Nervous about cold temps


6 Years
Jul 9, 2013
Caribou, Maine (almost in Canada!)
I had written a post about some chicks I have coming next week. It is a bit late in the year to be starting a flock of chickens in Maine, but I couldn't resist. I will be brooding them in the heated basement for 5-6 weeks, then they are heading to the coop, which will put us around the middle of October. Temps for Maine at that time are generally around 40-50 daytime, 30-40 lows at night. In the brooder, I will be using the Ecoglow, and I have read they generally stop using it around 3-4 weeks of age. So they will be used to not having heat/light directly on them for several weeks before they move to the coop, but there is a good temp. difference between the basement and outdoors of course!

So I had asked on here if they should be ok in my unheated/uninsulated coop around 6 weeks of age, and everyone thought they should be fine as long as there are no drafts. But I have several friends who own chickens (one is a neighbor down the road, and one is my pastor's wife who will be getting a batch of chicks the same week I am who lives about 20 minutes from me) who swear my chickens won't make it if I don't have a heater in the coop, especially until they are 8-10 weeks old.

So now I am worrying!!! I hate the idea of a heater in the coop, as I will have shavings and straw in there for insulation during the winter (plan on using sand during summer months) and I worry about a fire. How many of you use heat lamps in cold temps? Is it really necessary? My coop is about 3.5 feet by 6 feet, and 5 feet high. There will be 6-7 cold hardy breed chickens in there (7 if all the chicks survive shipping next week), so I was hoping they could all just pile together for warmth, but my neighbors have me worrying now.

I found a ceramic reptile heater online that is 100watts that doesn't create light, would this work alright? I will plan on having it in a ceramic socket clamp lamp as well. I don't have electricity in the coop, so I will have to run an extension cord. Do I just bite the bullet and order the heat lamp or am I worrying needlessly?? Thanks for helping out this chicken newbie!
At 6 weeks old your chicks will be fine. they'll be feathered out, and that's really not THAT cold yet. I know the time of year seems off, but I doubt it's really much colder now in the fall than it would be in the spring, plus spring is usually much wetter. momma hens hatch chicks in the early spring in worse weather all the time and the babies do well. Also remember, folks raised chickens in your area hundreds of years ago with no electricity at all and the chickens did just fine! Cold hardy breeds like the New England birds are a good choice, if you were going with polish and silkies I would say maybe supplement or wait until next year. But some good Rocks, reds, whatever will be fine and you'll have eggs come spring!

I'm not in a very cold area, but I don't supplement at all. Just keep everyone dry and out of the wind and they'll be fine.

I just hatched these out and they are heading into northern Michigan winter. We've done so many, many times. The trick is to push the feathering by reducing the supplemental heat. The old saw repeated here all the time about 95 and 5 degrees per week stuff goes out the window. Our chicks have never liked it that hot. By week 4, we only supplement at night, say from midnight until 9 am. That's it. By week 6 or 7, they are good to go and all toughened up. Late October isn't the heat of summer, but it is also nowhere near as cold as the January that is coming.

We always brood outside, in an unheated building.

Another thing. Try not to use the same wattage during the entire 6 week brooding period. Start dropping the wattage down at week 3 and again at week 5. I get down to a simple 40 watt bulb in fixture. This just sort of takes the chill off.

Again, we've raised out chicks in September countless times. By Christmas, they'll look like adults and sleep on the roosts like everyone else. This is not an issue. −30F is a relatively common brief overnight low for us on several occasions.

No, we never heat our barn stalls. Impossible and unnecessary. Folks have kept chickens in Maine, Michigan and Canada for three centuries and never thought anything of it.
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Honestly, thank you guys for calming my fears. I feel like my neighbors think I am naive and dooming my young chickens by not heating my coop, and I suddenly had this fear that maybe I was by putting them out into the cold coop to freeze to death!
I get the same questions and comments about how I'm going to keep them warm. Ugh!.

I'm all on board with just reminding people they have down coats of their own built right in!
Good point. I feel much better now and my back account also thanks you for saving me from buying the lamp, light and the extra on the electric bill!! Plus this will make my husband much happier, he also did not feel safe about hot lamps out in the coop he just spent all month building!
I agree that they will be fine. Last year I did the same as you and I got chicks beginning of Oct. I cant remember the exact age they were when they went outside but they were fine. I also got Bantams last Sept and they were ok too. This year I have 6 week olds outside right now and they are all doing fine in the lows of 40s. If it turns out that the lows are super low and your nervous you could give them a heat lamp in the coop for a week or 2. But youd be better off weaning them from the heat lamp indoors so the temp change isn't to drastic. If you have a garage, that helps too because you can keep them in the garage for a few extra weeks if you wanted.

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