Heating issues relating to daily temp swings, solar heating

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Zenbirder, Oct 24, 2007.

  1. Zenbirder

    Zenbirder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I read some of the discussions on heating the coop vs not heating. It seems the argument to not heat is that the day/night temp differences will stress the hens and that they are better off at a more constant temp? Please correct me if I have misinterpreted. In my location I question this logic because of our climate. Winter is our dry season, typically we have little snow and it doesn't last long. Humidity often ranges from the high teens down to unmeasurable, I have seen it read zero humidity. This causes us to have huge temperature swings most days, we had about a 45 degree day to night swing yesterday, and 55 degree changes are not unknown. The coop has been running 20 to 25 degrees warmer than outside with one window still cracked a bit. Certainly no problems with cold yet. However, when the cold really comes we can have single digits at night and 60's in the day.

    We are thinking about moving an unused solar collector from the greenhouse to the side of the coop, it will warm water for a 55 gallon drum that we can stash under one row of nest boxes inside the coop. Has anyone else tried this? The coop is 8X10 and has 19 hens now (I want more in spring). It is well insulated with double paned glass windows. I realize the hens are in no real danger from the cold, but they are pets and I try to treat all my pets as well as I am able to.

    The two real questions I am presenting are: about the impact of daily temperature swings on hens, and if there is anyone using solar heating similar to what I discribe.
     
  2. greginshasta

    greginshasta Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I think the real point that people have made from the many postings I have read is that the goal is to climatize the birds to the normal temperatures and only provide heat when it gets extremely cold.

    The concept, as I understand it, is that if you just acknowledge that they are wild animals (however coddled we may all treat them) that they will do well for themselves, and that trying to pamper them with heat serves to weaken their overall resistance.

    Somone please correct me if I got that wrong.

    As for the solar water heater, I know someone who uses such a method to heat a room that is an extention of their barn. It has glass walls and they use it for planting starts. It is very successful.
     
  3. kstaven

    kstaven Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    The overall point being made on the thread mentioned was that heating a coop would not allow the chickens own system to acclimatise to the harsher winter conditions and leave them more vulnerable to its effects. Thus weakening them and leaving them open to what ever disease etc that they would normally be not effected by in their environment.

    Personally I think it relates more to birds that spend most of their time locked indoors in the winter than those birds that normally range most of the day outside and go in when they get overly cold.

    An overly warm coop in the winter can be a very moist place that can quickly become a breeding ground for all sorts of problems. Of course this depends on your geographic location.

    I did want to add ... I personally don't feel the system you are discussing will cause the coop to become overly hot and just serve to control extreme swings in temperature. So it should do little harm, if any.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2007
  4. greginshasta

    greginshasta Chillin' With My Peeps

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    kstaven - you worded this more precisely than I did, and that is exactly what I was trying to say. That's just what I have taken from various posts.
     
  5. Zenbirder

    Zenbirder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank-you both. I suspect the system will not make the coop warm, just keep it from freezing. With that small of a coop there is no way I can keep them indoors during the day unless they choose to be inside. With all our winter sunshine I expect they will choose to be out most of the time, even when it is cold. I sure will choose sunny and cold any day over where I used to live, there it was socked in fog all winter, yuch.
     
  6. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Quote:I agree with this comment 100%.

    When it comes to heating a coop I always have to question it no matter what the goodness is behind the reasoning.

    Until electricity was available in rural places sometimes not until the 1930's or even later - how do you think farmers raised their own chickens?

    As much as we love our pets and having chickens as pets I think we sometimes do a disservice by not treating them as the animals they are.
     
  7. jubylives

    jubylives Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This very topic has been on my mind alot lately also. Here in Iowa we frequently can go below 0 degrees F and can get snow by the foot. My concern has not been with the chickens so much being cold but the water freezing if the heateing element goes kaput and to keep the feed from freezing together. I don't plan on using any type of space heater but some heat lamps in strategic places. Plus I added plastic over half of the door openings to (in theory) create a warmer pocket of air toward the top of the coop where the roosts are located.

    The other concern brought by someone was that if power was lost in a storm then the chickens won't be able to adapt.

    Jeremy
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2007
  8. Zenbirder

    Zenbirder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:As this is my thread can I please ask that we not get into the debate over how to treat our hens. I had hoped I made my position clear from the start but if not here it is: I don't leave dogs out in the cold, I don't make cats hunt for their own food, and I don't want frostbit combs if I can help it.

    This is my first winter with hens so I do have questions about housing them in a manner that suits their health and my sensibilities. Because our climate is different I am looking at that aspect in response to my housing and heating choices. One of the reasons DH and I thought of the solar is not only is it less expensive for us to run than heat lamps, but it is an interesting solution to the "what if the electricity goes out at night" problem. Unlike a heat lamp, there would be no disruption of temperature, the tank will continue to radiate heat slowly. We rarely get power outages that last long, but if we did I could always have the option of heating water over the wood stove during the day to put back in the tank. This also means I don't need another solution to keep their drinking water from freezing.
     
  9. greginshasta

    greginshasta Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I think the "need for heating" has been addressed, but you raise the point of solar which I think needs to be looked at and possibly debunked.

    Before you go into the winter depending upon this as a solution, I would go to you local hardware store, Costco or ??? and buy a set of $40 solar patio lights. Install them and get up in the middle of the night a couple times to see how long they last. I think you may be disappointed. At worst case you can keep them around for decorative illumination of your run so that you can walk around at night (for a period before they dim). Also consider if the solar panel is physically attached to the lamp fixture and what will it take to get the light to point into the coop while still being exposed to sunlight for power re-generation.

    Place your hand by them and see how much heat they generate. Consider that cold may reduce battery performance. And search this forum for "solar". There was a recent thread where someone spoke of the fact that they tried solar shed lights, and that they neither produced much heat nor did they last long into the night.

    OTOH, skip the $40 solar lights and make a cookie can water heater (see link below) and be conforted that the power use of that will probably be far less than solar lights.

    I'm trying to live as "green" as practical, with consideration both of costs as well as my personal impact on resource use, climate change, etc. I want as much as anyone to find a solution to winter as you do, and I want to address the moral challenges we face. But my sense is that it is going to take a powered solution, and for this year, that will mean an extension cord powering a timer and a nightlight installed into a cookie can like the one shown here .

    I'm not sure where you live, but we get hard freezes here and I'm convinced by other posts that a solar light will not produce enough heat for long enough to keep water from freezing. I'll not be reaching that point and suddenly decide I have to race around for a better solution.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2007
  10. SisterFlash

    SisterFlash Chillin' With My Peeps

    Zenbirder I am a novice having had birds as a kid in No. Calif so winters were not an issue. I also have not built my coop or ordered my chickens yet as I am still gathering info here.

    Here in NM just like you we have the 50 or more swing a day. Yesterday it was 23 and a high of 72. I do put my horses in the barn at night with blankets. I blanket at nigh which is not quite the norm here....but what I have found is that my horses still put on normal coats but they do conserve their heat better and thus use less food.
    THey also pace their stall less to stay warm at night. All of these things they would have done outside. I have a themo in the barn so I can alway know what the low temp was for the day.

    Not having enough knowledge on chickenens but wanting to apply this concept to my coop,...I guess they do not make chicken blankets.

    Not only will I try to aford to roof my run to keep the snow and rains from making things a cold and muddy mess but I will add some sort of light or insulation to keep things tosty inside. I think there is a lot to be said for just getting them out of the wind and weather though.
     

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