Safety First - Coop Heating Devices - Helpful Advice

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by teach1rusl, Dec 3, 2010.

  1. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I've been keeping up somewhat with Mrs. AK-Bird-Brain's thread on why, in most cases, adding heat to a coop is not needed (she pointed out her original post advice was aimed primarily at folks in fairly mild, southern climates). Of course "mild" is most definitely a perspective thing, just as "cold" is. Personally, I think you guys/gals up in Alaska and similar areas must be part polar bear, because 30 degrees F means COLD to me, while you guys seem to look on it as a warm [​IMG] My friend from Florida comes to visit me and bundles up like she's freezing to death when it's 45 degrees. See? Perspective! The fact of the matter is though, partly because I'm a softy, I will be adding a little heat to my coop on cold nights (for me this means nights in the mid 20s and below), and I know, based on posts I've read, that others do/will be doing the same.

    Coop fires due to heating and/or lighting are a reality, so safety is critical. I'd love it if people who do use heating devices inside their coops would share what they do to make sure they're being safe. Folks who don't use electrical devices inside their coops can chime in too. What are some of the "safer" devices out there, and what are some of the riskier? After all, we all care about our chickens, and hate to hear that even one person lost birds to a coop fire. Add safety advice or helpful tips for folks who use bulbs for keeping water unfrozen or to extend daylight hours....

    Here are some things I've learned from BYC:

    * The self-contained flat panel heaters seem a very safe bet for adding a little heat/warmth. Some are pricey, some are pretty reasonable.

    * Lamps are a cheap option, whether using a heat or regular bulb, but these seem to start most of the fires reported in coops. So if using these, they
    need to be extremely well secured, on a chain, with a back-up wire/chain attached to a separate point. The bulb you're using needs to be rated
    appropriately for its housing. The housing should have a guard. There should be plenty of clearance between the lamp and any surrounding objects,
    at least 18 inches.

    * While it may sound counterproductive, ventilation is still needed even if you choose to add heat.

    * Be appropriate with your temperatures. As has been pointed out many times - what happens when/if you lose power? If your birds are use to
    balmy tropical temps. in the coop and are suddenly thrust into freezing cold, it's going to be an unhealthy shock.

    * Be prepared for an increase in your power bill. I will say running a fan this summer was more expensive for me than the lamp I used last winter.

    * The Thermocubes are really helpful! They come in many ranges, including "On at 20/Off at 30" and "On at 35/Off at 45", and lower/higher ranges.

    Please add more safety tips and helpful advice... Thanks!

    This winter, DH has suggested using one of those self-contained oil type heaters (kind of look like an old radiator) I'm thinking this would be safer than a heat lamp??? What do you think??
  2. welsummer4

    welsummer4 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 16, 2010
    Another suggestion: if your coop doesn't have electricity, spend the extra dough on a good extension cord that's rated for the cold and can handle the power you're drawing through it. While you're at it, get the longest one available so as to limit connection points, and buy a weather-proof housing for the outlet if you're plugging in outside.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2010
  3. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    It's important to use a heavy duty outdoor extension cord, if you use one. It's important to use a lamp fixture with a ceramic socket, too. Get a well made lamp that's designed to be used with a high heat bulb all the time, that can hold up to that usage, not one of the cheap flimsy ones, if you use one.
  4. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 4, 2008
    I'm going into my third year using this in my mobile chicken tractor:

    Of course, I use an industrial strength extension cord designed for outdoor use in all types of weather to get power to it.

    And I use one of those flat panel heaters in the main henhouse. I used to have two of those flat panel heaters out there, but one of them cracked in half (literally) after only two years use. At $100+ bux per heater, I was not a happy camper to get only two years use out of such a pricey heater...
  5. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2009
    I have tiny part Serama crossbreed bantams (a breed not known for cold hardiness) or I wouldn't be even considering any supplemental heat where we live in North Texas. The problem here is the wide and sudden variations we get in temperature. Last night the low was 69; tonight, 32 degrees is predicted. So when we get these sharp drops, I add a little heat to the coop to help ease my flock into the new conditions.

    I use a DeLonghi oil filled radiator:

    I have sand on the floor of my coop. I placed two stepping stones in the sand as a foundation for the radiator, and over the radiator I placed a large birdcage to keep the chickens from roosting on or knocking over the radiator or generally coming into contact with it in any way. On top of the cage, I put two more stepping stones to anchor the cage, and also make sure no droppings end up falling on and into the radiator. I cut a small hole in the wall of the coop and threaded a heavy duty, outdoor extension cord through to plug in the heater. Fortunately, I have a GFCI outlet nearby on the corner of our garage for power.

