When is a coop heat lamp needed???


In the Brooder
9 Years
Feb 28, 2010
Portland, OR
New to BYC and planning to build a coop and run for our back yard. The structure will be about 60' from our house and there is no electricity on that corner of the property. I am trying to figure out if a heat lamp is needed in the coop in winter. Portland, OR is a fairly mild climate but we will get some stretches of below freezing (usually not more than a week at a time). What is too cold for chickens to survive? Does it depend on the breed? I will figure out a way to install a heat lamp if necessary but it will be the biggest struggle with the construction aspect.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

I've been wondering this too. I have been trying to research it as well and think there are two trains of thought:

1) yes, they need some heat source in the dead of winter

2) no, chickens were raised on homesteads in very cold climates long before electricity was invented, so long as they have protection from the wind and rain, they should be OK.

I am in your situation, a newbie with a coop far from an electric source, but I am crossing my fingers and going with opinion #2.

As for breeds, some are definitely more cold hardy than others. The chick hatcheries are pretty good at identifying cold hardy breeds. But basically look for birds with small combs and dense plumage.
Some breeds are more cold hardy than others. Smaller combs help. Many people keep birds successfully with no heat source at all. The only problem I've ever had were mildly frostbitten combs when the temp hovered around zero or below. I'm more attached to these chickens than any I've had before, so this winter I carried several jugs of very hot water and left them overnight. Admittedly, I brought all 6 of them into crates on the covered back porch when it got super cold. I guess overall, unheated is thoroughly doable but there is a small risk involved.
I have a make shift coop and run here in NJ. We had a particularly tough winter and my 3 pullets and roo had no trouble. They sit on their covered shelf with a tarp over it and survived nicely. The wohle thing is covered and relatively dry. I get 3 eggs a day from the pullets without fail. I do have a heated water supply that I bought at the Tractor Store.

Good luck.
I have sexlinks in CNY, no lamps, no problem.
I live in SC not as cold as the places yall are. But I did put plastic over the openings, but no heat. We have had a colder than normal winter here. The mature chidkens did fine and made it a little better for me when I went out there.
Our coop is about the same distance from our shed - my husband dug a shallow trench and layed a 1" water pipe that he had run a long and heavy extension cord thru - then cut the end off and wired an electrical box in the coop. This works really well, and we can unplug it at the shed if needed.

I use a heat lamp in our coop - uninsulated and tin roof - if it gets under 32 degrees - also have a heated dog dish for water. I just feel better sitting in the warm house if I know that my animals are comfortable. But that's just me and it probably isn't necessary for them, altho, I have found my 4 production reds sitting under the lamp and not roosting like they used to - the other 6 still roost.

I have lived in Portland all mylife except for when I was in college and in all my 42 years I can only remember a half dozen snows like in your photo and even then it only last a few days. I guess I will be OK.

Thanks everyone.

I think that the need for heat really depends on where you live, the type of coop that you have, the solar gains (ie:window heat) that you can harness and the types/number of chickens that you have. Everyone's situation is different.

That said, my gut feeling is that you won't need heat in Portland. You certainly don't need the electricity for keeping water thawed (something we need here from Oct through April) If you ended up with a genuinely cold streak, have a plan for running a temporary extension cord.

Just for your reference, I have 4 Buff Orps -- it has been in the high 30s, low 40s for the last couple of days here in Mpls, and I have turned off the heat, even at night when it gets down into the teens/20s. The sunshine from the southern window is heating up the coop sufficiently for comfort.

BTW, Monk, I never get tired of looking at your beautiful coop.
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