Heating the coop

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by fiberart57, Oct 16, 2011.

  1. fiberart57

    fiberart57 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 31, 2009
    I know this topic has been kicked around a lot; I did do a search on it but I'm concerned about low temperatures again this year and I'm wondering about the 100 W flat panel heater that Amazon has for sale with the thermostat cube outlet.

    I live in Western Colorado where winter temperature are usually in the single digits or 10 or 11 at night. However, at least two or three times we get down to -10 or lower for a couple of days. These are the days I worry about.

    My coop isn't big, 4' x 6' x 4.5' tall with six chickens. Most do fine except my Andalusian gets stressed and the rest of them have combs that freeze.

    Yes, I know. Chickens in Alaska are doing fine in sub zero weather and if the nights were fairly consistent here I might not worry, but the night time temperatures here in the high desert can range 30 degrees over a week.

    What do people think? For the past two years I've boiled water and put it in gallon jugs and buried it in the sawdust which helped somewhat but I'm getting unmotivated to go out in sub-zero temperatures to put water jugs in the coop. I'm not looking for major heat, just enough to keep the temperature in the coop around 25 - 35.

    Thanks, Mary
  2. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    I keep my coop around that temp. Mostly because they are pets and it is just easier all around.
    Of course here in Seattle I do not get temps that cold.
    I think that it sounds like you have thought it out. Heat your coop safely, and enjoy the winter.

  3. LiLRedCV

    LiLRedCV Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 25, 2010
    Land of the Rain
    There are two concerns here for me: (1) if you have a power outage, your flock may not be properly prepared for it - as in grow in enough plumage - to help insulate them from the cold because you are providing them with an electrical source and (2) more flocks are lost due to electrical fires than any other issue.

    We don't heat and we don't light our flock. While our birds are "pets" on so many levels, I also think taking away their natural ability to adjust to their environment can do them more harm than good. But that's my opinion and many others will disagree with it. [​IMG]
    1 person likes this.
  4. wyododge

    wyododge Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 30, 2011
    Quote:Mary, first off we get really cold here -30 and we do not heat.

    One thing you do not want is moisture with cold which is what the pots of water are doing. If I were you I would drape blankets so as to partially separate the roost are from the rest of the coop. Kinda like a shower curtain. Keep it off the floor and down from the ceiling so you will still have circulation but will reduce the area the birds body heat has to warm up.
  5. JodyJo

    JodyJo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 27, 2010
    I live in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado...I do not add heat to my coop...for the same reasons stated, power outage, the chickens will suffer...not used to the cold..remember they are covered with DOWN...they cuddle together.

    I had a friend who had a heat source in her small coop, it ignited and burned down, chickens included!

    Just make sure your coop is draft free and they always have feed...as long as they are fed well, they will stay warm!

    **we compete with Gunnison for coldest in the state in the winter...often getting to -20 to - 30*
  6. frostbite

    frostbite Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 27, 2011
    Fairbanks, Alaska
    Our temperatures in the winter are largely dependent on moving air masses, since we don't get much solar gain in December and January. Our temperatures can go from 30 above to 30 below in 4 hours. It can also go from 30 below to 30 above in the same time frame, when conditions are right.

    The ravens, red plls, chickadees and ptarmigans all do fine. I hear you about the combs being at risk. But still, it seems to be humidity more than cold that contributes to frostbite, from what I've heard.
  7. lorain's fids

    lorain's fids Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2011
    New Jersey
    Quote:I agree with you 100%. My girls will not have heat in their coop this winter (their 1st). The coop is well built, there are no drafts coming in and when the temp does go really really low I will put plastic on the windows . Years ago when I had rabbits that lived out doors in a hutch, I worried all the time about them freezing to death, so I would bring them in and keep them in the basement during the coldest of nights, but the vet had told me I was doing a dis-service to them. They get conditioned to the cold. As long as the hucth had a sheltered area, and filled with hay or straw they would be fine. They turned out to be fine!
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2011
  8. GardenState38

    GardenState38 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 13, 2011
    I've been thinking about the flat panel heater myself, for really cold nights. They appear to be a very safe method and I've heard several positives. My coop is about the same dimensions as the OP's.
    Knowing that a post to this forum would invite the usual anti-heat arguments, I asked around to people who live in my own state and are raising chickens for the same reasons as myself, with the same general mindset as mine, and who have actual experience with NJ winters.
    I know all of the arguments of the staunchly anti-heating (which appear to be the vocal majority on BYC), and I'm going to share my own thought processes:

    Firstly, I live in an area where my electrical supply is HIGHLY reliable. I can count on one hand the number of times I've had an outage, and then for no more than an hour or two--typically during summer storms--can't remember winter weather ever causing an outage. Chances of a sudden outage are highly unlikely and, if it should occur, I can easily move my girls (only 5 of them) into temporary housing in my garage.

    NJ weather, on the other hand, is not as reliable and can be quite variable. I'm not planning to heat constantly, all winter long--Probably wouldn't even be necessary. Only seeking to add some heat on VERY cold, sub-freezing nights, just to keep the temperature up in a more comfortable-and CONSISTENT- range. For the most part, my girls will be out every day, being acclimated to the lowering temperatures, in an uninsulated coop/run all autumn/winter long.
    The argument that the chickens need to become acclimated is true, but everyone is at the mercy of weather conditions. Supposing we had a very warm Indian summer, followed by a relatively mild winter, with a sudden blast of sub-freezing weather? (Not unusual in NJ!) How acclimated are the chickens for the sudden cold blast? Despite their "acclimation", one single night that I keep them above freezing, or a few in a row, would completely throw them off? I think not. Isn't the key to keep temperatures from fluctuating wildly?

    As far as moisture build-up, my coop has more than adequate ventilation, and the combination of heat AND good ventilation will actually keep the coop dryer in the damp NJ winters than if I had ventilation alone (heat helps to speed evaporation, and as long as there is somewhere for the water vapor to go...which there is.)

    I may be wrong, but I'm willing to guess these coop electrical fires we hear about weren't caused by flat panel heaters being used with properly rated electrical cords and outlets. My coop is safely wired for electric and use of the heater would be closely monitored and safely installed.

    Although it appears that "all of the wild birds do fine all winter", surviving the elements, we do not know how many lives are taken by severe weather conditions each year. Just because Alaskans see ptarmigans again in the spring doesn't mean that all of them were able to survive the winter. A certain percentage do succumb to the weather, I'd be willing to bet. Having only 5 pet birds, any percentage loss is too high for me! "Survival of the fittest" is fine for the wild population, but not for my girls.

    I happen to have breeds that are bred to do well in the cold. However, if I had any Mediterranean breed (such as an Andalusian), it would only add to the reasons why I'd consider heating my coop.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2011
  9. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member


    I am perhaps one of those vocal "anti-heat" voices, I suppose. But, do as you wish. You must adopt your own practices.

    But don't take the wisdom of the "anti-heat" voices the wrong way. Most of us are not saying, "YOU MUST NOT HEAT"!!! or at least, that is not what I say. I simply say it isn't required. If proper ventilation is provided, proper feed is provided and cold hardy breeds are kept, it just isn't.

    Again, heat away!!! [​IMG]

    PS: We have a BARN!!!! There is no way under the sun, moon and stars we could afford to do any meaningful heating. I choke on my house's winter heating bill!!
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2011
  10. moetrout

    moetrout Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 5, 2010
    Milan, MI
    I think a lot of people heat to make themselves feel better as much as it is for their chickens. I know I worried a lot that first winter, but at some point you will see them out foraging when it is frigid cold without a care in the world and realize they are just fine.

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