Fire Safety in the Coop and Barn

Some tips to help prevent a tragedy.
By sumi · Nov 2, 2016 · Updated Nov 4, 2016 · ·
  1. sumi
    Fire Safety in the Coop and Barn - Some Tips to Help Prevent a Tragedy


    Let me start by saying this is not an easy topic for me to write about… I've not had a coop fire and I pray I never will. For as long as I can remember I have suffered from Pyrophobia and that combined with my love for poultry made winter a time of the year I dread, hearing about coop fires, the losses… It upsets me a great deal, hearing about coop fires and for that reason I decided to write this article and hopefully, hopefully help prevent a few more...

    The really sad thing about most of the fires and causes is that they could've been prevented so, so easily. Many fires were caused by heat lamps getting knocked down or over, some by faulty electrics... Heat lamps seems to be #1 culprit though, so I want to start by talking about those.

    Chicks, until they are fully feathered, do need supplemented heat, unless they are raised by a hen. Most of us make use of heat lamps to keep the little ones warm. Stating the obvious here: heat lamps need to be secured properly! If you opt to use a heat lamp, make 200% sure the lamp is properly secured and not too close to anything that can potentially catch fire from the heat... Make sure the bulb is fitted in a CERAMIC socket, not plastic. I have a plastic socket downstairs that melted from the heat… And it came with the lamp! I go a step further and make sure there is a secure metal barrier, in the shape of a mess between the brooder and the lamp, in the unlikely event that the lamp should fall. There is no such thing as being "too careful" when using these lamps. Be concerned and be careful!

    There are other options though, that are safer than heat lamps:

    - Incubator manufacturer Brinsea's Chick Brooders
    - @Blooie 's Mama Heating Pad in the Brooder - From Blooie: "I raise chicks outdoors in the run using it, even with temps in the teens and twenties, and they thrive. If at all possible I recommend people have power hardwired to their set-up rather than use extension cords, but since I know that's not always possible, at the very least they need to use heavy duty extension cords and seal the connection between the EC and the cord to whatever is being powered."

    To name two…

    Another option that is gaining popularity with our members is the sweeter heater.

    I experimented and raised some chicks in a heated room last winter with good results. A small fan heater, along with the house heating, worked well keeping the room at a comfortable temperature for them. I never raised the temperature in the room over around 80F, I set the heater to switch itself on and off and just boost the temperatures a bit as needed, and the chicks were happy, happy at that.

    For older chickens and coops… Do older chickens NEED supplemented heat over winter? Some breeds are not able to handle extreme cold and can benefit from a bit of supplemented heat, but the majority of healthy, strong, well looked after chickens are perfectly equipped to withstand very cold temperatures. Look at wild birds. They don't have heaters and heat lamps and I have yet to see one killed by cold. With the exception of a very small number of breeds, chickens are protected against the elements by a well designed duvet of feathers that helps them regulate their body temperatures and keep the cold out. They can and will do fine even in extreme cold, even more so if they have a well designed and built coop to overnight in.

    Here is a good discussion stating the temperatures chickens can withstand WITHOUT supplemented heat:

    And a must read article by @pipdzipdnreadytogo on supplemented heat in the coop (Please do read this article, it's good info!):

    Bottom line: in most cases chickens do NOT need that heat lamp or heater in the coop. Yes, it's nice and they greatly appreciate it, but they Do. Not. Need. It. Sadly a lot of fires were caused by unnecessary heating… So the first step to reducing the risk of fires is obvious: Do not provide supplemented heat in the coop unless the birds really need it!

    If they do, if they really do need heat and you need to supplement heat in your coop or barn, take the necessary steps to make sure your lamps are secure, if you choose to use lamps. Get a qualified electrician to install electricity, do the wiring, etc. Don't say "I'll save money doing it myself!" How much is your flock and coop worth to you? Get a professional to do the job…

    BYC member @aoxa had a tragic barn fire about 3 years ago and she started a thread on the topic of fire safety and prevention (Thanks, Justine!) To quote from her thread, here are some safety tips she gathered:

    • The obvious - make sure if you have chicks in the barn/coop that you have your heat lamp SECURED. Do not trust the clamps. They can slip off easily and the heat lamp can fall to the ground and catch the shavings on fire.
    • Extension Cords - Please, please do not use these if you can help it. If you do have to use them, Make sure you are not drawing a lot of power from them (IE: Don't attach an extension cord to a power block and plug a lot into them).
    • DUST your lights and outlets regularly. Dust is a big issue.. You know how much dust a couple of chickens can create.. If dust builds up on heat lamps, or even regular light bulbs the dust itself can catch on fire.
    • If you use extension cords, use heavy duty, and only ones meant for outdoors. Make sure they are all intact and have no rips or tears in the coating.
    • Another extension cord tip: Do not staple them into the wall to keep out of reach of birds. If you hit the cord itself it can create an issue
    • Store baled hay AWAY from livestock. Hay/bedding storage should not be near lights, fans, electrical boxes, heaters or outlets.
    • Flammable substances should be kept away from the barn. (We had 5 propane tanks stored in the loft. BAD idea.
    • Improperly utilized heat lamps are a major source of barn fires. They are often placed too close to hay and bedding which may ignite quite easily from the heat. Never use extension cords with heat lamps.
    • When storing newly baled hay, the temperature should be monitored. Adequate ventilation should be provided for additional drying of the hay. If too much heat builds up, spontaneous combustion can occur. (Never purchase hay that is hot - because it can mean that it was baled too wet. In addition to being a fire hazard, the hay may turn moldy, making it unpalatable and unhealthy for horses to eat.)
    • Outlets and switch boxes should be made of metal and have dust- and water-tight spring-loaded covers that close when released. Ground fault receptacles should be utilized for all outlets.

    You can read more here:

    Share This Article

Recent User Reviews

  1. Haydog03
    "Good article shedding light on a serious matter."
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Nov 14, 2018
    Many people shove heaters or heat lamps, with wires hanging out, in coops and barns. Unaware of the tragedy that follows. I hope everyone sees this article and takes precautions.
    Abriana and sumi like this.
  2. Shannonw1228
    "Good article"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Nov 14, 2018
    I never thought about dusting regularly. I'm going to. Have to go Out and do that today. I don't have heat light in but I have a light until 9 on.
    Abriana and sumi like this.
  3. fldiver97
    "Coop fire prevention"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Oct 31, 2018
    great article, every chicken keeper should read this!
    Abriana and sumi like this.


To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!
  1. Ibchduckin
    Thank you for this article! I am a big worry wart when it comes to my kids. I love all of my babies, chickens and ducks. I have my coop hard wired but do use an extension cord for my ducks water heater. I will now get a cover for the connection, Thanks for that information.
  2. Lady Lionheart
    Great article! Thank you for the must have tips!
  3. iplrs
    We use a product like:
    Ceramic Lamp Holder+Heat Emitter Set Pet Reptile Snake Heating Bird Brooder Coop
    that is available through EBay. It is a solid state 'bulb'. No loose filament. No glass to break. And, you can hold or touch it without being burned. It just radiates the heat.

