How to Heat Chicken Tractor?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Barry Natchitoches, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Songster

    Sep 4, 2008
    I have a movable chicken tractor that is 8 feet long, 30 inches wide and about 30 inches high. Half of it is completely enclosed in insulation and plywood with a metal outer skin. The other half is the chicken's "summer porch," (that is, completely screened in, but exposed to the open air). I routinely keep a 4 foot by 4 foot piece of plywood over the top to keep rain water out of the tractor, and put plywood on the sides when bad weather is going to set in to further protect the chickens in rain or cold.

    That helps protect the hens somewhat, but rain water can still penetrate the tractor from the ground -- so their floor gets soaked and muddy in every rain. In addition, stray raindrops occasionally get in.

    Right now, I have a 150 watt ceramic heat emitter plugged into a ceramic heat reflector hanging from the ceiling of the tractor. I did have a 250 watt red heat lamp in that reflector, but in last night's heavy rain a stray drop got in there and literally blew the light bulb up. So I put the ceramic heat emitter -- which gives off infrared heat and is really designed for cold blooded reptiles -- in there, hoping that it will not blow up when it is needed most.

    Is there a better way to heat my chicken's tractor?

    I have two hens in there right now, a Rhode Island Red and a Buff Orpington. Both are a year and a half old.

    I live in suburban Memphis, TN where we usually get snow about once a year but almost never get temps below 10 deg F. and for most of the winter, it does not get below 20 degrees.

  2. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    They don't need heat but it would be much better if they had dry ground/floor.
  3. annmarie

    annmarie Songster

    Nov 20, 2007
    Your coop sounds a lot like my old coop. What you can do to keep the run dry is cover the run (top and all sides) with clear plastic for the winter. I buy the big rolls of plastic sheeting at the hardware store that people use to cover their foundations in the winter. If you buy a good quality it'll last the whole winter and through the wet spring. Just be sure to cut a ventilation hole on an upper side. The chickens love this on cold sunny winter days. Because it's covered with plastic, you can then fill the inside with shavings too. Just be sure that if they're in direct sun, when it starts getting hot again next season you cut some windows in the side for cross ventilation. And you don't need to heat it at all. (I'm in Vermont and don't heat my coop.) Just caulk up any drafts on the outside and have good ventilation. Another tip, if the ground gets really wet where you are in the winter/spring, you could always put the tractor up on a foundation of hay or straw bales. That's what I had to do to keep my girls from drowning under several feet of snow!
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2009
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Yeah, you've REALLY REALLY got to do something about the wet ground problem. It is possible that plastic (do NOT forget to leave AMPLE ventilation! otherwise you are creating a humidity farm -> frostbite) will solve the problem, sort of, if the tractor is on high well-draining ground. But if your problem is just the tractor being on clayey soil in a lower wetter area, honestly you are probably going to have to either move it, or build up a 'pad' of gravel (or etc) for it to park on til the drier parts of the year return.

    You for sure do not need a heat lamp in there. You are lucky all that happend was the bulb blowing! Because that is a smallish lowish 'house', it is quite likely that all you need is insulation, ventilation, dry ground, and the chickens' own body warmth. Put a max-min thermometer in there. The drier you can keep the coop, the more cold tolerant the chickens will be; but even in humid air you will not have any chance of frostbite unless temps *in the house portion* get down to freezing, and they probably *aren't*, at least yet.

    If you really had to run a bulb, a 100w regular ol' lightbulb (protected so chickens can't break it or burn their combs on it) would likely be quite adequate to heat that size space.

    Good luck, have fun,

  5. Chickenmaven

    Chickenmaven Songster

    Feb 6, 2009
    I would recommend that you keep electricity out of such a small house. You don't need it in TN. I live in MI and don't run any supplemental heat until we are below zero. (And it's on a timer to run a couple hours in the middle of the night...) I think your most critical issue is the water, not the cold.

    Since I have no carpentry skills, I can only recommend the simplest of remedies. I would elevate the entire unit, using pallets and a piece of 4x8 plywood.
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:That is a brilliantly simple solution <applause>, should take about $20 (maximum) and maybe 20 minutes. As long as you don't have problems iwth rats taking up residence underneath (which could easily be addressed if and when it occurs).

    I think that is exactly what you should do [​IMG]


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