Question about nighttime behaviour and Heat Lamps

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by bdjh, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. bdjh

    bdjh Chirping

    Aug 7, 2013
    I have a question about the nighttime behaviour of chickens.

    I was under the impression that as soon as it gets dark, that chickens basically go to sleep and wake up when it gets light again. This is our first year with chickens, so please give me a break if that's just naive. :)

    Anyway, I hooked up a red heat lamp on Sunday (we're in Winnipeg, and a heat source is needed to keep our water from freezing solid - it's set for just above freezing) and noticed that when the light is on, that I can usually see at least one or two of our 7 chickens down on the roost by the window, which is where they tend to sit when it's light out and they aren't outside. Otherwise, they usually 'sleep' up inthe rafters. I noticed this at around 11pm, when it had been dark for about 4-5 hours, and again this morning around 6am, an hour or two before sunrise.

    Prior to having the light, we simply couldn't see into the coop (There's a window facing the house) to know what they were doing.....I've always assumed they were asleep. Now with the light on, my concern is that the light is keeping them awake, or at least messing with their sleep cycles. On the other hand, they may all be night-owls.....or they may simply be up and down all night long......I have no idea.

    The light is controlled by a thermostat, so it goes on and off as needed, whenever it drops to around 3 degrees C, so it's not on constantly.

    Any thoughts?

    oh - by the way - when you add a heat lamp, and have a window in your coop, the glow makes it look like you have EITHER a huge rotisserie oven sitting in your yard, OR, as my wife pointed out, that you have opened a chicken-only red light district.....ESPECIALLY when you've got chickens strutting their stuff behind the window, bathed in that sexy red light....... it's weird
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2013
    1 person likes this.

  2. TheChips

    TheChips Chirping

    Sep 28, 2013
    I am also new to being a chicken owner. I have 3 Isa Browns and 5 Cochins. Both have been under a red heat lamp constantly because its very cold where I live.

    I had my 3 Isa Browns in my 3 season room thats off to the frontroom so I can monitor them. They slept fine under the red lamp. I doesnt seem to affect their sleep schedules. Sometimes they might be sitting up, go down for food, go back up and go back to sleep.

    Since youre turns on automatically maybe that might wake them up but go back to sleep after?
    From my experience, it hasnt affected their sleep. :)
  3. PeepsAreForMe

    PeepsAreForMe Songster

    Apr 10, 2012
    Pemberton Borough, NJ
    I would think the red light is interrupting their sleep. You should get a heated waterer. I have one and it works great. I actually tried a heat lamp when it got below freezing, and it did look like the things you described!! But one morning I went out and one of the girls had gotten their comb pecked. Even though they are small combs, I thought the red lamp accentuated the red even more and she got pecked. I used a portable heater I could set the temp on after that.
  4. thomasboyle

    thomasboyle Songster

    Feb 28, 2013
    Northwest Hills of CT
    I would agree, any light is disruptive to their sleep - red light is just less disruptive than regular white light. Whenever I need heat to keep water from freezing etc, I use ceramic heat emitters. These are ceramic light bulbs that emit heat only, and no light. They are a little expensive, $15-$20, but I have never had one burn out, so they seem to last a long time. They are usually sold for reptile habitats, but work perfectly for chickens. I even use them for my cats, mounting one over their sleeping area in the unheated front porch, so they have a place to come and keep warm in the winter. Just make sure you hang them securely and put a guard around them - they get very hot to the touch - well over 300 degrees (same as a light bulb, but you know better than to touch a working light bulb!)
  5. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Crowing

    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada
    There are lots of chicken owners that heat their coops.
    Some even people keep them in their residents.
    I do not want to condemn anyone with views different than mine

    I however do not.

    My Coop is 4x8 and here are a few tips and a quick look at my set up.
    My floor are planks with a layer of tin for rodent proofing. On top of the tin I have a piece of vinyl flooring cut one foot longer than the length and width of my coop (roughly). Six inches squares are cut out of the 4 corners of the vinyl flooring. This allows the friction fitted flooring to travel up the walls six inches around the perimeter of my 4x8 salvaged metal coop. Shovel out the heavy stuff into a wheel barrow. Pop out the vinyl flooring hose it off pop it back in.
    Easy Peasy!
    I have been around the sun 63 times.

