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Do I need to heat the coop during the winter?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by elrener, Aug 21, 2013.

  1. elrener

    elrener In the Brooder

    Aug 17, 2013
    Middleburg, FL
    Hi, I haven't been through the winter with my chickens yet. We don't have electricity running to the coop, so no fan for the hot summer days and nights. Lately it's been in the mid 90's. The chickens don't seem to be doing too bad in there even though it gets pretty warm, it's not really hot. The coop is in a pretty shady area of the yard. I'm wondering if I'll need to heat the coop in the winter time. Although I live in Florida, we can have some periods of teens and 20 degree nights. The coop is pretty far out back, so not looking forward to having to get electricity out there, but may have to anyway since I heard they should have 14 hours of daylight for good egg laying during the winter. Any ideas?

  2. Biologrady

    Biologrady Chirping

    Apr 12, 2012
    No heat needed, but things to look out for...
    1) need good ventilation high in the coop to avoid trapping humid air (promotes frostbite)
    2) the hens will appreciate a wide roost (so they can keep feet tucked under feathers)
    3) if they get really cold they might head for deep bedding on the floor; I make sure it's available
    4) check frequently that water is not frozen.
    5) an extra scoop of scratch gives them extra calories to burn
    6) we used a red heat lamp last year... Heated and kept them laying, but we will be letting them have their natural break this year.
  3. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Crowing

    Mar 26, 2011
    Upper Peninsula Michigan
    There are many here (myself included) that do not heat their coop in even the coldest weather. Chickens are well able to keep themselves warm, given:

    Plenty of feed and non-frozen water
    Draft-free, well-ventilated housing
    Acclimatization to the cold

    Heat sources are notorious for fire danger, and once you start supplying heat you can't stop until the weather warms. If you get a power outage, your birds can really suffer at the sudden cold temps, where birds that are allowed to get used to the cold as the weather cools off are well able to withstand cold snaps. In addition, heating a coop can actually increase the risk of frostbite in some cases.

    I can not see any reason why birds in Florida would need supplemental heat.
  4. elrener

    elrener In the Brooder

    Aug 17, 2013
    Middleburg, FL
    The coop is an old shed that was given to us. It's not very airtight so there should be plenty of ventilation. Just hoping it's not so ventilated that it won't keep heat in. My chickens are so spoiled, they have plenty of places to roost, so they can have their pick. Is it ok to leave the food and water outside in the run? Not crazy about having the food and water mess inside the coop, it's hard enough to keep clean and I've seen a mouse and snake(killed the snake) in there already. I'm hoping it will warm up enough outside during the day for them to want to be inside only at night, unless laying of course. But I don't know. I'm learning as I go.
  5. elrener

    elrener In the Brooder

    Aug 17, 2013
    Middleburg, FL
    Thanks for the info. I appreciate it. I guess if they can get used to the hot weather here, they shouldn't have a problem with the cold weather we do get. They may get a little confused like we people do. It can be warm one week and cold the next, then back to warm again. You never know what to plan for.
  6. bdjh

    bdjh Chirping

    Aug 7, 2013
    I'm in Winnipeg, and we get -40 in the winter, and that's not even with the wind chill.

    (of course, it's not ALWAYS -40......we have warmer days when it goes up to -30 sometimes :))

    My question is whether a red heat lamp will be ENOUGH to keep them alive?

    The coop is reasonably small - 4x6 feet - and reasonably draft free. We have 7 birds.

    I was planning on mounting the light up near the ceiling, above their water and food station. That should keep the water from freezing without any problem.

    They spend almost all of their time up in the rafters, so I'm thinking that the rising heat should keep them warm enough.

  7. write2caroline

    write2caroline Songster

    Jun 21, 2009
    The main concern would be chance of fire. If you are running electrical to the coop with an ext cord - stuff happens. Enough people have lost their flocks to fires that it is good to keep it in the back of your mind when deciding heat not to heat.

    Chickens have under feathers that puff up in the cold. These feathers trap air and warm it making a great insulated situation that will keep them very warm.

    They don't need heat.

    Frost is a problem. Frost is a result of trapped humidity that freezes. If your coop does not have good air ventilation Humidity can build up and when it freezes it turns to frost and the chickens can get frost bite on combs and wattles. You can apply some kind of salve to combs and wattles but it will get dirty.

    Drafts can blow through those feathers like a biting cold wind through a sweater making those hot pockets of air turn cold. So you want the coop draft free but still have good venting to get rid of humidity.

    A wider roost will ensure that when the chicken roosts the feathers cover the feet and will keep those toesies warm.

    So in winter - the waterers can freeze and that can cause issues.

    Some things you can do for those cold nights.

    Fill a 5 gallon bucket with hot tap water and place the lid on top - works like a radiator and will radiate heat slowly keeping the coop warm. If you place it next to the waterer then perhaps it will keep it from freezing. You can also heat bricks in an oven and wrap them in newspaper and place them in the coops or with the waterer.

    Hope that helps

  8. JackE

    JackE Crowing

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    Check out pages 23-24 of the link below. Read about how it was done practically 100yrs ago. NO heat, NO insulation, open air coops. Yes, even in Canada with -40F temps. Chickens don't need any added heat.
  9. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Crowing

    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada
    Short answer NO.
  10. Nofowlplay

    Nofowlplay Songster

    Dec 29, 2013
    In the backyard
    Old topic I know...but I put a heated brick in the coop tonight wrapped in newspaper then a towel. It will be a wind chill of -1 tonight. will see how it goes!

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