    I fiddled a bit with the settings when I first operated the radiator and found that the "minimum" setting with the dial set to "1" is plenty, and that I can turn the heater on in the late afternoon just before the chickens go to roost and then turn it off in the morning. I have a remote temperature sensor at roost level to monitor the temperature inside the coop. I only use it on nights that are predicted to get down to or near freezing.

    One note about these radiators: you do need to run them at full power outdoors for a couple of hours to "burn off" the protective coating they put on the radiator for shipping. There's an odor produced, and you wouldn't want to risk any toxicity from the burning coating to your chickens in an enclosed space.
  6. woodmort

    woodmort Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 6, 2010
    Oxford NY
    Even those of us that do not use heaters to keep the chickens warm do use water heaters. Here are some things that I can think of off the top of my head:

    make sure heaters are isolated from combustible materials;
    don't use any kind of heating device that is not designed specifically for outdoor use i.e. aquarium heaters;
    galvanized ones should be raised up off the wood floor using pavers or bricks and not used under plastic waterers;
    make sure the bottom of galvanized or cookie tin heaters are completely covered to prevent mice from getting up inside and building nests;
    all plugs should be above the waterer so water cannot run into them;
    if you're using a submersible heater make sure the waterer never runs dry nor the water level falls below the heating element;
    any extension cords should be 16 wire or better, designed for outdoor use and not laid on the ground.
  7. peterlund

    peterlund Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 29, 2010
    MA Cranberry Country
    Quote:I like this suggestion. Going to Lowes now. Thanks!!!!
  8. True Grit

    True Grit Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'm not sure that BYCers looking at these pics will think they are safe but everything is grounded and the coop was professionally wired. The lamp contains a 250 watt heat emitter which give a pretty mild heat compared to the red heat bulb I think partly because it is smaller and doesn't hang down as far in the lamp . The heat lamp is suspended in two different ways although both are attached to the same bike hook which I believe is pretty strong but I intend to put another up for the second attachment. The 20-3- thermo cube is hanging on a hook in the coop above the roost. The chain is obstructing the view of it and is there for no good reason. I have a digital thermometer/hygrometer in the coop with a read out in the kitchen so I will know if the thermocube or heat emitter fail. The light bulb is a 15 watt rubber coated cfl and comes on at 5:30am and off at 8am and on at 4pm and off at 6:30, same as in the run so they get 14 hours of light a day.

    The waterer is wrapped in a 3 ft heat tape which is on when the temps are lower than 45 degrees. You are supposed to lay it flat against a pipe and not spiral the tape but I justified it as it isn't a tight spiral as it would be on a pipe. The heat tape has a breaker or fuse in it. The water in the moat still froze at idk, 20 degrees or so, so I put the waterer on top of a bird bath heating pad which I placed on a cork trivet to keep it away from the wood. Seems cumbersome but works well and the only thing I had to buy was the heat tape for 14$ and the rest I already had.
    Obviously this is my hobby and not a money making operation.[​IMG] I was hoping to go without heat but my little crossbeak needs it and I like having unfrozen eggs when I get home after work. Hopefully it is "safe enough".
  9. Lesa

    Lesa Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 28, 2008
    Upstate NY
    DH Brian here...

    Lamps are cheap but not the safest method of heating. The ceramic heater that screws into a socket is a better choice. I like the oil filled heater for larger coops. That being said, I feel the best choice is to insulate the coop very well and size it a little smaller in colder regions so the coop is heated by the flock. As long as the birds have food and a good supply of water they will keep themselves warm. And yes, ventilation is important. Our coop door opens on schedule even if it is sub zero weather. They may not go past the sun room but they will go out in very cold weather. The cold doesn't seem to bother them as much as the snow on their feet does.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2010
  10. write2caroline

    write2caroline Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 21, 2009
    Last year I took the advice from another poster which worked out. Granted, I live in Florida but we did have a bunch of below freezing nights and just had a freezing night night before last - - I know boo hoo from all the folks in snow country. My chickens don't have a gradual chilling it would seem because it drops to freezing and back to 70-80 degrees.

    So I use a 5 gallon bucket with a lid and fill it with very hot water. Place the lid on the top and put the whole thing in the coop and most mornings it is still warm. The girls liking to be warmer get closer to the bucket and it is not a wet heat nor does it contribute to any frost because the lid holds in the steam and most am's it is still very warm. On the cold days, I just refill it so the girls can get nearer to it if they are cold.


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