Homestead Tip: A Heat Lamp Alternative

Is there any alternative to using a heat lamp?

I've always been very cautious of fire. My grandfather bred Appaloosa horses, and although anyone was welcome to visit his barn, they were not allowed to smoke anywhere on his property. His caution rubbed off on me, I think. My family called me obsessive about fire prevention. Then our own barn burned down and no one calls me obsessive anymore. I'm just sad that we had a fire in spite of my precautions. And now, of course, I'm even more cautious.

I was extremely careful about heat lamps. I think they are a big fire hazard; they can fall down and light the bedding underneath on fire. I prefer not to use them at all, but when I did feel it was necessary, I hung them in three ways from three different sources - for instance, with a wire around a beam, a chain to a hook in another beam, and by another wire to the wire fence surrounding the stall. Each hanger was attached to the heat lamp itself in a different place so that if one failed, the other two ways would hold it up. Obsessive? Yes. I admit it.

I found this tip in a wonderful book called Emergency First Aid for Your Cat, by Tamara S. Shearer, D.V.M. (This book, by the way, is 310 pages of practical advice about caring for your cat in an emergency, from how to stabilize and transport a cat with a fracture to how to recognize strychnine poisoning, and everything in between. It is well worth the $14.99 price - it's available here if you're interested.) Much of the advice in the book is applicable to other animals, and my copy is well-used.

Dr. Shearer recommends filling a 2-liter soda bottle with warm water, wrapping it in a towel, and placing it next to a cat in shock, or in a box of orphaned kittens to keep them warm. I've used this tip for goat kids on cold nights, in the box with a new puppy, as well as with young kittens.

Chicks are the hardest; they need to be kept warm and at a constant temperature. I buy chicks later in the year when it's warmer outside, which makes this easier. If I have new chicks in the house, I'll turn on a heat lamp when I'm home. It was tricky keeping them warm when I wasn't home, and overnight. Now I tuck a bottle or two filled with warm water in the Rubbermaid tote with the chicks, and cover the tote with a blanket to hold in the heat immediately after removing the heat lamp. I do have to get up once at night and replace the bottles with new, warm ones, but it's better than a sleepless night worrying about a heat lamp.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. Anonymous4:11 PM

    We almost had a heat-lamp barn fire. It was very scary.
    We bought a brinsea ecoglow brooder and love it. It works well and is fire-safe.

  2. I recently heard about the ecoglow; it sounds great.

    I'm glad that you were able to stop your almost-fire. Because of our fire, I don't want to have electricity in an animal barn again.

  3. what a great idea. I have that book too - it's quite the gem! Visiting from the HomeAcre Hop!

  4. Thank you for visiting, Jennifer. The book is good, isn't it? Fortunately, I have it. Unfortunately, we've used its directions several times - a cat who had a stroke, a cat with a severe injury, etc. I'm thankful it's on my shelf. I hope you haven't had to make use of it!

  5. Great suggestion with the warm water bottles. The blanket over the chicks must hold in the heat pretty well. I wonder how rice or blue corn bags that you heat in the microwave would do as an additional alternative. They are easier than filling a 2 liter bottle- just put them in the microwave for a minute or whatever it takes to heat them and then put them in the same place you'd put the bottle.

  6. I'm sure they would work, and might even hold the heat longer. However I decided that it would be easier and more sanitary to clean the outside of plastic bottles rather than a fabric bag of rice or corn. You know what I mean...


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