Winter is coming! Heating the coop?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by CherohalaKellie, Sep 7, 2013.

  1. CherohalaKellie

    CherohalaKellie In the Brooder

    Hello all!

    This is our first winter with our new flock. As the cooler weather approaches we are busy getting ready to keep the flock happy, warm and healthy all winter.

    Our plan is to heat the coop with a heat lamp. We have installed a new outlet just outside of the coop- but our roof is not high and the perch puts our girls right up into it.

    Can anyone make suggestions as to how we can safely heat our small coop without roasting the girls of having a fire/ broken light bulbs etc.

    Thanks so much!
  2. Mehjr10

    Mehjr10 Songster

    May 17, 2012
    Moscow, TN
    They do not need the heat just make sure the coop is draft free and some ventilation. They are blessed with all those warm feathers.
  3. Your weather is mild compared to the hundreds and hundreds of BYC members who live in Canada and the far north regions of the US. Chickens have a down coat and do just fine, as long as they are dry. Chickens have been kept in Maine and Canada for centuries without any added heat.

    The fire risk far exceeds any perceived benefit. Plus, if your birds are not conditioned and acclimated to the cold, should the power go out and the power does go out, they'd likely suffer. Just my 2 pennies worth and I am one of those who keeps chickens with no issues Up North.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013
  4. Biologrady

    Biologrady Chirping

    Apr 12, 2012
    No heat is safest...
    If they can huddle up on roosts, that helps greatly. Deep straw/pine combo bedding gives our girls the option to get down off the perch and huddle there instead if they prefer.
    That said, our first year we had only a few chickens and thought they needed supplementing...we bought a ceramic heater, screws into heat lamp socket. Seemed safer than glass to us. This year we are trusting body heat and will give then some extra corn at bedtime.
  5. CherohalaKellie

    CherohalaKellie In the Brooder

    Temps do drop below freezing here- um... around 15 to 20 degrees at night. Nothing compared to the northern reaches, I know.

    What do you do about the water freezing? I know I need to add corn to their feed... anything else?

    (feeling stupid for demanding an outlet by the coop now.... unless I decorate the coop for Christmas!)

    Thanks all, I am feeling better about keeping my girls happy through the winter!

  6. You're gonna need that outlet to plug in a heated dog dish or similar for your water.

    Adding corn is largely a myth. Their basic feed is already 65% corn base, or more, so adding even more doesn't accomplish very much. A few handfuls of scratch grains to busy them every other day, that's fine. But their regular feed is what will keep them healthy. They will consume more of it because they use the calories for heat production.
  7. If properly housed, no where in Tennessee will any adult chickens that I am familiar with will need supplemental heat. If good draft free and dry winter quarters are ready I would instead look into setting up a water system that won't freeze and burst.

    The best heat source for your birds is good old fashion shelled whole yellow hard or dent corn. Extra whole feed corn will provide all the extra calories they need to prosper and stay warm. If it gets too cold or freezes up for to long, feed your chickens their normal rations (extra corn included) that have been soaked for a few hours (not fermented) in as much scalding hot water as the feed will absorb, this will give them all the water they need in cold conditions. Remember do not feed hot chicken food and only feed as much soaked food as they will clean up (eat) in 30 minutes. Whole corn has all the corn oil still in it and it is in a more digestible form than pellets or scratch feed and requires longer to pass through the crop thus spreading out the daily feed ration.

    Do remember that the combs and wattles of chickens kept in cold conditions can and do freeze. This is usually due to windchill. Windchill is more of a housing or other husbandry issue than it is a supplemental heat issue. Good luck.

    Oh, the new 4 inch by 6 inch by 8 foot landscape timbers with the environmentally friendly chemical treatment are great for roost poles. Rip the timber down the middle so that each 8 foot timber produces 2 roost poles each 4 by 3 inches by 8 feet long. The curved 3 inch portion of the pole becomes the top and it is great for your hens to roost on because their toes won't go all the way around the pole and when the bird hunkers down on the perch the chickens' down and breast feathers covers and protects their toes from the cold.

    Also if you can avoid a heated coop you will have fewer diseases or sick chickens to contend with.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013
  8. Biologrady

    Biologrady Chirping

    Apr 12, 2012
    At those temps You can probably skip the heat; yes, do go for a heated dog bowl type waterer; I had to laugh about the Christmas lights...because we do that!!!
    Good tip about the wider roosts so they can keep toes covered. If you don't want to change your roosts you can just screw another board to it to beef it up, then sand it down smooth.
    Read on another thread about using feed bags on the inside of walls to add an extra layer/block wind. Remember, cold and dry ( ventilated) is fine, unless you have some of the less cold-tolerant breeds. If you're not sure, check out to see cold hardiness.
  9. jlc01033

    jlc01033 Hatching

    May 8, 2013
    I found this thread because I was wondering the same thing! I live in Western Mass and our nights can get pretty cold. We have a chicken tractor and only three hens at the moment. It was suggested by other friends who have had chickens that I add in a light with a red bulb to help with heat. Reading here, that might not be the best thing. Other questions:

    1. We currently use wood shavings - should I also add in straw?

    2. If we do go with a heat source, should we use a red bulb on a timer? Keep it on all the time?

    Thank you!!
  10. JackE

    JackE Crowing

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    You do not need to add heat. Chickens are built to handle the cold. All you are doing by adding a heatlamp, is needlessly running up your electric bill, and taking a chance on burning your coop down along with the birds in it. Not to mention NOT allowing your chickens to properly acclimatize to the cold. If they are not properly acclimatized, and they lose the artificially provided heat, then they will be hurting.
    Wood chips are fine by themselves, no need to add anything. Check out the link below. It's an old book about how things were done back in the day. Read that book, and you'll see how needless your worries about chickens and cold weather are.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2013

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