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Keeping Chicken Coop Warm this Winter

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I live in west Tennessee, where the lowest temps usually are in the middle teens, but most of the time, the coldest night temps are in the high twenties.   That's the worst, because many January or February nights never dip below 30 or even 40 degrees.


My chicken coop is 13 1/3 feet by 7 feet (an old dog pen), built out of hurricane fencing.   There is a metal roof on top to protect the chickens from much rain (though not all rain -- if the rain comes down at an angle, it can still get inside the pen).


I have two black-and-blue thumbs (both lefties), but my brother has mastered the art of using the hammer and the saw, so he built me a plywood henhouse that is 6 feet long, 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall, which we put at the far end of the chicken's yard so they will have plenty of room in their yard to play.  The roof of that henhouse is clear plexiglass, so that sunshine can come through it, though he has built the two nest boxes inside the henhouse in such a way that they have their own roof and provide the hens with some privacy.


One area of the henhouse (1 foot by 3 feet by 2 feet high) is sectioned off with hardware cloth, and behind it we can put a fan and/or a heater and/or a heating lamp with no fear of the chickens being able to get to them, and  no fear of any rain being able to get to them.   The roof on that particular part of the henhouse is solid plywood, rather than the clear plexiglass roof over the rest of the henhouse.   


The inside of the henhouse itself stays dry during even the hardest rains, though my girls NEVER seem to take advantage of that.   They will actually sleep outside the henhouse, near the gate to their fenced in chicken yard, even in the rain, and even in those rare occasions where the rain is coming down horizontally and can get into their sleeping area.


Their preference to sleep at the gate of their chicken yard has me particularly worried about the coming winter.


I can heat the henhouse pretty easily by putting a thermostatically controlled heater or else a heating lamp inside the henhouse in the area that is screened off and out of their pecking reach.


But how do I heat a 13 foot by 7 foot outdoor area that is just fenced in with hurricane fencing and a metal roof?


I have been thinking about placing a 2 foot tall piece of 3/4 inch plywood around the bottom of the fenced in chicken yard to block some of the wind and cold.   I have also considered putting 100 watt red outdoor flood lights along the fence line, maybe mounting them at the top of the 2 foot plywood "walls."


I am thinking of using flood lights rather than regular red heat lamp bulbs because I cannot guarantee that rain will not hit the light bulb from time to time. (I learned from experience that if a drop of water hits a hot red heat lamp bulb, the bulb will explode.   You DON'T want to ask me HOW I learned that, LOL...)


Would several 100 watt red flood lights heat the area enough to get them through the winter, given the fact that much of their chicken yard will still be open to the elements?


Or should I put some kind of actual heater in there -- enclosed in some kind of enclosure that would keep the chickens from being able to touch or peck at the heater, and protected from any stray rain drops that can get into the chicken yard?


If it is best to use a  heater to heat that fenced in yard, what kind of heater would I want to use?   


And one other question:   what is the best way to keep their water from freezing when the outdoor temps go below about 35 degrees?


Thank you in advance for your insights and advice.


And thanks for letting me join your forum.   This forum looks like just the place this newbie chicken father needs to be.

Barry is father to 21 hens, 3 cockerels, 2 cats and a currently unknown number of babies born today, Nov 10, 2011!
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Barry is father to 21 hens, 3 cockerels, 2 cats and a currently unknown number of babies born today, Nov 10, 2011!
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post #2 of 19

Welcome!  My goodness...I'll try to answer a few of your questions and then let others chime in.  I don't think you should waste your time or electric bill on trying to heat the run.  You have a good assortment of winter hardy breeds and you will be surprised when you see them out in the snow (does it snow in TN?) and enjoying it.  If you start trying to warm them too soon or too much, then they won't feather out naturally and won't get that extra "padding" to equip them to handle the cold.  As for the water, you can hang a 60 watt bulb over the waterer...or use a heated base or a heated dog dish.  Try doing a "search" on this forum for some ideas on keeping water from freezing.

It sounds like you have a nice setup.  In winter, it is most important that they are protected from dampness and drafts in the coop when roosting at night.  You should post a picture of your coop and run!

post #3 of 19

Put in roost made from 1x4 laid flat...it will keep their feet from freezing. Other than that they don't need heat, just protection from the weather.

You can take a picture of your best laying hen, post it on Backyardchickens and ask what sex it is and somebody will tell you its a Roo....
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You can take a picture of your best laying hen, post it on Backyardchickens and ask what sex it is and somebody will tell you its a Roo....
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post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the insights.


I just got to talking to my brother, and after I read to him what you all wrote, and he suggested that we take 4 foot by 8 foot plywood, mount it up on a 4'' by 4'' base so that the plywood did not touch the ground and get wet, and then put up 4 foot tall plywood "walls" on the exterior of the fencing.


That would leave the chicks with less than 2 feet of "naked fencing" (that is, area that did not have a plywood barrier to block wind, rain or even natural sunlight for that matter) between the top of that plywood "wall" and the roof.   Some cold winds and rain could get in through that gap in coverage, but not anywhere near as much as can get in right now with no protection.    The fact that the chickens are usually on or near the floor, rather than that far up off the ground, is helpful. 


He also said he could put up about a foot of metal sheeting extending down off the roof, from the north and west sides of the pen, to provide extra rain protection.   That would give added rain and wind protection while still allowing some sunshine and fresh air in the coop during better weather.

