My winter heating solution

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Mucky, Nov 14, 2010.

  1. Mucky

    Mucky Out Of The Brooder

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    Finally figured out how I am going to take care of my 4 little hens this winter. I thought I would post about it incase anyone had any other suggestions or if anyone is still debating how they are going to handle this winter.

    I got 4 little bantam cochin chicks this spring, on Mothers Day actually. I remember this because chickens were not exactly my wife's idea of a Mothers Day present. Oh well.

    I built them a rather small coop and run. There are things I would have done differently but I am happy with it for the most part. Everyone I know that has chickens says I went way overboard and that my chickens are spoiled. I take it as a compliment. The coop has double doors on the front for access, and a nest box mounted on the side. I have been keeping there feed inside the coop, and there water outside in the run.

    With the winter fast approaching I have decided to make some changes. I live in Iowa and the winters can be rather harsh. I realized the water is going to have to be relocated to the inside of the coop. I was still worried about the water freezing inside the coop. I had a couple different ideas. My first idea was to get a heated dog bowl and throw a little mason jar type waterer inside the bowl. I think they are pretty cheap, I've seen small ones at Walmart but never really payed much attention to them. I am not sure if would of worked, but I figured it was worth a shot. My next idea was to hang a heat lamp in the coop. It is such a small area I think it would put out plenty of heat. I wasn't really excited about leaving a light on out there all night though. I saw some red heat lamp lights, I don't much about them, they might have been ok. I don't know if it would bother the chickens to have a light on all night but I figured I wouldn't want to try to sleep with the lights on.

    I searched the internet a bit this morning and I found these ceramic heat bulbs. They radiate heat but no light. They are kinda pricey, 30-35 $ On top of that, I couldn't find them anywhere. I don't really like ordering stuff online, and none of the farm supply stores around here had them. I got back online and realized that pet stores sell the bulbs, apparently they are used for reptiles, turtles and stuff. Every pet store around here had them but I couldn't find them any cheaper. I went ahead and bought one. My next concern was regulating the temp in such a small area. I have a thermometer but I never bothered to hang it in the coop. My little coop is pretty well built. I have caulked everything and have decent ventilation at the roof line. I do eave the pop door open all the time though. I don't think I will need the extra heat all the time, but I don't want to constantly monitor the temperature out there either. I got back online and found a "thermostatically controlled plug in". Basically, you plug your heat lamp into it and it will turn your lamp on and off for you. Turns on when it drops below 35, and turns off when its above 45. It was $13 at Tractor Supply I think. The only bad part about it was the temperatures cannot be changed.

    So my winter plans are to wrap the run with some plastic to cut down on wind and keep most of the snow out. Then I am going to run a heavy extension cord from the house to the coop. I am going to hang the heat lamp with the ceramic bulb from the roof with the thermostat. I think it will be enough heat to not only keep my hens cozy but keep their water from freezing as well. My fear is that even with the thermostat the heat bulb will be running all the time. I don't know how much impact it will make on my electric bill if the thing runs all winter but I guess I will find out.

    The heat lamp cost me $10 at Tractor Supply
    The thermostat was $13, also at Tractor Supply
    The ceramic heat bulb was $32 at Petsmart, it might have been Petco, I'm not sure, I cant remember now.

    Anyway, I thought I would post my plans and see if anyone had anything to add. I figured there is a lot of people like me scrambling to get things down before winter. I haven't actually got anything installed yet, It was almost dark by the time we got down shopping. I figure if their water is not frozen there is no hurry to get the lamp out there. Hopefully the weather stays decent in till I get everything hooked up this weekend.
     
  2. swimmer

    swimmer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Be careful to properly secure your heat source so it doesn't get knocked down and become a fire hazard. Also something to consider... if your power goes out while your gone or sleeping, do you have back up power? Once the chickens are used to heat, and if it's taken away such as during a power outage, they will not handle it well. Also make sure you have plenty of ventilation in your coop. Will be needed if your heating. Most people do not heat their coops, but that's a personal decision.
     
  3. True Grit

    True Grit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sounds similar to my plan but I keep the waterer outside with a 3 ft heat tape on it and I am getting a thermocube that comes on at 20 and goes off at 30 for inside the coop with the ceramic bulb. I will put the 35-45 degree thermocube I currently have in the coop out in the run on the waterer as I think the heat tape is on more than it needs to be.
     
