I'm so confused! Heat lamp in the coop or not? In the winter or not?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Des R, May 17, 2016.

  1. Des R

    Des R Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 27, 2016
    Maryland / Delaware
    I'm getting such mixed answers on heat lamps, I figured I should ask the pros... so here I am! Right now they are only a week old and nice and toasty in their brooder... but I'm wondering what I'm supposed to do when they go into the coop...?

    I live near the PA, MD, and DE line. We get snow in the winter and temps can get low... but we're pretty mid-Atlantic. We get a few nights that can get down to a few degrees, but that's not for a long spell. Some people tell me they must have heat lamps in the winter inside the coop (so I purchased several) and others tell me "no way!" you only want a bare bulb to take the chill off and it's bad for the birds to make it too much warmer then outside the coop. If breed matters, we have Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Easter Eggers, Silver Laced Wyndottes, and Black Sex-Links. I have no idea what to do...

    Thank you for your input!
  2. micah wotring

    micah wotring Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 6, 2015
    WV boy here!
    By the time they are full grown you don't need a heat lamp.

    I'm not sure when you can move them outside into their coop. Hopefully some more experienced people can help you with that.

    This video explains how chickens keep warm.

  3. JackE

    JackE Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    By the time winter gets here, your birds will have absolutely no use for a heatlamp. I have the same breeds as you, and live in the same general area, and I can attest that they have no problems with the winter weather we get here. Check out the pic below, you can see those same birds looking out at you, from their open-air coop. Whoever tells you, that they need a heatlamp around here, doesn't know what they're talking about.

    1 person likes this.
  4. wamtazlady

    wamtazlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    Kalispell MT
    I listened to JackE and the other people who said chickens don't need heat in the winter. I live in Montana. The temperatures got down to -12 F. The chickens were outside eating and drinking in their protected but unheated run all day long. Not one got frostbite even though one neighbor said that heat lamps were a must. The coop has upper vents so the moisture can get out but no breeze blows on the birds. The coop stayed dry and the chickens stayed warm.
  5. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Overrun With Chickens

    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada

    I am subject to -40º weather l live in Canada think North Pole. I have been keeping chickens and birds for decades.

    Your best practice I find is to not be too concerned about winterizing or heating your coop to help your birds combat the cold.

    Predator proofing "ABSOLUTELY".

    Your efforts should be spent in winterizing your birds and letting them acclimatize to their surroundings.
    This is done by feeding them whole corn if available as an added supplement in a separate feeder.

    The extra nourishment is more then adequate to bring them through the
    "COLDEST" winter.

    Do keep an eye open for birds that maybe not be adapting well to the new menu and may be at the lower end of the pecking order they can sometimes run into problems and may need extra TLC.

    That being said in a perfect world the flock will flourish and do just fine .

    I do not add any extra heat or lighting.
    Egg production does slack off but I have more than enough eggs for the table all winter long (24 hens).

    Some people may disagree with my method but it has worked well for me and I am not about to change.

    I look at it in the same light as winterizing your car.

    You really do


    have to winterize your car if you can keep it in a controlled environment at all times otherwise you are in for

    "MAJOR" problems.

    When it comes to lighting if you find you are short on eggs it does apparently help. I personally do not bother in my operation eggs are sold only to neighbours when they are available (if the sign is out I have eggs). Eggs in my operation have a tendency to crack and freeze during the winter months (we do not discard them and are fine but use them in house not for sale) the more eggs you produce during these months the more eggs will fall into this category.

    I have roughly 24 Golden Comet hens the longest I ever been out of eggs can be measured in hours >12<24. You will find that the egg supply in any hen is a finite resource the quicker you milk the eggs out of a hen the faster it will be spent and end up in your stew pot.

    On average one hen produces somewhere between 600 to 700 eggs in its life time. Lighting only effect the speed of delivery of the eggs which at the end of the day would amount to less than a year in the hens life is my guess

    If you do decide extra lighting is necessary have your light on a timer to lengthen the day "MAKE SURE IT IS SECURED BY 2 MEANS OF SUPPORT" one being a "SAFETY CHAIN" in case one fails especially if it is an incandescent bulb or heat lamp.

    I personally raise hens as a hobby; and for their manure to enrich my vegetable garden any thing else the hens provide is merely a bonus.

    Here is one BONUS NOW not many people can enjoy seeing in their back yard on a regular basis.


