To heat or not to heat, that is the question.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by rancher hicks, Dec 25, 2011.

  1. rancher hicks

    rancher hicks Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 28, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    As some may know I buy both the Practical Poultry mag and the Back Yard poultry mag. I also have been buying the Hobby Farms, "Chickens" magazine.

    Well it would appear that there is a difference of opinion by the so called experts on heating the coop.

    The last issue of Back Yard Poultry article was against heating saying it was not necessary.

    NOW the newest issue of "Chickens" recommends using heat lights, to keep things dry. I have used heat lights but found they did nothing but create a humid coop. Ice crystals formed on the walls. Chickens as you know do not sweat but exhale a lot of humidity like a dog through their mouths.

    Also the article mentioned using "insulation". I am slowly adding this as time allows.

    There is one difference between these articles. The BYP article had an author who is in Virginia. The "Chickens" article was from visits to Colorado. Which of course gets colder than Virginia, as does where I live in NY.

    As if we newbies are not confused enough. One thing both did mention is keeping things dry. Humidity low. So how to do that? What I will be doing is dumping another bale of wood shavings in the coop and as the "Chickens" article stated dumping some extra DE into the mix. I also bought two Thermometers from TSC that have humidity gauges. So we shall see how it goes.

    The "Chickens" article did mention the Vaseline thing for preventing frost bitten combs but my experience is you'll have to apply it every single night and then it may not work. That was my experience last year and it doesn't look good this year either. I'm going to try Bag balm and see if that helps. As for frost bitten toes. I've seen it recommended to use 2x4's with the 4 side up so the birds have to keep toes under their feathers when they roost. I haven't seen any lost toes yet, so I haven't modified the roosts but will eventually.

    I didn't think I'd want it to snow but snow is a good insulator, so I've changed my mind. Last year at this time we had over 50". That's over 4 feet of snow in the month of December alone. Last years total was 179" or nearly 15 feet.

    For me all this information does is make it a personal decision to heat or not to heat and the "experts" advice to heat or not to heat useless. I think I'll switch to Rosecomb breeds and develop a Delaware with rosecombs since they are my best layers. Really my only problem has been frostbitten combs on my roosters.

    I wish you sanity,

  2. CarolJ

    CarolJ Dogwood Trace Farm

    Jun 3, 2011
    Middle Tennessee
    I figure chickens have lived for centuries without having heated coops. So my coop isn't heated - although I have a heat lamp in the brooder pen in my coop. I've already had the water in the coop freeze a couple times. So I'm working on a solution to that.
  3. artsyrobin

    artsyrobin Artful Wings

    Mar 1, 2009
    Muskogee OK
    the way i look at it, as much as i'd like to give them a heated coop, if we lost power and they were not accustomed to the cold it could kill them, say an ice storm hit- so letting them acclimatize to the cold you can prevent problems- as long as they are dry and out of drafts they do fine- you do vaseline their combs to prevent frostbite, and since they don't drink water at nite, make sure they have fresh water every day- its easy to stress over it- what kind of shelter do you have for them? make sure there is litter or straw for them to snuggle in too.... and feed them corn as a snack to keep their body temp up- its really easy to get confused with so many so called 'experts' opinions- yes, i have shifted to smaller combed breeds- and look for breeds that are tolerant to the cold- but for your current flock, you seem to be on the right track-oh, what some people recommend is wrapping the coop outside with plastic sheeting or stack hay bales around it- haven't done that yet
  4. LiLRedCV

    LiLRedCV Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 25, 2010
    Land of the Rain
    We live in WA state and don't use any heat in the coops. For reasons previously stated (1) they've survived for centuries before electricity was even evented (2) if you lost heat, the chickens wouldn't be acclimated properly and that can be detrimental to the flock. But then there's also the fact that one of the biggest causes of a flock loss is due to an electrical fire in the coop. [​IMG]
  5. Quote:Im no expert in chickens yet as that will take another 20 years. I am however certain that a non breathable vapor barrier like plastic sheathing on the outside of the coop would play havoc for moisture exchange and shoot the humidity sky high on the inside. I have a 10x20 coop, not insulated, not heated. Never have a problem except for frozen water which I have cured. I would however like to insulate it more to keep it cooler in the summer but also to seal up drafts in the winter. If you have an out of the way coop and were ok with straw bales 3-4 high around the outside then this would work well I think (probably better than insulation). When I do insulate though I will not use vapor barrier insulation as I want really good vapor exchange. If it were to fall colder than 10 below for more than 24 hours straight, then I might consider small scale supplemental heat just enough to keep it above 0. Same old answer really.....good air exchange with out drafting the roosts. I know from experience that this can prove next to impossible in certain coop designs. One reason I recommend 8 sq.ft. inside per bird when living in a region that gets colder than about 45 degrees. The extra room allows for more freedom in placement of the roosts while keeping them out of the draft zone for all the ventilation needed. Plus the extra space gives a larger buffer against changing humidity. All of that to say I agree with the above post, LOL
  6. threecutechicks

    threecutechicks Out Of The Brooder

    May 20, 2011
    Camano Island, WA
    Also living in the Land of the Rain.... I just have a light on in the coop to keep getting eggs during the dark winter months. I have the roost board as a 2x4 and is turned so that they roost on the 4 side. There are several tarps wrapped around 3 sides and the top of each tarp is not sealed against the top to allow vapor to get out. The girls seem to be happy and healthy. The run is 7x13 so they have plenty of room to roam. Good luck.
  7. Mattemma

    Mattemma Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    I read to heat for breeds that are not cold hardy. I have RSL and EEs and they are ok in a non-insulated metal shed with straw bales.

    I did add a low watt fluorescent bulb 2 weeks ago after no eggs for 2 months. I just started getting eggs 3 days ago.

    My mom always tells me that back in Hungary the chickens would just stay *wherever*.No heated or insualted coop.Shoot,no coop for that matter!

    I am sure some died,but hey my one hen was dead in the coop last week.She had made it 2 winters with just 2-5 other hens with her. I would not heat,but would put in straw blaes. I just put a few in mine.I checked on them last night and all of them were piled on each other on the straw...and my RSL hen was sitting alone,weirdo. She will be the next to die.
  8. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    First, I completely agree that chickens have been kept for 1000's of years without heat, before the recent inventions based on electricity.

    Our barn is huge, so there is so practical way of providing heat even if we wanted to. Our barn is wide open at both the lower eaves and upper eave for maximum ventilation. When employing maximum ventilation, the question that I find unsolvable is this. How would the heat stay in the coop anyhow? If the purpose of ventilation is "balance" the interior humidity to the outside air, by allowing the humid inside air to escape. But this effectively takes any residual heat with it.

    Thus, I remain a strong proponent of keeping the breeds appropriate to one's climate.

  9. JodyJo

    JodyJo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 27, 2010
    in the -20's here in Colorado...NO heat! My chickens are fine...they even come out in the sub zero winds...I am against it, for the reason it does not help them adjust to the colder temps.
    A pic or two of two of my girls at the back door...all fluffed up and not hating it at all.


  10. featherz

    featherz Veggie Chick

    Mar 22, 2010
    Saratoga County, NY
    I was stupid and didn't pay attention to all that 'cold hardy' stuff (I do now!). Even still, my white leghorns in minus double digit weather don't even seem to notice the cold. No heat. They got a little frostbite, but nothing too bad.. I also had bantam pullets outside last year, no heat.. they made it fine also.

    .02 [​IMG]

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