    It is not my first "Rodeo!"

    Nobody "I know" heats a chicken coop.

    Healthy "cold hearty" chickens die from heat not cold.

    I live in Canada last year was subject to -40º (C or F take your pick) no light or heat in coop NO PROBLEMS.

    Chickens have been raised on this continent for over a hundred years without heat.

    If you feel you must supply heat to your chickens I suggest keeping your chickens in the house that way you can huddle with your birds when the hydro goes out.

    Chickens will die from cold if not given the chance to acclimatize. Hydro is more apt to go out in an ice storm or blizzard when subject to below 0º temperatures in my opinion.

    How would you supply heat then to your un-acclimatized birds ???

    Diary of last winter cold snap check out the link:

    I have used all types of litter for coops.

    I have not tried sand (sand gets good reviews on this site).

    Of all the things I tried to date wood pellets have been the best. (I tried wood pellets as a last resort when pine shavings were not available.) They are super absorbent and swell up and eventually turn to saw dust. The droppings just seem to vanish and turn to dust when it comes in contact with wood pellets .

    Replace my litter and clean my coop every October after I harvest my garden.

    Works for me in my deep litter method.

    I do add to pellets from time to time.

    I have anywhere from 10 to 15 birds housed in my 4x8 coop.

    Through the winter months it froze harder than concrete with -40º temperatures. The poop froze before it could be absorbed by the pellets and there was like a crusty layer of poop in certain areas where they collectively took aim (no smell, messy feet or flies @ -40º). Come April things started to look after themselves.

    POOP BOARDS are the "BEST" addition yet. Handles well over ½ of the poop in my set up keeps ammonia smell in check 3½" below roost excellent for catching eggs laid through the night. I recently friction fit a piece of vinyl flooring over my poop makes clean up even easier; Pop out; Scrap; Hose; Pop in.

    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.

    Easy peasy!.

    Chicken coop is salvaged 4x8 metal shed.




    I house a variety of birds in hear ¼ inch plywood veneer between birds and the elements no heat no light no insulation no problems!
  6. Bear Foot Farm

    Bear Foot Farm Crowing

    Mar 31, 2008
    Grifton NC
    Depending on your type of waterer, it's very likley you don't really need a "heat lamp", but could use a normal 60-100 watt bulb.

    If you use a plastic or metal "fountain" type, all you need to do is put the light in a box of some sort, and place the fountain on top.

    That way you get the heat without the light
    Search for "cookie tin heaters" and you'll see what I mean
  7. Mass Mike

    Mass Mike In the Brooder

    Jun 27, 2012
    Dudley, MA
    We use a heat lamp (250w red bulb) in our coop on the very cold winter nights (15 degrees or colder). I did not observe their sleep patterns but I also didn't experience any big changes In their behavior. Egg production seemed to be consistent as well. You are right, though...the red glow does look a bit wacky...we joke that it reminds us of the toolshed scenes from E.T.
    I wouldn't worry about it.
    Keeping their water from freezing is vital, though. We used a square gray chimney block with a 100w standard light bulb in it. We then covered the top of the block with a thin sheet metal and sat the waterer on top of it. It worked great 95% of the time. There were some mornings that the water had a thin coating of ice over it which I had to chip off....but was after sub zero nights.

  8. 4 the Birds

    4 the Birds Songster

    Oct 15, 2010
    Westfield, Indiana
    Tractor Supply or local Farm stores will have a heated water dispenser that is thermostatically controlled. This would be the way to go to keep water thawed during the Winter. If you use a heat lamp then point it down or off toward a corner. Provided your coop is roomy... You can make a barrier to block light to most of the coop and roost bars to provide a dark area and still get the benefit of a lighted warming area.


BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by