    I agree with following safe wiring practices, and we have found this type of lamp very reliable and safe around our birds.
  4. djdavis
    Excellent article! I do not live in a particularly cold place, but we do occasionally have a week or two where the temperature may remain below freezing in the winter. The hens have been fine - BUT my poor rooster has gotten terrible blisters of frostbite on his comb and wattles. I HATE using a heat lamp! Plus it messes up their "winter vacation" since I do not normally light my coop! But when I use one, I use multiple loops of stainless steel wire to fasten it up through the little holes in the metal shade to the structure of the house so that it is NOT dependent on that clamp holding it to the building - OR the clamp remaining fastened to the top of the lamp, either. I also worry about the bulb coming loose from it's base - which I know can happen - and so wire up a virtual spider web of that same stainless steel wire to the guard wires that come on the lamp. I fear that a loose bulb could easily fit through that simple "X" that is factory provided! I now have one of those heavy duty, better protected lamps from Premier 1, but it has not been cold enough so far this winter to try it out. I still hope to find a better solution!
      Miss Lydia and sumi like this.
  5. 3riverschick
    Great article. Another idea is to build a "fresh air" coop. See Dr. Prince book "Fresh Air Poultry Houses" ,Available to read online for free at Hathitrust Digital Library.
      SAPPERGARDENER and WthrLady like this.
  6. mymilliefleur
    Great article Sumi. Everyone should read this.
      SAPPERGARDENER likes this.
  7. computer_chicken
    I have been using a heat lamp for those extremely frigid nights on a timer - not all nite long but spaced out during the nite time. It is the clamp style and I discovered early on that the clamp is not a reliable way to hold the fixture in place. There is a metal piece that is holding at two points that I use to hang it from a hook above in addition to the clamp - so if the clamp slides off............. the fixture can't drop to the floor. Been doing this now for many years. Only use heat when I feel it's necessary.
  8. wolfinator
    I have Showgirls along with Silkies and a few mixed breeds so I choose to use a 85 watt flood light instead of a 250 watt heat lamp. I'm constantly brushing off cobwebs from the fixture. My light is on of those clamp styles, so we used a few nails to secure it to the rafter. I also wrapped my coop in a heavy gauge clear plastic that I got from the fabric department at WalMart. I made sure that there was airflow at the top so I minimize condensation in the coop. This is only my second winter with my flock and it worked well for me last year. My coop is 200 feet from any power source so I ran electrical wire through 1/2" water line that is buried. I use a surge protector that is secured to the rafter and have my cords at roof level except for the water heater base, its secured down the wall. I use a deep layer of straw and shredded pine in the coop for extra warmth so I place the water heater base up on cinder blocks. I've had no issues since the chickens usually kick all the bedding towards the back area where they nest. I also use a baby monitor due to the distance so I can monitor them - we have a lot of wildlife in the area, especially opossums. I also use solar motion lights outside the coop for added protection (had a few rabbits set off lights tonight already). I'm also getting a smoke detector for the coop for added peace of mind.
      greggooo likes this.
  9. Miss Lydia
    great article Sumi.
  10. mjmkjun
    Oil-filled radiators work well for enclosed areas without risk of fire/overheating. Alert: no airtight housing which isn't recommended for outdoor animals.
  11. sumi
    @rjohns39 Thank you for reminding me. I meant to mention that as an alternative heat source, but forgot when I wrote it.
  12. rjohns39
  13. N F C
    Excellent article Sumi and very timely with winter quickly approaching!
  14. CuzChickens
    Great article, sumi, I have not yet had to deal with any sort of a coop fire, and I pray to god I never will. I have a friend that had a couple of chickens, and had a neighbor that lived on a hill directly above her house. The neighbor didn't like the chickens, so he kept on throwing firewood down on her coop to make the rooster stop crowing and he dislodged the heat lamp and the whole coop burned down, roasting a silkie hen. Everybody else lived, but she has been much more careful since!
  15. Lady of McCamley
    I totally agree. This cannot be stressed enough. I have burned down a coop, and so have several of my friends. All from heat lamps that got knocked over even though we thought they were secure and had used outdoor rated and new equipment. I was so very fortunate that it "just" burned down my coop with all hens. If it weren't for my wonderfully wet Oregon winters, the roman candle that went up and burned down to ashpit (think campfire ash pit) in what must have been a matter of minutes would have also taken my wood pile, the house, my neighbor's wood pile, their house, and possibly a good portion of our neighborhood. I shudder at the thought of thinking I could have been another Mrs. O'Leary. And it happens FAST folks. After that experience, I went to broody hens and have never ever used a heat lamp again. The babes and transitioning juveniles do NOT need all that heat....momma acts like a warming hutch but the little fuzz balls run around in all elements, even in winter, with their little down jackets without a care to grow into wonderfully hardy chickens. Please do not ever use a heat lamp on extension cord to an outdoor building. Ever.
  16. sumi
    Thank you @Blooie ! I'll add what you said to the article.
  17. Bogtown Chick
    Yes! Time to Dust off these good recommendations. I use a flat panel radiant heater to to take the edge off subzero temperatures. It doesn't get very hot at all. And doesn't get turned on until -5 F or so. Good suggestion to use heavy duty cords, not over drawing. Would also like to add that if you do use those lamps to hang them from 2-3 different points, in case one fails. And to always check that socket is twisted tight into the lamp. Often they will drop right out of the housing. It's a shame they are made so cheap and poorly given their risk, and companies knowing how they are used.
  18. Chicken Girl1
    Thank you for the helpful article!
  19. Blooie
    Great and very timely article, Sumi - it's that time of year when heating coops and sealing them totally up becomes a new thread almost daily. We just had a coop fire a few miles from us this spring, and yep, they suspected the heat lamps being used for chicks as the cause. When the investigation was complete, that suspicion was confirmed. He lost the coop, a camper, and several other nearby things. So sad. Thank you also for mentioning Mama Heating Pad in the Brooder. I raise chicks outdoors in the run using it, even with temps in the teens and twenties, and they thrive. If at all possible I recommend people have power hardwired to their set-up rather than use extension cords, but since I know that's not always possible, at the very least they need to use heavy duty extension cords and seal the connection between the EC and the cord to whatever is being powered. Home run all the way around with this article!
  20. Nardo
    Thanks for a good article. It's getting that time of year when a safety reminder can only help.
  21. ChickenAndMore
    Great article! I had a very small fire in my coop last winter, thankfully no one got hurt. I didn't use common sense and was using a heat lamp for light. Don't do that! The heat lamp fell onto a small hay bale and caught fire.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: