Winter heating For Alaskan grown Chickens.


9 Years
Jun 19, 2010
Alaska, MatSu
Hello, I had some questions and wanted to see if any of you had some ideas. I live in South Central Alaska and picked up some chicks last june and have set up a "coop" and run for them. What I did for a Coop, I took an old 22ft long Travel trailor that I had the was run down and not really up to par for people but I figured it would work great for birds. I figured its fully insulated and thought it would work well for keeping warm. I also Took a 16x16ft Dog Kennal and pulled off one side and butt'd it up against the camper. So the door side of the camper goes strait into the dog kennel, then the door of the dog kennel leads out. Since Up here in alaska we have things like Bald Eagles and lots of Owls that like to snack on small animals I coverd the top with 2 inch wire mesh so I can keep the predators out and I also dont have to worry about clipping my birds wings. Because of this they fly all over inside lol, often times up onto my shoulder (3 of them think they are parrots) and onto the outside perches I built for them.

My concern is that up here in southcentral Alaska we get -40f in the dead of winter often and want to keep my birds all winter. I figured the camper would be a great thing to use because It was insulated, and I took most of the cubbords and shelves gutted them out and cut them open and use them for laying boxes. The birds love roosting in them at night (well up off the ground) and they have ramps going up so I often find them walk up the ramps and fly down to get down. Any way, I cut a whole in the door for now so they can walk in and out. Also i should mention that I picked up a African gosling a few weeks after I got the chicks to act as a guard goose when he/she (not sure yet what it is lol, think its a female because it isnt devoloping much of a nob on the bill) which so far she/he has been great. The cats wont go near the fence (we have some feral cats and dogs running round, part of the reasen they arnt free range) with her in there. The goose has tried to fly inside the outside pen but is to fat or doesnt have enuph strenght to get lift off ( wouldnt have to far to go in a 16x16 by 6ft tall fence lol) but will not climb the ramps like the chickens so what I have done is I took one of the old seats in the camper and pulled out the cushions (did this to all of them actually) and put a ramp up for her/him to go up when it gets cold to get off hte trailor floor but as of the moment even with it dropping to freezing at night he/she usually doesnt go in unless its below freezing (which has happened a few times in the last week).

For heat atm I have one Red Heat lamp in there and plan on picking up a second heat lamp. ALso I plan on picking up some wood and taking the old door down and building a better one that will seal better since the old one is kinda torn up. I plan on putting a small door in the bottem of it but plan on making the door be on a hing to swing UP on the big door so during the summer or warm spells in the winter I can open the door so they can get out but close it when the temps drop to help keep the heat in.

So what im wondering is if any one in here that has temps like what i am dealing with knows if 2 heat lamps will be fine to keep them warm. My neighbor has built a coop and has chickens and has been told (he got his after I got mine) that if you suspend the light that when it gets cold you can lower it closer to the ground and they will huddle under it to keep warm so I am thinking about doing this in my coop.

I am more or less explaining what I did so I can get some imput as to where I may need to make some changes. Another thing is keeping the air circulated. If I open the door once a day for 5 or 10 mins would that be enuph circulation for them per day? I can crack the windows but then again im wanting to make sure they dont freeze to death. I have 5 Barred rock, 3 Road Island Reds, 2 Golden Comets and an African goose. I saw an add on Craigslist a little bit ago for a Barred Rock Rooster that Im going to try to get also (want to try to get some chicks next spring, already have some ideas on a broader but still need to work on the inkubator.

My set up is kinda "redneck" but I feel will work perfectly fine for them, they have shelter room to roam and are protected from local predators wild and domestic. I really want to be able to winter over my birds so any imput will be appreciated. I may try to barrow a Digital Camera and take some pics of my hobo set up in a few days lol.
-40 is cold!

I am guessing, if you have an old travel trailer, it is probably a fairly safe set up for a traditional heater, with all the insulation it should hold the heat fairly well. It really depends on how much you want to spend on electricity!

From what little i know, it is damp and drafts that cause most issues for Chickens, if the travel trailer protects them from cold wind chills and is fairly low on the humidity level in there you should be good to go.

There was a thread on here in the last couple days that talked about "winterizing" coops. A poster from WI posted about things she did for her ladies, she mentioned getting down to -40, you may want to check out that thread for other ideas.
Sounds like an interesting setup! Maybe you can take some pix and post them here?

The ventilation openings should be as high as possible so there aren't any drafts down where the chickens are or where they roost.

Are you using any kind of bedding inside the trailer? A lot of people use the "deep litter" method of bedding, just adding more bedding to the heap and it packs down with the chicken manure. You clean it all out in the springtime. However, if you're going to hang heat lamps in the coop, make sure the bulbs are surrounded by cages so the birds don't fly into the lamps. Also, if the lamps somehow fall down into the bedding, you'll have a fire. Chickens will try to fly up onto the heat lamps and that sets them swinging and may knock the lamp down or into something flammable.

You can tell if the lamp is too low; the chickens will just move further away from the heat source. If it's too high, they'll huddle together for warmth.

What are you planning to do about fresh liquid water for your chickens and goose? If you have power, then maybe a heated dog waterer, or one of those cookie-tin water warmers that are in another thread in BYCF Feeding and watering section. (Basically, you wire a ceramic light bulb socket into a metal cookie tin, and the heat from the bulb radiates up and keeps the water liquid in the chicken waterer set on top of the cookie tin).

We don't ever get to -40 degrees here in West Michigan, but it is raw, wet, and snowy, getting into single digits and below with the wind chill. Rubbing vaseline into combs and wattles will help with frostbite.

There are also a number of winter-weathering threads in BYCF Managing Your Flock section. Lots of great ideas!

If you introduce another chicken to your flock, be sure to quarantine it (the rooster) for at least 2-3 weeks, preferrably a month. You don't want to introduce nasty diseases or worms to the rest of your poultry and lose them all! Better safe than sorry. You may want to wait until spring to add more chickens, to avoid the quarantine issue and also getting a new bird used to your existing pecking order in the flock.
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You have quite the set up. This is my first winter with chickens here in roughly the same area, so we'll see how we do.
For water I was thinking about getting 2 heated dog water dishes. The goose goes through more water than the chickens plus he likes to dirty it up lol. At night after the kids are in bed I like to go out and feed them a little bit and sit back and watch em for a bit. notice the goose does a eat, drink eat drink routine. He eats then takes a drink, in this process the water gets mucked up so I have to change it often.

As far as ventilation and where the birds sit thats where I was curios cause the birds stay up high, almost never do I go in there at night and find them on the ground. They usualy hang out up on the counter top or on the planks I have running accross from the counter up to the upper cabinits that I turned into egg boxes.. During the day they will hang out on the ground and come out but at night they seem to like to be as high as possible.

mboreham I was reading that thread a little bit ago actually. When I was younger we had geese and ducks but they never made it to winter because the dog ate em lol ( I was a mad little boy I will tell you what lol, I chased that dog all over the yard, and to add insult to injury the dog had one of the ducks feet hanging out of his mouth) So I have never had a bird through winter. And this is my first time with chickens. I noticed there was one in that thread that mentioned having birds out in those temps and using an electric heater for the extream cold. I am trying to keep from going that route because I have used those oil heaters and seen how high they can run an electric bill up lol.

As far as what I have put down, atm I have a bunch of hay in there both on the ground and in the laying boxes.

Thanks for the info on the vasaline on there woddles, I was wondering how to help protect them. Right now I only have 2 chickens that have woddles, 2 of the road Island reds. The rest havnt matured that much yet.

And as for the rooster I do have a small 3 chicken pen that I first had my birds in when they are young so I planned on putting the rooster in there for quarantine, how ever I wasnt sure how long to quarantine him for (if I get him). Its not getting to cold yet up here but at night it has dropped down to freezing a few times so I have a tarp that I will rap around half of the small cage for shelter (might throw heat lamp in there just in case 'shrug' ). ALso atm the small cage is in the birds "range" area so should I move it outside away from there area for 2 weeks? Also When I introduce him to the rest how should I go about it ..... just a few mins one day then maby an hour the next and till maby after a week as long as they arnt at each others throats leave him in?

I think I covered the questions best I could If I missed something im sorry
Im going to ask a friend If I can barrow his camera tomarrow and try to get some pics of my set up. Fair warning it looks kinda "HillbillY" lol but has worked fine all summer.
Joconner, im out in the Biglake Houstan area. I really hope I get this right lol, I got my chickens with the intent for eggs, and only eggs. But they have a funny way have getting you attatched to em lol.

Also I did want to mention, when I first got my birds I got the 3 RIR and the 2 Golden Comets and then the 5 barred rock a month later, and it took over a month before the barred rock were big enuph to be around the other 5 and another week to get them to "get along" my 5 bigger birds kept picking on them but after a week they got along fine and was able to let them run together without fear of finding a dead bird.
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for what its worth, i ran a 250w bulb for a month, it cost me about $10-12, the chickens dont need 50-60 degrees but if it gets under 0, i am guessing you will want some kind of heat source, i havent experienced temps that low with chickens and i am not one for "mothering" my birds too much but there comes a point that you might have to add some heat source of some kind
Thanks for the link

Well the lady who had the Rooster on craigslist called me back today and headed over there. She had 3 roosters, a really handsome 2 year old Barred Rock and a young Amaricauna (dont know if I spelled that right) and also had 2 Hens ( think she said they were wynadettes) that needed a new home. So I went ahead and took the 4. The 5th was another rooster that was much much smaller and didnt think he would get along with my others very well. At the moment I have another much smaller pen (2ft tall 2 foot deep and 6 foot long) That I put them in for the time being. I want to quarentine them for about a week before I introduce them. The pen is only about 5 feet away from the big chicken yard so they are around each other. I am hoping that after a week they will be more familure with each other. THe lady said that they are all very healthy and they all look pretty good except the hens. They were a rescue and have had frost bite bad enuph that one of them has lost 3 toes and her comb isnt shaped the way it should be but other than that she seems just fine.

Now hopefully when my wife gets home shes not to upset that there are MORE chickens back there lol. I asked my buddy if I can use his camera and he said I could but may not get pics of my set up untill Wedsday. Like I said its not pretty but very functional. Any way Im off to check out that link

Thanks for any and all imput guys/gals
Hi there, welcome to BYC!
I have a heat lamp, in my coop, it's 8x8, and I have straw and or pine shavings as bedding on the floor. To keep the water thawed, I have a heated base, I bought at Animal Food Warehouse in Palmer. For a coop your size, two heat lamps should work well. I have mine hanging above their roosts.

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