    Nest boxes
    In my nest boxes I fold a feed bag to fit (nest boxes are 1 ft³). When a bag gets soiled; fold a new one; pop out the soiled; pop in the new. Feed bags are a nylon mesh bag.
    Frozen poop just peels off in below freezing temperatures and just flakes off in summer when left out in the sun to bake and dry.

    I have 65 trips around the sun it is the best method I have stumbled upon.

    Make sure the twine is removed from the open end of the bag it can get tangled around your birds.


  6. Des R

    Des R Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 27, 2016
    Maryland / Delaware
    @JackE They are so cute looking out their window, I love it! Do you find they come out of the coop when there is snow on the ground?
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  7. Des R

    Des R Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 27, 2016
    Maryland / Delaware
    Thank you all for your advice, so glad I decided to ask! So the only thing I'll run power to the coop for in winter is to keep their water from freezing. This just got easier (and cheaper).

    @Hokum Coco ... Predator Proofing is what we are working on full time right now, while they are still in their brooder. We're busy burring an apron of wire mesh that we plan to cover with rock and frame out with landscaping ties pegged down with rebar. We've added plywood to the bottom half of their fenced run area (25'x25') and plan to add a poultry net to the top... we have hawks flying overhead. We plan to keep them in their coop at night, allow them into their run in the day while we are at work, and sometimes let them out to free range on the weekend when we are home. We have a screened ventilation area at the top of the coop that I'm going to cover with hardware cloth instead, so a predator can't get in that way. We also plan to raise the coop up onto cinder blocks to prevent predators from hiding under the coop. Fox are probably going to be our biggest challenge.

    Do I sound like I'm on track...?
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  8. ChickenMammX4

    ChickenMammX4 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 17, 2015
    SW Ohio
    No added heat is needed, those chickens come with a down coat! As long as the coop is dry and draft-free, they'll be fine.
    1 person likes this.
  9. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Overrun With Chickens

    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada
    Sounds good to me DES R. I learned the hard way you are better to deal with the predators you have than trying to exterminate them. I exterminated a raccoon from my property only to have a weasel come into his realm and wipe me completely out of birds in one attack. This made it necessary to do a major overhaul on the loft That if I had been wise I should have did from day one. The weasel never showed up all the time the raccoon was no longer an issue. A weasel can get though a gap no bigger than a mouse can get through I am estimating. I should have not went after revenge he was doing me a favour keeping other predators at bay when he had the territory staked.

    You are sometimes better off with the Devil you know.

    You can also lower the temperature of drinking water somewhat by adding sugar to the water which I sometimes did before I retired. The ice that did form during the day they most times always seem to be able to pick through. Plus they do not drink when they roost. My estimate if you keep the water off the floor you could probably keep your water near liquid state at 15ºF. Truth is -40 temperatures is no match for sugar water however. (every coop is different also). Water reaches it saturation point at 4 oz of water to 4 oz of sugar.

    I use the space under my coop as shade for my flock where shade is not abundant on my property at times. My coop is actually a tractor on a two wheel trailer that I move once a year. The space is then used for a vegetable garden. The ground is then practically weed freed and with a light tilling is ready to plant I have vegetable gardens dotted all over my property in past years. Now just one or two where the kids are on their own. We still have enough produce at times to feed a 3rd world country.
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
  10. RonP

    RonP Chillin' With My Peeps

    I can see why you are confused.

    Lots of opinions to sort through on this list.

    Some facts:

    Cold hardy breeds are good till temperatures well below -20F assuming a draft free environment.
    Draft free means nothing ruffles their feathers allowing body heat to escape.

    There are scenarios that additional heat helps, but you have not mentioned anything special.

    It is far more important to have a dry environment than warm. This is necessary to avoid frostbite.
    That usually means adequate ventilation.

    Links in my signature will give you some ideas on heat for water and nest boxes, although there are many, many other successful alternatives.
    This site is a wonderful source for all your needs.


    A chicken has over 4,000 eggs stored in their ovaries.
    It will likely die or stop laying due to other reasons, well before it runs out of eggs.
    I personally use lights as my research deems it does not adversely affect the birds in any way.
    I have yet to find a fact that suggests it does.
    Many including myself, have "pets" still happy and occasionally laying well beyond expectations.
    I personally have a couple of 9 year olds still occasionally laying. [​IMG]
    1 person likes this.

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