Wisconsin Winters . . . heat lamp or not?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by wiss0023, Sep 9, 2010.

  1. wiss0023

    wiss0023 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 1, 2010
    I have a 5x3 coop with 8x6 run (plus area under coop). Constructed with 3/4 inch cedar siding (no insulation). I have six hens (1 Bl. Australorp, 2 EE's, 1 Cuckoo Maran, and 2 Standard Silver Laced Cochins) who free range an acre at least 4 hours a day (often 6-8). This will be my first Wisconsin winter with my hens (temps can get 20 below zero with wind chill) I keep about 4-5" of pine shavings in the coop (cleaned out weekly), and move the coop every 5-7 days for fresh grass.
    (Pics taken during construction)

    My plans for winter are as follows:
    Move the coop next to the North side of the house (South side is the front street and I am not legal:)
    Electric water heater base
    Tarp over the run during heavy snow fall
    I have plexi-glass inserts for the side doors (I will probably caulk the exterior edge of plexi-glass insert)
    Increase amount of cedar shavings

    My questions are:
    1. Do I add a heat lamp . . . I have read mixed reviews on this. Some saying it can compromise their feathering out, and cause problems if there is an electric outage.
    2. Would it be better to leave the coop in a sunny location, than to try to block wind on a North side of the house?
    3. Do I leave the prop door and back ventilation open during the winter nights (drafts vs. ventilation)
    4. Do I add anything to their diet to help them during cold spells?

    Finally . . . when do I begin this routine? It is already getting in the 40's at night here!

    Any and all suggestions would be appreciated! I know this is a lot to cover.
  2. DaniLovesChickens

    DaniLovesChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2010
    Hi! I'm from Michigan. We live in the middle of an open field. It gets pretty cold for our poor chickens.

    We use a heat light. (2 actually - bigger coop and more chickens) Our coop is on the north side of our garage because that was really our only option [​IMG] That doesn't do any good for blocking that northern winter wind. We insulated our coop (again bigger coop) They do get a lot of morning light from the east in the run area. Ours has one little doorway cut into it that is always open and another that has a door we can shut on cold nights (and days).

    You do need to have some ventilation but as long as you keep the coop clean, so as to not have ammonia probs, then just six of them shouldn't need too much ventilation. How tall is it inside the actual hen house?

    We keep the amount of light our chickens have at around 14 hours a day year round so that we have eggs year round. We sell eggs. Each hen is born with the capability of laying a certain number of eggs. As far as I know it has no affect on molting. My chickens are molting right now and will be done by time winter hits.

    Good luck!!
  3. Orchid

    Orchid Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 10, 2010
    North Central MN
    My coop is really similar to yours, and I don't think I feel safe putting a heat lamp in it because of the short distance from the roost to the ceiling. I think burnt combs would be the result. The difference between our coops is that mine is fully insulated, which I am hoping will really help keep it a decent temperature inside (we've been known to get to -40F here, yuck!). I do plan to move mine to an area that is protected from the wind where it can also take advantage of whatever sun we get.

    The other thing we did was to put another vent way up in the peak in the back...let's see if that picture is on here...you can see it pretty well in this pic if you click on it.


    I figured I will completely shut down the bigger vent with a plexiglass cover at night, and when it's really cold if I need to I can also partially close the upper vent, so they have ventilation but not a draft on their roost.
  4. wiss0023

    wiss0023 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 1, 2010
    Quote:Thanks for the information! The interior of the coop is just over 3 ft. from peak to floor. I am afraid maybe a little too close to the roosting bar to put a heat light in. If I had to do it over again, I would have insulated and built a larger coop. I am interested in the "lighting" . . . what type of lighting do you use, and is it on a timer? Are there any negative side affects to a chicken laying year round? Thanks again for your input!
  5. wiss0023

    wiss0023 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 1, 2010
    Quote:Our coops are really similar! I do wish I had insulated mine:/ I agree that the interior is probably too small to have a heat lamp. I wish I had a south facing place to put the coop next to the house, but I don't have that option. Maybe I will be able to keep it in the sun, and provide some sort of temporary barrier for the north winds. Thanks for sharing!
  6. Lisa202

    Lisa202 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 20, 2010
    Long Island NY
    No cedar shavings. Use pine. [​IMG]

    scratch before they go to bed helps them stay warm.

    I've heard that it's good if you can at least keep them at 25 degrees in the coop.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2010
  7. wiss0023

    wiss0023 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 1, 2010
    Quote:Sorry! I meant pine . . . it's cedar siding. Just got confused [​IMG]
  8. kingdr85

    kingdr85 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 7, 2008
    Madison-Columbus WI
    I am pretty sure the chickens will do fine without a heat lamp - Chickens can handle the cold very well as long as they are in a draft free coop.
  9. woodmort

    woodmort Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 6, 2010
    Oxford NY
    I've overwintered as few as a dozen and as many as 30 in the same 8 X 12 coop with no problems and no heat lamp (they scare the bejesus out of me for fear of fire and/or electrical shock) and we get temperature of 20 below before the wind blows. You've got winter-hardy breeds so, as long as they stay dry, they shouldn't have any problems. BTW, I also give them scratch from time to time in the winter--only time of year--because I feel the extra corn gives them a little more fat for warmth.
  10. PepsNick

    PepsNick Back to Business

    May 9, 2010
    Egglanta, GA
    It's so pretty and looks like mine hehe!

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