Heated nesting boxes help stop frozen eggs!

Tired of frozen eggs? Learn about Heating your nesting boxes here. Step by step photos included.
  1. RonP
    Last winter was unusually cold for my area, with days turning to weeks of temperatures way below freezing.

    My schedule allowed me to gather my eggs twice a day, 8am and 8pm.

    For weeks I had cracked frozen eggs. Literally dozens of eggs were deemed unfit for human consumption, and fed back the the birds.
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    I Quote:
    US FDA says:
    "Shell eggs should not be frozen. If an egg accidentally freezes and the shell cracked during freezing, discard the egg. Keep any uncracked eggs frozen until needed; then thaw in the refrigerator. These can be hard cooked successfully but other uses may be limited. That's because freezing causes the yolk to become thick and syrupy so it will not flow like an unfrozen yolk or blend very well with the egg white or other ingredients."

    My solution was to heat the nesting boxes (3 boxes in total).

    Materials used:

    Seedling heat mats. Each uses 17 watts. Water proof construction. UL listed.
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    CONSTRUCTION:

    I began by cleaning the 16" cube nesting box out completely.
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    I cut a 1" hole in the top of the box to insert the power cord of the seed mat.
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    Then installed mat to box using paint sticks and screws. The mat bends easily when warm.
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    I covered the mats with the leaf bags, a perfect fit at 16" width. Disposable when soiled.
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    I covered the leaf bags with shredded junk mail, easily replaced and plentiful, and inserted some ceramic eggs in each box
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    Connected the 3 boxes to the power cord extension
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    Connected the power cord extension to the power strip, which has the thermo cube and LED night light to show when thermo cube is powered on
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    The power strip is connected to the light timer, set to turn on at 5:30am, off at 9:00pm. Note that the power to the lights are on the first timer outlet, which first goes through a photocell, so lights only are only on when needed. All power comes from a GFIC outlet. All wiring is inaccessible to the flock.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Summary:

    The light timer supplies power on at 5:30am, off at 9:00pm.
    The Thermo cube powers the mats only when temps reach below 35F, and off at 45F
    The mats heat the nesting material to around 20 degrees above ambient temperatures.

    The "Heated Nest Boxes" help keep the eggs from freezing till temperatures reach around 10F.

    Hope this helps others!

    Update:

    We had an unusually cold February 2015 for my area, many day temperatures only in the teens.

    My schedule allowed egg collection once around 8AM and once around 8PM.

    My coldest recorded egg temperature was 33F, significantly above the 28F threshold for egg freezing.

    That particular day, daytime high temperatures in the coop were in the low teens (13F), and the eggs were collected at 8:30pm, when ambient temperature was 11F and falling (nighttime lows reached below 0F, unusual for our area).

    The heated nest boxes worked as designed, flawlessly!

    I had 0 frozen eggs, whereas the previous year I had literally dozens...

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  1. rbnk1
    Intriguing idea...don't your hens try to stay in the nesting box to keep warm when its especially cold out??
  2. N Sully
    Great idea!
  3. RonP
    The seed mats did not have any noticeable chemical fumes when new.
    This will be the 4th year using the original mats, no odors whatsoever ...
      Leahs Mom likes this.
  4. RonP
    I have no experience, but a quick search suggests it will.
    Of course your ambient temperatures will determine your success.
    A car battery heating pad @ 60 watts may fair better if your temps drop beyond the 17 watt seeding pad capabilities.
    1. Leahs Mom
      I once purchased one of the car battery heaters and it put off a very strong chemical smell. I let it run for awhile to see if the chemical fumes would reduce over time but no such luck.

      Knowing that birds are very sensitive to such things, I returned it and did not test it out in the coop.

      Does your seedling mat have the fume issue?
  5. Leahs Mom
    @RonP
    I know this is an old article, but If you're still checking on it, I'm wondering if you think that the seedling mats could keep a half-gallon waterer thawed if set on top of one.
  6. RonP
    I have done nothing to them all year...using the shredded junk mail, I have never had to change out the leaf bags ...just handfuls of littered junk mail, rarely, tossed into the outdoor deep litter run.
    We did have a freeze spell, this season to date, and they still work flawlessly.
    I don't even think about the eggs freezing anymore...
  7. COChix
    Hi Ron, you still using the seed mats? Wondering how they held up?
  8. RonP
    Year end summation in case anyone actually reads this:
    Automated heated nesting boxes worked flawlessly.

    We had a cold winter for NJ.
    I did not have a single egg freeze, winter season 2014/15!
  9. Brookliner
    I have been very successful keeping my eggs unfrozen using my bantam hen who is broody 365 days a year. She pulls every egg laid into her nest and sits on them until we collect them. It is entertaining watching her collect them. She uses her breast and beak to move the eggs.
  10. RonP
    Update:

    We have had an unusually cold February for my area, many day temperatures only in the teens.

    My schedule allows egg collection once around 8AM and once around 8PM.

    The heated nest boxes are working as designed, flawlessly!

    This year to date I have had 0 frozen eggs, whereas last year I had literally dozens...

    My coldest recorded egg temperatures was 33F, significantly above the 28F threshold for egg freezing.

    That particular day, daytime high temperatures in the coop were in the low teens, and the eggs were collected at 8:30pm.
  11. RonP
    If it's in the coop, it subjected to dust, period! Wires are not a problem, outlets of course are. All circuits are minimum double GFCI protected, hang vertically, and I dust (leaf blower hanging on coop wall) often enough to minimise and clean any build up.
  12. pdirt
    Ron - very nice write-up. How far away from your chickens do you have all those wires? It looks like a whole lot of wires/outlets/etc...that plenty of chicken dust can get into and potentially short out a wire/outlet and start a fire. But if it's a ways away from your chickens, that would reduce the amount of chicken dust.
  13. Sydney Acres
    Lori Marie, I use seedling heat mats under 2 inches of aspen shavings in my brooder to keep the floor warm for the chicks (see my post above on 12/22/14). I don't put them in a plastic bag, as the mats are already plastic or rubber, and they get wet when I use them for seed germination without problems. I also use them under some 3/4 inch soft foam tiles (like stall mats, but soft), then covered by one inch of aspen shaving in my geriatric chickens house. They've never gotten too warm, but they're always covered by more than an inch of material.
  14. ellend
    Re: cracked eggs: Bacteria are microscopic, and very plentiful even on completely clean-looking, fresh eggs. If cracked, the ARE contaminated, and bacteria are growing exponentially. Have I ever used them? Yes. Would I feed them to somebody else? No--ESPECIALLY children, elderly, or immune compromised people (certain medications, chemotherapy, known or unknown cancers/leukemias) or pregnant people.
  15. RonP
    Lori Marie, In my trials, the mat does not get all that hot for concern. I have them under dry paper.
  16. Blueline
    RonP; great idea, will need to do this as our eggs do crack in typical winter weather.
    Thanks
    Charlie
  17. Lori Marie
    Would it be safe enough to use one of these seedling mats under the wood shavings to keep my chickens warmer on very cold nights? I would cover it with the trash bags of course then cover with very deep shavings.
  18. GardenDmpls
    The Christmas lights in long vinyl tubes are excellent low heat sources and are on sale this time of year for around four dollars. In our gardening community, they are used instead of seedling mats.
  19. ellend
    Cracked eggs no longer have that protective coating; or ANY protective coating. The area of crack on the shell lets in bacteria. Bacteria grows slower in cold, but still does grow, and chicken coops are not the cleanest of places, even with excellent care. Dust and air currents carry bacteria, even if the eggs look clean.
  20. RonP
    Good luck with that! I have never felt -20F ambient in my area (not counting wind chill factors).
  21. Frosty
    I'm planning to build the roll out nest box and run pipe heating cable through the area where the eggs collect... then see if it will keep them from freezing when it's -20.
  22. RonP
    I found the temperature never too high.
    The box actually helps to insulate the cold out.
  23. dogfish7
    Wonder if mounting the heat mat under the nest box might be better? You wouldn't have to sleeve it with bags and the thickness of the box would stop the temperature from getting too high. Just a thought.
  24. Sydney Acres
    Love this idea. I rarely have an issue with frozen eggs, but I do use my seedling heat mats for the chickens in many ways. My favorite is putting the heatmat on the floor of my brooder, covered by 2 inches of aspen shavings. The floor is never cold, so the chicks move around more and don't huddle under the heatlamp as much. Heatmats are very useful for lots of things
  25. RonP
    Cracked eggs compromise the any natural protectant, allowing contaminants such as salmonella an entry point.
  26. scratch'n'peck
    Great idea.
    @nancypo frozen eggs will crack and some of the cracks will be so small we can not see them with the naked eye. That can let in bacteria. But as RonP reported above, if you keep them frozen and thaw in the fridge they should be safe, but the yolk texture will be different.
  27. perchie.girl
    Awesome....
  28. RedMeadowFarm
    I have a similar system but with a roll out box design and the eggs resting right on the mat. With -10 temps had no cracked eggs.
  29. pernotcortez
  30. nancypo
    And I would think the USFAD probably meant store bought, washed, old eggs on their warning. Fresh eggs (unwashed) have that protective coating on it...
  31. Kscott45
    I just use a heated dog mat under my nest boxes. It's durable, easy to clean and I don't have to worry about a little water getting on it. Just plug in into a temp controlled plug and it goes on and off as needed. There are several different sized mats to choose from.
  32. nancypo
    So not to ask a stupid question- why are cracked eggs unfit for human consumption? Unless they're covered in poo of course. We use a hard wired heat lamp in our coop, and it's been down to 0 degrees (Boise) with no cracker frozen eggs. We use pine shaving which do a great job in the entire coop... Nancy @ LittleHomesteadinBoise
  33. ellend
    I use the Thermocubes also, for a Sweeterheater. I find them quite variable on the temperatures of on and off, and not very reliable in the longevity department, but I haven't found a better solution. The nightlight to show it's working is a very good suggestion (I watch a remote thermometer reading right by my computer) and I'd also suggest to have a spare thermocube, or two, for if this one goes out suddenly. And TEST the ones you buy, right when you buy them. (Make sure they won't turn a lamp on while still warm, then take them outdoors for a while if 32 F or lower, or place them in your freezer for a while, and make sure they WILL turn a lamp on. Likewise, make sure the lamp will go OFF when the cube warms up. I'd purchased brand new "duds." Know that different temp. range thermocubes are available--there is one to turn your fan on and off when the temp gets HIGH, so buy the correct one. (Wish they had one that turned on at 40 deg. instead of freezing...
    Nice post! Thanks!
  34. RonP
    The mats seem to be very durable. Let them "warm up" before bending them. They will bend more easily warmed, as you can see in my pictures. You will just have extra mat going up the back if the box is 12 instead of 16 inches. The bags are for easy, quick cleanups, probably not necessary. Shopping bags will work the same.
  35. Eagleeyeice
    I meant to tell you what a great turorial you posted.
    If I do this, it will be with help from here/you.
    I already have the cube and cookie tin heater, so will just add this.
    My boxes are 12" sq. so I'll have to see if these mats will fit.
    I would imagine that a brown paper shopping bag will work, and protect the mat, and add straw to that.
  36. RonP
    Hello Eagleeyeice,
    The mats are designed to give off heat to increase temps 10-20F. In my installation with 2 bags, (8 layers of paper separation) and additional shredded paper, I consistently see a 19F increase in temperatures. I will rarely see daytime temps in the single digits. As this is sufficient for my needs 95% of my cold season, I have not investigated alternative bedding. As for the question" when the temps are below 10F the eggs freeze" , I have yet to accumulate sufficient data, I am only extrapolating from my existing readings. Hope this helps.
  37. Eagleeyeice
    The "Heated Nest Boxes" help keep the eggs from freezing till temperatures reach around 10F.
    Any idea if you can put straw right on top of the mats? w/no bags
    Are you saying that when the temps are below 10F the eggs freeze?
    right now it's 9F in my coop/4F outside though.
  38. CharMac76
    This is a great idea! I may have to try something similar. It doesn't typically get that cold in my area, but the past week has been freezing!
  39. RonP
    Plug the Thermocube into any standard 15 Amp outlets to provide electrical devices with temperature-regulated operation. This dual-receptacle device will activate when temperatures dip to 35 degrees Fahrenheit and off when it hits 45 degrees Fahrenheit. 120-Volt rating.
    Regulates electricity usage according to temperaturePlastic construction with a beige finishUse with a 15 Amp outletAutomatically turns on at 35 degrees Fahrenheit and off at 45 degrees FahrenheitOffers 2 receptaclesSold in many stores including Home Depot
    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-Thermocube-TC3/100210525
    Hope this helps.
  40. gclark94560
    More info on the thermo cube please! Where to get, how much?
  41. aart
    Thank Ron....will look forward to seeing some more numbers when your control samples reach freezing and below.

    Thought I was subscribed to this article.......but it's not listed in my subscriptions...sigh
  42. chickwhispers
    That's a really good idea! Love it!
  43. RonP
    I experimented with several layers of bags.
    I found that with 2 bags, folded for 8 layers of seperation from the mats, the eggs still received enough heat to raise the temperatures 18F-22F degrees above the control samples (those not receiving additional heat).
    This test was done with the control sample at 48F- 52F.
    The heat seems to penetrate the protective bags quite well regardless, I obtained the same results with 3 bags..
    The nests also benefited from the flock using them, as they compressed the nesting material, the temps rose over the 3 day test period.
  44. aart
    Well...soooo......do tell the numbers!!
  45. RonP
    I tested the temps by bypassing the thermo cube.
    Needless to say, I got excited and completed the project!
  46. aart
    Nice tutorial......has it gotten cold enough yet to test the temps?
  47. RonP
    No condensation issues at all. The mat is a "gentle" heat source, and my coop is very well ventilated.
  48. vehve
    That's a good idea, I have the exact same mat here and it's going to be unused until spring, this is a great way to make it useful through the colder months. Have you found any condensation issues around the egg nest with the mat?

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