Originally Posted by clarkechick
I'm in northern Vermont and it is supposed to be -15 degrees tonight. I don't heat my coop. We had a mild early winter and when we got our first cold snap (single digits) my ladies got frostbite and stayed in the coop all day. Since then, they've had a chance to harden up with more seasonable temps, but I'm still worried about fifteen below! I bought a ceramic heat emitter for my brooder lamp since having the red light on all night has caused pecking issues. Now that I have the darn thing, I'm afraid to turn it on because of the fire risk. What do you think... go with no heat? The coop is sturdy and has a nice ridge cap vent. If anything, I worry that the great ventilation is going to let all of their heat (only 4 hens) right out of the roof.
My brown leghorn sustained the worst frostbite last time. She has that big floppy comb. The rest just have little white bits at the tips. Even in 0 degrees today they are out pecking around in their run between cuddle sessions in their enclosed outdoor space.
I would forego the heater, which will just make them "sweat"~create more humidity~in that small coop, since they are conditioned to the cold. I'd open up a little more ventilation...particularly near the floor so that the fresh air intake moves the stale air up and out of the coop through the vents at the top. My chickens are more likely to show the effects of the cold on combs when it's in the 30s and the snow is melting, creating a lot of humidity in the air that's hard to move out of the coop, than in the negative temps.
The thing is, with chickens, they carry their heaters on their bodies and heat radiates from their body "heaters", helping to heat the other chickens...but that body heat is a moist heat. If you trap it into the coop in really cold temps, it's a recipe for frost bite as the humidity settles on combs and wattles, there to freeze and cause frostbite.
If you read back on this thread we had the same or more severe temps last year at this time and all the same issues were raised, many worries were expressed and the heaters were all brought out to heat coops. I'm sure it all went okay for folks, but it also went okay for the folks who didn't use heaters. Mostly, I think the heaters are for the human's peace of mind, more than the chicken's welfare. If the fear of fire is going to ruin that peace of mind, it's counterproductive to the whole process, I'm thinking.