  4. Mucky

    Mucky Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 30, 2010
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    I had not really thought of a power outage but I am not too worried about it. I've lived here in town for about 6 years and the power has never been out for more then an hour. I won't have any trouble hanging the heat lamp securely but I am worried about dust collecting on it. I don't know how much of a problem that will be and I am not sure how to remedy that. I guess I am just going to have to keep my eye on that. I am also a little worried that they will be so used to the heat that they won't go out to the run at all this winter. Hopefully wrapping the run in a plastic wind block will help.
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    IMHO it is a giant big mistake to try to use a heating appliance of any sort to "keep the hens cozy" AND to "keep the water from freezing as well".

    The two tasks are very, very different, and if you try to do both with one appliance you are in large part killing a gnat with an elephant gun (and not a safe elephant gun either).

    To keep water from freezing, that requires you keep the coop (and the floor part of your coop to boot!) above 32 F.

    Whereas to "keep hens cozy" i.e. non-miserable and non-frostbitten usually only requires keeping them above maybe 0 F (though many chickens can easily take colder than that), or let's go out on a limb and say maybe 20 F for particularly susceptible breeds. Furthermore, you do not need to keep the WHOLE coop at this temperature, merely have a "pool" of it where they can go and sit under a lamp if they so choose.

    THere is a LOT of difference in electric bills and fire safety between heating the whole darn coop contents to >32 F, versus having (at most) some pool of warmth reaching 0-20 F.

    So I would suggest that, no offense meant, a LOT more fire-safe AND economically-sensible approach would be to buy or safely rig something under your waterer to keep the water liquid (or just replace it once or more per day); and then IF you need additional heat for the hens, which you may actually not, use as low wattage a bulb as possible and use it to just create a slightly warmer *place* in the coop for them to use if they feel the need, rather than cranking up the furnace on the entire house so to speak.

    Also remember that, possibly counterintuitively, the more you excessively-shut your ventilation off in an effort to hold in heat, the MORE LIKELY you are to get frostbit combs, because it occurs more easily (i.e. at milder temps) in high humidities.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  6. Mucky

    Mucky Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 30, 2010
    small town iowa
    Quote:I really like that idea, I wasn't aware they sold those thermocubes with different temperature settings. You happen to remember where you got the 20 to 30 degree one?
     
  7. Ed62

    Ed62 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'd suggest you read both the "Cold Coop" and "ventilation" links Pat has 2 posts above mine. They are an excellent resource.

    Ed
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    If one is going to put heat tape on a waterer, then indeed best it BE located outside, so that when it catches on fire there is some chance it might not affect the coop [​IMG]

    Heat tapes are not meant to be freelanced with. They start a LOT of fires. If it says it's only meant to be on a waterfilled pipe, then it is only meant to BE on a waterfilled pipe, not on (say) a metal waterer that has run mostly empty. Especially in a combustible-filled environment like a coop or run.

    I am sorry to be cranky about this but I get real tired of reading a flurry of posts just as winter approaches about "hey, here is my new plan to use heating appliances in a way that specifically goes against mfr instructions and has a long track record of starting fires", and then once winter actually STARTS it seems like every couple weeks (or less) we get the posts about "my coop just burned down" (or my neighbor's, or almost burned down, or whatever).

    It is not rocket science. Heat is HOT. Gadgets that produce lotsa heat are not to be used casually or in ways that both the manufacturer AND a bunch of people with charred piles of rubble in their backyards have repeatedly told you are unwise.


    Pat
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2010
  9. mountaintopchicken

    mountaintopchicken Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm with patandchickens. My coop is in a very exposed wind blown microclimate where temps are low low low and wind chill is ridiculous. My coops for my bantam Araucana and bantam Ameraucanas are board and batten, no insulation. My Marans coop is doule walled plywood no insulation. I've never had a problem with cold ever unless on rare occatiion a bird is molting and is near naked in the middle of winter (in which case I put it in a cage in my unheated sunroom until it's got feathers).

    Cochins are nothing but feathers, so your birds are carrying their own warm down coats around with them. I would think about making sure they always have unfrozen water, good food, and terrific ventilation and ixnay any complicated coop heating plans as they are unnecessary, expensive, and potentially damaging.
     
  10. Mucky

    Mucky Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 30, 2010
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    Quote:That made me laugh a little. I realize what I have planned is major overkill and you've got me seriously questioning it again. I only have the 4 bantams and my coop is very small, uninsulated, and elevated (my run extends under the coop area). At the very least I am going to have to do something to keep the water from freezing. I really don't think I am going to go out to break ice multiple times a day. I also think I am gonna need some sort of supplemental heat for the coop. I know the thermostat cube thing I have that turns on at 35 and off at 45 is excessive. Ideally, I would like to find one thats more like on at 15 off at 25. I am going to have to do some more research. I will try and get some pictures posted of my chickens and coop posted this week.
     

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