahrenheit (21° C) until they are developed.
This is just a general guideline.
Different chicks will mature at slightly different rates, so you need to closely monitor them for signs they are too warm or cold.
Sometimes they need an extra week before lowering the temperature or having outdoor time.
Chicks should be active, cheep happily, and eat and drink.
If they display different behavior, it might be due to the wrong brooder temperature.
Signs a Chick Is Too Warm
Warm chicks will stay far apart from each other.
They’ll also stay far away from the heat source, most likely in the corners of the brooder.
When it comes to behavior, hot chicks will have low energy.
They are typically quieter than healthy chicks.
Chicks who are too hot will pant and lift their wings to create airflow.
This helps them cool down.
When they are too hot, it creates a poor appetite.
They will eat less because they need fewer calories to stay warm, which puts them at risk of developing health issues.
Dehydration and heat stroke go hand in hand, which is often fatal for chicks.
Adjust your heat lamp’s temperature if you notice any of these signs.
Another option is to raise it to keep it farther from the chicks.
You also want a temperature gradient in your brooder.
Some areas, typically the outskirts, should be slightly cooler to allow your chicks a place to cool down if needed.
Signs a Chick Is Too Cold
Chicks who are too cold will display the opposite behavior of chicks who are too warm.
Instead of staying far apart, they will huddle together for warmth.
They are drawn to the areas closest to the heat lamp.
When you touch them, they will feel cold.
Cold chicks are at a higher risk of health issues and even death.
They will make distressing sounds and be very noisy, rather than being quiet or making happy cheeps.
Raise the temperature in the brooder until they are acting normally again.
Lowering the heat lamp will make it warmer for them.
Another option is to use reflectors to help distribute the heat around.
Alternative Heat Sources
A heat lamp is not the only way to keep your chicks warm, especially if you are concerned about the fire risks of using bulbs.
Whichever method or methods you choose, watch for signs your chicks are too warm or too cold.
These options also provide additional heat to the lamps.
Hot Water Bottles
Hot water bottles are great for supplemental heat rather than the main source of warmth.
They need to be refilled regularly with fresh water, so they are a lot more maintenance than many other options to keep your baby chicks warm.
Cover your warm water bottles with fleece or fabric to ensure your chicks do not burn themselves.
If it isn’t too cold outside, having enough birds together will generate enough body heat.
They will snuggle together for warmth.
This depends on the number of chicks you have, how big the brooder is, and the ambient temperature.
This method will not be enough if you have a large brooder and live in an area with cold winters.
Be very careful with this method and regularly monitor how your chicks are doing.
Related Post: What do Silkie chicken eggs taste like?
Heat pads are similar to hot water bottles but do not require regular filling.
Place heated pads on the floor or around the walls.
Chicks will cuddle up to them to warm up.
These are best used together with a layer of bedding shavings to keep it insulated.
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