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Can You Use A Hot Water Bottle for Chicks? (2022)

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

chicks and hot water bottle illustration

Not a fan of heat lamps? Living off-grid? Want to save energy? There are plenty of ways to help your chicks keep a high and steady body heat without electricity.

We want them to keep as warm and cosy as possible until they fly the coop! One of these alternatives to heat lamps is our friend the hot water bottle.

But to what extent can hot water bottles be used? Are they sufficient? Here is a small guide on whether you can use hot water bottles to keep your chicks warm enough without electricity.

baby chicks

Can you use hot water bottles for chicks?

A hot water bottle can be used as a complementary heat source if your chicks are already inside a heated building. Hot water bottles do not constitute a sufficient heating source by themselves for chicks indoors or outdoors.

As a rule, chicks need to be indoors for the first 2 to 3 weeks after being born. They need an ambient temperature between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (32 - 35 degrees Celsius) the first week. This temperature can gradually be decreased by 5 degrees Fahrenheit each week.

While we have seen many chicken farmers and breeders present hot water bottles as good sources of warmth for chicks, we recommend you first perform a test to make sure this solution is indeed suited for your environment and that a hot water bottle can help you maintain this required temperature in your brooder.

three hot water bottles on blanket

Rubber, PVC, or silicone hot water bottles

Hot water bottles constitute practical complementary heat sources for your chicks. They are cheap, easy to fill and come in different sizes. Made of rubber, PVC, or silicone, "classic" hot water bottles can stay warm for 2 to 3 hours if wrapped in a thick insulating material (e.g.: wool).

Note that using a hot water bottle for chicks will require more attention on your part: the hot water bottle will need to be replaced every 2-3 hours. If you're a very busy person, set an alarm to remember to refill the hot water bottle.

japanese hot water bottle

Japanese hot water bottles

Another complementary alternative to keep your chicks warm is the Japanese hot water bottle, also known as Yutanpo. Japanese hot water bottles, either made of steel or polyethylene, have the advantage of staying warm longer than rubber, PVC, or silicone hot water bottles. A 3.4L Japanese hot water bottle will provide a source of warmth for your chicks for up to 12 hours if you wrap it with thick insulating material such as wool.

Your chicks will love sitting and cuddling on what they will consider a nice large warm rock!

Here is how long Japanese hot water bottles stay warm, on average:

4 Steps to using a hot water bottle for chicks

baby chicks in enclosure

Here are a few steps on how to use a hot water bottle as a complementary heat source for your chicks.

1. Perform a test

We recommend you gave it a trial run before deciding on whether a hot water bottle suits the environment you and your chicks are in.

Fill the rubber hot water bottle or Japanese hot water bottle using the steps below, safely wrap it (whichever type of bottle you are using) and place it in an environment similar to the brooder your chicks will be in (e.g.: shoebox, plastic container, rabbit hutch).

Time how long the hot water bottle stays warm: this will give you an idea of how long you can rely on it before changing the water.

As you'll see in Step 4, your chicks will have to be able to move from the hot water bottle if needed. The Japanese hot water bottle size you opt for thus depends on the size of your brooder and how much space your chicks will have around it.

2. Fill the hot water bottle

Perform your safe hot water bottle filling routine. Here are a few steps to follow:

  1. Use hot water (80 degrees Celsius), not boiling water

  2. Fill your hot water bottle: to up to two-thirds of its maximum capacity if you're using a regular hot water bottle, to full capacity if using a Japanese hot water bottle

  3. Push air out of the bottle before sealing it: gently do this by laying the hot water bottle on its side, pushing air out with your fingers and bending the neck before screwing the stopper on.

  4. Screw the hot water bottle cap on (known as a stopper in hot water bottle lingo)

  5. Perform the last check for leaks: turn your bottle upside down above your sink and gently squeeze it. Nothing on the horizon? You're good to go!

3. Wrap the hot water bottle in a cloth or use a cover

It's extremely important you use a hot water bottle cover and/or wrap it into the material before placing it in the box.

This will prevent the chicks from being in direct contact with the hot water bottle (which may result in burns). In addition, using a cover and wrapping your hot water bottle in a cloth will keep it warmer longer.

Any thick material will do the trick, including a small bathing towel, a thick kitchen cloth, or even a thick woollen sweater you don't use anymore.

4. Make sure the chicks can move away from the heat if they need to

Chicks are smart. They'll know how much heat they need and for how long. Make sure they can easily move away and towards the hot water bottle as they please.

As you place the hot water bottle in the box, you'll likely see them gather on top of it to enjoy all the warmth they can get. If they do not move towards the hot water bottle, they may be waiting for it to cool down.

They may also move away from it when it gets cold. This means you need to refill the hot water bottle.

Brooder with heating lamp

Final thoughts

That was it from us, we hope you now have a better idea of how (Japanese) hot water bottles can be used to keep your chicks warm.

An important takeaway is hot water bottles do not constitute a sufficient heat source by themselves for your chicks.

Rather, they are great complementary sources of warmth to keep your keep nice and toasty, warm, and cosy!

For other alternatives to a heat lamp for chickens, we recommend you visit K&H Pet Products (this is not a sponsored link, we recommend them as they are experts in other sources of heat for chickens and pets in general!).

Cluck, cluck!


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