Winter - do I need a light for heat?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by sstepp, Sep 21, 2009.

  1. sstepp

    sstepp New Egg

    Sep 18, 2009
    We have four chickens, a Rhode Island Red, Bar Rock, Buff Orpington and one of unknown breed. All are, I am told, cold hardy.

    My question. Do we need to have a light in the coop for warmth this winter? We live in Colorado Springs, CO and it can get pretty cold every now and again.

    I've read that providing heat can "soften" the chickens and they then become accustomed to the heat. I've also read that providing heat is a necessity. So what's your take?

    Thee is electricity available to keep their water from freezing and I can easily run a wire for a lamp. If we need heat with a simple incandescent bulb do the trick?

    On the really cold days do I still let them out of the roost? I could put water and food in the roost if needed.

    Does the roost need to be insulated? It's not currently free of drafts, does that matter?

    Can you tell we are new to this and have loads of questions?

    Thanks in advance for your help,

  2. Mrs MIA

    Mrs MIA Chick Magnet

    Mar 3, 2008
    Quote:Steve, do a search on "winterizing", or "how cold is too cold" in the topics... there were a TON of threads started last season with lots of awesome information.
    BUT... given your particular number of birds and location, you may want to be ready with a heat lamp during the coldest spells. My suggestion is to let your chickens acclimate with the changing seasons. Watch them. Make sure they have a dry, draft-free (but ventilated) enclosure to go into if they get too cold. (yes, draft free is very important). Flat 2x4's for roosts so they can cover their feet with their feathers, and plenty of clean food/water.
    The breeds you have will do very well in the winter, and will happily play outside to -10 to -20°F. But colder than that, or windy/snowy days, they will stay inside. Make sure they have plenty of roost space to get off the ground. [​IMG]
  3. LegHorn-BusHorn

    LegHorn-BusHorn Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 25, 2009
    Near STL mo
    I have mixed feelings on this also. I would like to hear from some of our experts. I was thinking a 40 watt bulb. (If there still avaliable.) I live in Missouri and it can get quite cold.
  4. SunnyDawn

    SunnyDawn Sun Lovin' Lizard

    Sep 12, 2009
    Nor Cal
    Post above (Mrs. AK...) is right on, but I also make sure to keep a heat lamp on above their water to keep it from freezing once temps go below 32 degrees.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2009
  5. Mrs MIA

    Mrs MIA Chick Magnet

    Mar 3, 2008
    OK... I searched on "how cold is too cold" and set it to search the "topics" only...

    This was started about the same time of year last year. [​IMG] I think if you search for "Alaska" you get some similar threads. There was even a poll, asking if you heated or not.

    Just for the record, I do not. But then, I have a LOT of birds. [​IMG]
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    First, fix those drafts [​IMG] You need ventilation (see my ventilation page, link in .sig below, for suggestions of winter-type ventilation arrangements) but NOT so it blows air at the chickens, and NOT random air leaks.

    By roost I am thinking you mean coop, the house-type part of their habitat? It would not be a bad idea to insulate it, makes life easier for you and the chickens, but it is not strictly *necessary* as in "they would not survive without it".

    Most people open the popdoor during the day, or at least the middle hours of the day, and let the chickens decide for themselves. If the popdoor is not on the downwind side of the coop you may need to cobble together some sort of windbreak 'porch' for them. Some people put up windbreak type materials on the run, or a snowload-proof roof, to make the outdoors more appealing, but the extent to which this is important depends on how crowded your chickens are in their indoor housing.

    You may well not need heat at all. OTOH it is good to have it available if you change your mind some really cold night [​IMG] What wattage is appropriate totally depends on how your coop is set up. A lot of people would just put a 60-100w bulb over the roost (high enough not to singe combs), for a small number of chickens; but many other options, some of which run your electric bill WAY up, are also possible. Or you can just knock together a 'drop ceiling' or insulated hover around the roost and hold the chickens' body heat in without necessarily adding any electric heat. You will have to sort of play it by ear this first winter, see how it goes.

    The most crucial thing is to have GOOD VENTILATION, yes even in cold weather, because the thing that gives you frostbitten chickens is not so much cold per se as *humidity*. Humid air creates frostbite at pretty mild temperatures; in dry air, chickens can typically take quite a bit of cold as long as they have a wide roost and adequate food.

    Good luck, have fun,


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