Keeping coop warm

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by timgrahl, Oct 24, 2010.

  1. timgrahl

    timgrahl New Egg

    Oct 24, 2010
    Hello, I'm new to the forum and I'm about to go into my first winter with chickens. I am in Virginia so it doesn't get incredibly cold but it does regularly drop below freezing which I've read is the danger zone.

    I am trying to come up with the best heating solution that will keep them the safest without getting them too warm. I found this product on

    It is a thermostat outlet that will turn off and on based on the temperature. I was thinking I could hook it up to either a space heater or brooding lamp.

    What do you recommend as the best way to automatically keep the temperature high enough?


  2. superchemicalgirl

    superchemicalgirl HEN PECKED

    Jan 10, 2010
    Vacationland, Maine
    Hi Tim,
    I wouldn't heat your coop at all. I'm in Maine and I don't plan on heating mine. Lots of reasons why, do a search at the top right. There's plenty of threads about keeping chickens in the winter. As long as your coop is draft free (but still has some openings to let out ammonia and steam) and you have wide roosts you should be fine.

    And... [​IMG]
  3. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2009
    Welcome to the forum!

    So many new chicken keepers fret about their chickens in winter, when in reality most chicken breeds can manage the cold quite well (they do come with down coats, after all). It's really hot weather that chickens have a hard time with...they can't take off those down coats in the summer.

    Unless you have breeds of chickens that sensitive to cold (tiny Seramas, for example), your chickens will most likely manage the winter just fine as long as they have a coop that keeps them dry, is free from drafts and is adequately ventilated.

    Here's an excellent page on the subject of the coop in winter:

    And an equally excellent page on the subject of ventilation:

    Last year was my first winter with chickens, and I do have breeds that are sensitive to cold (Serama crossbreeds). I live in North Texas, and our winters are generally mild although we experience some freezing weather and snow. I fussed and fretted over my tiny bantams, probably needlessly. I brought them into our attached garage and bedded them down in pine shaving filled dog crates on freezing nights. Yet we had several days when daytime temps stayed in the 20's, and I didn't want to keep my chickens cooped up all I let them out in one of their runs and watched them carefully. Even in the below freezing temps, they acted normally. The cold didn't seem to bother them one bit.

    The snow on the ground outside their run was a different matter. They hated the look of it.
  4. MissJenny

    MissJenny Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 11, 2009
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Hi Tim -- [​IMG]

    I'm in southern Ohio and on the fence about heating my coop too. We get down to single digits at least a few days each winter -- sometimes for many days. I would like to be prepared for when those times come about... we're thinking of a small ceramic space heater or an oil filled heater. My two concerns are frost bitten combs and frozen water. One way to battle frozen water is to have two waterers -- one in the house thawing out whilst the other is in the coop freezing.
    The electric thawing devices make me nervous, as does any electric device in the coop.

    I do know for sure that the thermostat outlet you're looking at would give me a false sense of security. My plan is to have something ready to go... just in case -- and if it needs to be turned off or on, I'll do it myself.

    Some people use "ceramic" bulbs -- I'm not familiar with something till I've at least held it in my hand and figured out how it works... you might want to look into the ceramic bulbs as there seems to be a low incidence of fire with them.

    Good luck,
  5. Lilacfeather

    Lilacfeather Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 4, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    I live in Central Virginia, and I don't plan on providing any supplemental heat. From what I understand, it is unnecessary unless you live, say, in the midwest where the cold is extreme for extended periods of time, with lots of snow.

    If you provide artificial heat, they tend not to get acclimated to the colder weather. And then, if your power goes out, then they won't be used to the cold, and then you could have a problem.

    It's also a big ol' fire hazard.

    So far, I have a nice wide roost, and they all crowd on there together, and they seem like they will be quite warm enough.

    Again, this is not from experience, because this is my first winter, too! But it seems to make sense.....

    BTW, I have large, fat, cold hardy breeds, which will help, too.
  6. jmagill

    jmagill Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 9, 2009
    Western Wyoming
    I live in Wyoming. We get one or two weeks a year of -20. We do not provide heat. They don't need it.
    Draft free, wide roosts to keep feet warm and lots of food and water. We will have snow and 15 degree
    weather midweek. Putting the water heaters in tomorrow. It has been down to 28 already and they are enjoying the weather.
  7. hoppy

    hoppy I'm not all fluff

    May 5, 2007
    central maine
    I live in maine and I do have a heat lamp in the coop. It's on a timer more so I get eggs in the winter. I have a heated dog water bowl that I use. it plugs in and when the temp gets to 35 degrees, it turns on. it's nice on those really cold days. I also "bank" the outside of the coop with hay bales. I need to find a 100 watt light bulb and change out the heat lamp. the heat lamp I save for those really cold days but it's there and ready to go. I would NOT use a space heater, you would cause a fire.
  8. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2009
    Quote:Ceramic bulbs get very hot, and can cause fires just as easily as anything else if the bulb falls down into wood shavings. They have to be used in a fixture with a special ceramic socket (not a metal one), usually you find this in a "clamp lamp." The clamp on these lamps can dislodge quite easily and let the lamp drop, so be sure to always have a second, backup fastening to hold it up.

    The lamp should be at least 18 inches from any surface all the way around, which poses a problem in some very small coops. And a bulb guard is a necessity to make sure no chicken can fly up and burn itself on the lamp. Someone we know here had one of her chickens burn its comb very badly on one of these bulbs last winter because she didn't have a guard over the bulb.

    The advantage to the ceramic bulb is that there's no light that goes with the heat, which is why they're used in reptile and amphibian set ups.
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Below freezing is NOT a problem as long as the air is reasonably nonhumid (which in most climates, yours included, can practically always be achieved quite well simply by having good ventilation in the coop)

    In the VA mountains you might want to have electricity available (although quite honestly you'd probably never need it) but in central or coastal VA you should not have any problem at all without any artificial heat whatsoever. And it is really safer not to use electric heat if it can possibly be avoided. It *does* burn down coops/barns on a regular basis, for a whole lot of different reasons.

    You do need good draft-free VENTILATION though. Do not be shutting the coop up tight in an effort to hold in warmth. That tends to *cause* frostbite, not prevent it as desired [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

  10. newchicksnducks

    newchicksnducks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Well, as you can see, the general concensus is that chickens do not need supplemental heat. Living in NE Ohio, last winter had temps at 0 degrees, and inside the coop it was still aroun 11 degrees. The only thing I did use was a heated waterer to keep the water from freezing. This had a thermostat built in so that it came on when temps were low then turned itself off when it was warmer. I use deep litter method, so shavings keep the floors warmer. I always had the windows cracked, even in below freezing temps.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by