The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Disposable hand warmer=emergency chick warmer

using a disposable hand warmer to keep chicks warm without power

We lost power this morning and the new chicks started complaining loudly.

One of the portable power packs came in handy to keep the incubator warm, but the other pack didn't have enough juice to run the brooder. Ooops! I should have topped off that charge last week when I tried jumping the car.

Anna had the great idea to use a disposbale hand warmer, and it only took me 10 minutes to dig through a box of stuff to find it. It felt a bit too hot, so we wrapped it in a small piece of cloth. 10 minutes later the peeping shifted from "we're too cold!" to "things are fine here".

The package claims you can get 10 hours of heat from these things. Our power came back in about 2 hours and now we've decided to make a point to have a few of these on hand for any future emergency chick warming.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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For future reference, the hand warmer didn't seem to help them much when I just put it in their current setup under their normal brooder. They'd already realized that the brooder wasn't giving off heat and had gone into terrified mode, so I had to put the hand warmer in the bottom of a small box, add all of the chicks, and then close the lid 75% of the way. The semi-darkness calmed the chicks down enough to realize they were getting heat from the hand warmer, and the enclosed space kept them close enough together that they combined their body heat.
Comment by anna Mon May 23 16:24:13 2011
Your cleverness is never-ending. :-)
Comment by Brandy Mon May 23 16:32:51 2011
...being unprepared is the mother of invention. :-)
Comment by anna Mon May 23 18:48:09 2011
I've used a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, which worked well.
Comment by Darren (Green Change) Mon May 23 22:31:37 2011
It occurred to me once the lights came back on and I stopped stressing that another good option would have been to heat up some bricks on the wood stove, wrap them in a towel, and use that to warm the chicks. I like your hot water bottle even better, though, since water is easier to heat than bricks.
Comment by anna Tue May 24 08:27:46 2011
I think those work by a reaction with oxygen. So, you want to be sure to not seal the box too much if I'm right, since you could suffocate them.
Comment by Shannon Tue May 24 18:59:08 2011
I'd love to be sure of the chemistry involved. Mark found some heating elements for MREs, but the packaging said that they gave off hydrogen gas, so I was a bit afraid to use them near the chicks.
Comment by anna Tue May 24 19:00:54 2011
Do you remember those home-made neck warmers that consisted of wheat berries stuffed into a rectangle pouch of fabric? You microwave them for 1 minute and they work really well (probably too hot for the chicks right away). However, not sure you guys are into microwaves and such.
Comment by Heather Tue May 24 19:10:30 2011
We definitely do use the microwave, but it wouldn't work during a power outage... I'm not sure how we could safely heat something like that using a fire?
Comment by anna Tue May 24 19:19:30 2011
I realized that shortly after putting the dumb suggestion on. :)
Comment by Heather Thu May 26 11:20:49 2011
No worries --- I tossed around some pretty dumb ideas while frantically trying to quiet the chicks' peeping. We're all so used to having electricity that our brains can freeze without it. (Well, mine can... :-) )
Comment by anna Thu May 26 13:21:12 2011

Here you go.

The MRE heater that gives of hydrogen sounds like the an oxidation reaction with water. It is actually interesting chemistry.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sat May 28 05:51:09 2011

I was hoping you would chime in! I'm having a bit of trouble guessing, from that page, what our hand warmer would be. I'm guessing it would be the air activated iron since it's disposable? Since the iron is being oxidized, I assume there's no off-gassing?

I was intrigued by the old-fashioned kind mentioned further down:

One of the older and perhaps less used types of handwarmer are made hot through the burning of charcoal in a special case. These can last up to 6 hours and become comfortably hot. The cases for these usually have felt on the outside and have materials inside that do not burn, but spread the heat evenly such as metal. To activate, one or both ends of a stick of charcoal are lit and then quickly extinguished to create a hot ember. The smoldering stick is then placed inside the case and the case is tightly shut. The charcoal sticks are available from most outdoor activity shops and are fairly inexpensive.

Sounds like that's what we should have!

Comment by anna Sat May 28 07:48:30 2011

There will be no outgassing from the activated iron, but it will use oxygen. So it might not not suitable for an enclosed space (depending on size).

The charcoal and light fluid heaters will also use oxygen and additionally give off CO2 or even CO if the fire is starved of oxygen. So these are definitely not suited for enclosed space or even for an open topped box, since CO and CO2 can accumulate at the bottom.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sat May 28 20:28:31 2011
Good points! I should have been able to figure that out about the hand warmer using up oxygen --- sounds like use in a well ventilated place is key. And the charcoal one probably isn't as great an idea as I thought. Hot bricks might still be the winner for the long run.
Comment by anna Sun May 29 07:51:00 2011

I think the old-fashoineded water bottle is one of the best ways to go. The heat capacity of water is very high.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon May 30 01:21:53 2011

I was going to ask what you thought of the heat capacity of water vs. rock, but then saw that building materials were in a second chart further down. :-) I didn't realize water was more than four times as good thermal mass as brick or most stones!

I don't understand why wood is so high, though. Maybe I'm misunderstanding --- I think of heat capacity as the ability of a substance to soak up warmth from another heat source (like the sun or a fire) and then hold onto it for a while as it slowly radiates the heat back out into the room. But wood doesn't seem to hold onto heat? Maybe its high heat capacity is counteracted by the fact that wood is so light in comparison to the other materials, so even though it can hold a certain number of Joules per gram, there are just a lot fewer grams in a hunk of wood than in a similarly sized bottle of water?

Comment by anna Mon May 30 07:08:54 2011

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