He's pretty good with electrical work (he teaches electrical work at a public high school). and he says he could put flourescent lighting in their run, using bulbs that closely simulate the fuller range of sunlight.   We could set them on a timer to come up early in the morning and provide the chickens with 14 to 15 hours of sunlight.    I have read that it is best to let chickens go to sleep when the sun sets, and wake them early.


By walling in the bottom 4 feet and with the existing metal roof which is 6 feet from the ground, and with the extra foot of metal sheeting he can hang off the roof on the north and western sides (where most bad winter weather will come in), he said he thinks the chickens will be protected from the rain and most of the cold winds.   


But he also thought that we probably needed to put some heat in, which he says he can set to a thermostat so that it would not come on until it reached a certain temperature, and then would automatically go off when it got to another temperature.


So he was wondering, at what temp inside the run should he set the heat lamps to come on?    He says he can set up the heat lamps to come on when temps inside the run drop to a certain temp, and then to cut off again when temps rise to a certain temp.


What is the best range of temperatures for him to set the heat lamps for?


Edited by Barry Natchitoches - 9/4/08 at 8:33pm
Barry is father to 21 hens, 3 cockerels, 2 cats and a currently unknown number of babies born today, Nov 10, 2011!
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Barry is father to 21 hens, 3 cockerels, 2 cats and a currently unknown number of babies born today, Nov 10, 2011!
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post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sugarbush 

Put in roost made from 1x4 laid flat...it will keep their feet from freezing. Other than that they don't need heat, just protection from the weather.


We are planning to put a more permanent roost in the run as well, that he will build using a 2 by 2 board.   I'm not sure exactly how he's going to do that, but he's got several students in his shop class that live on farms that have chickens, and they already told him we need roosts in the chicken run.

Barry is father to 21 hens, 3 cockerels, 2 cats and a currently unknown number of babies born today, Nov 10, 2011!
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Barry is father to 21 hens, 3 cockerels, 2 cats and a currently unknown number of babies born today, Nov 10, 2011!
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post #6 of 19

I don't provide any supplemental heat at all unless it will be getting well below your lowest temps.

My chickens will go out into their run in the daytime when it is 5 degrees and windy!

If I were you I would provide them with a draft free coop by covering the exposed areas on the sides with plywood, and not worry about heat. They are after all, covered with feathers. I can go out when it is wicked cold, below zero, and put my fingers under my hens wings, and they are warm and toasty.

By the way, my chickens like to be out in the rain too sometimes. I came home yesterday and my buff orp looked like she had been dunked in a bucket! lol

As for water, I use one of those heated bases that you can set a galvanized waterer on. It kept my water thawed even into negative teens.

-Laura
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-Laura
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post #7 of 19

While they can survive just fine in the colder temps, I've read that they will continue to lay if they are kept a bit warmer. Those who said they don't provide any heat, are you keeping layers or borders during the winter.

my fam:DW of 6yrs, D15,S7,D4,Retr mix, mainecoon mix, My hens wish list: Blue-wheaten Ameraucanas,Partridge Wyandottes or Blue Laced Red Wyandottes,Red Partridge Welsumers,Black Copper Marans, NHR, RIR, Barred Amrock, Black Australorps, Partridge Cochin
Adam Fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.
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my fam:DW of 6yrs, D15,S7,D4,Retr mix, mainecoon mix, My hens wish list: Blue-wheaten Ameraucanas,Partridge Wyandottes or Blue Laced Red Wyandottes,Red Partridge Welsumers,Black Copper Marans, NHR, RIR, Barred Amrock, Black Australorps, Partridge Cochin
Adam Fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.
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post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ_Hythloday 

While they can survive just fine in the colder temps, I've read that they will continue to lay if they are kept a bit warmer.


If it is cold enough to slow up laying it is cold enough to freeze eggs....and frozen eggs crack and are useless.

You can take a picture of your best laying hen, post it on Backyardchickens and ask what sex it is and somebody will tell you its a Roo....
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You can take a picture of your best laying hen, post it on Backyardchickens and ask what sex it is and somebody will tell you its a Roo....
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post #9 of 19

But if kept warm they'd keep laying, right?

my fam:DW of 6yrs, D15,S7,D4,Retr mix, mainecoon mix, My hens wish list: Blue-wheaten Ameraucanas,Partridge Wyandottes or Blue Laced Red Wyandottes,Red Partridge Welsumers,Black Copper Marans, NHR, RIR, Barred Amrock, Black Australorps, Partridge Cochin
Adam Fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.
Reply
my fam:DW of 6yrs, D15,S7,D4,Retr mix, mainecoon mix, My hens wish list: Blue-wheaten Ameraucanas,Partridge Wyandottes or Blue Laced Red Wyandottes,Red Partridge Welsumers,Black Copper Marans, NHR, RIR, Barred Amrock, Black Australorps, Partridge Cochin
Adam Fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.
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post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by RJ_Hythloday 

But if kept warm they'd keep laying, right?


laying  has to do with daylight.... Lamps on timers would be more productive than heating a coop. My chickens never fully stop laying anyway....they slow down during molt an in the winter, but don't stop.

You can take a picture of your best laying hen, post it on Backyardchickens and ask what sex it is and somebody will tell you its a Roo....
Reply
You can take a picture of your best laying hen, post it on Backyardchickens and ask what sex it is and somebody will tell you its a Roo....
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