Wisconsinites- Heat the coop or not?!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by michelle127, Nov 19, 2013.

  1. michelle127

    michelle127 Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 2, 2013
    We have four chickens that are 28 weeks old now. We got them when they were a day old on May 6th. We have a Black Australorp (Muffin), Buff Orpington (Nugget), Silver Laced Wyandotte (Oreo), and an Americauna (Peanut). We constructed a roughly 4x4 coop. It was constructed with typical lumber and plywood, with insulation and then paneling for walls. There is also siding on the outside. (Pretty well insulated!) We live in Wisconsin where it can get down right cold during the winter. Right now, our lows are around 15F and highs around 35F. During the dead of winter, it gets into the negatives, sometimes having highs in the single digits. We clean the coop weekly- taking out everything and starting fresh.
    We purchased a "650 watt panel heater" from Fleet Farm a few weeks ago. (I know it's a little overkill for wattage, but was a great deal- half the price of a 250 watt panel. Also thinking it wont be on too long since it will heat the coop fast and won't have to fight the cold weather.) We have it on the ceiling inside the coop. It is on a thermostatically controlled outlet that kicks on once it's below 38F and back off once it hits 50F. There have only been about 4-5 nights that it has actually turned on so far. Thoughts for that was that it will keep the water from freezing and eventually keep the eggs from freezing. We have two chickens with regular combs and two with pea combs. I don't want to chance frostbite or my little girls being cold!
    We clean the coop weekly and actually use the air compressor to blow the dust off the heater. A lot of people use them in a house and they are not a fire hazard if they are dusty but we "dust" it weekly just to be safe. My thought is that since it's on the ceiling, it shouldn't be a fire hazard because its not near the bedding or anything and can't "burst" or be bumped by the chickens like a heat lamp.
    Today it is 30F outside. I opened their chicken door up about an hour ago and they gladly went outside. I don't want them to become to acclimated to the "heat" that going outside would be detrimental because they don't have good coats. They are all cold hardy breeds and I'd like to offer them the chance to go outside on sunny winter days. The coop is on the east side of our garage so it gets the morning sun which warms it to 40-50F almost every morning (granted its been around 30 at night). There is also a wind block on the north side of it (we have a very large rack of wood that will block 75% of the northern weather).
    Is it worth keeping the heater in there? My thoughts are maybe getting a thermostat that keeps it a lil cooler like between 35-45?



  2. greenmulberry

    greenmulberry Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 17, 2007
    As an Iowan, I say "no" to heat.

    I used heat once in my coop, the first winter, that was the ONLY winter I have ever had chickens suffer from frostbite. The heat increases the amount of moisture the air can hold, which increases frostbite risk.

    Even when we had a winter a couple of years ago that got down to -29 F, I still didn't use heat, and had no problems. Except that I do sometimes have frozen eggs if I can't get to them in time.

    I keep my pop hole open unless is is going to be below -15 or so. They always go outside no matter how cold, unless it is severely windy and also cold.
  3. DriverMan

    DriverMan Just Hatched

    Nov 19, 2013
    Absolutely, NO HEAT but plenty of ventilation.

    I purchased my chicks over the Internet from a hatchery. The chicks came with some guide lines. The first rule was, NO heat in the coop. I was really concerned the first year but after watching my play outside in -5 degree weather I though differently. Also, when you put your hand under their feathers in the worst cold, you will then come to realize how much heat these little guys produce on their own.

    For heat... Plenty of scratch in the Winter!
  4. Hillschicks

    Hillschicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 17, 2012
    Michigan here.. On lake huron.. We have bitter cold (**** canada).. We also say NO to heat.. We let our chickens free range (pasture to be specific) all year long.. They dont care for snow but given the option to stay in the coop or go out and play, they go out and play.. They can handle the cold just fine, what they struggle with is like the post above me said, moisture.. A well ventilated coop is more important than a warm coop.. Judging by the small coop space, well insulated.. I would guess a couple chickens will stay PLENTY warm in there without a heat source
  5. Luckytaz

    Luckytaz Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 28, 2010
    Rogers, Mn.
    No you don't need to heat your coop. What I use for water, is a metal base heater purchased at Fleet Farm. Each of my coops has one.
    In past years I would replace the frozen water a couple times a day. Glad I don't have that anymore.
  6. JackE

    JackE Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    I'll agree with the others, NO heat. You are doing those chickens no favors having that heater in there. You are actually not letting them properly acclimate to the changing (Colder) weather. If, for some reason, that heater was to crap out on you, by loss of electricity, or just quit for no reason, then your birds WILL suffer, needlessly.
    I can't really see, from the photos, what kind of ventilation you have. But the thing to look for on cold mornings before you let the chickens out, is frost formation in the coop. If you have frost in the coop, you do not have enough ventilation/fresh air flow, and you need to open it up more.
  7. michelle127

    michelle127 Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 2, 2013
    Thank you all for the feedback. It is very appreciated! We unplugged the heater today and plan to leave it unplugged now eventually removing the heater completely. I feel horrible because I don't want my little girls to be cold and feel like a bad mom but know in the long run it will be better for them.
    Does anyone believe in putting Vaseline on combs/waddle/feet? I have heard mixed reviews on it. There too, I want to do what's best.
    How much scratch do you normally provide? Right now, I usually throw a handful of corn in each night to give them something to scratch at before bed. I don't want to "overfeed" them "snacks" but also know it helps with body heat.
    I am going to look into buying a heated waterer or two tomorrow as I won't always be able to get out to the coop 3-4 times a day to change water. I do it 2x daily now.
    As of right now, I have a 14x6 register in the big white door for ventilation. It has a slider so I can close it down some if the weather or wind get really bad. I know to never close it all the way. I was also thinking of redoing that small window in the side to add a little more ventilation. Maybe leaving a 2"x10" gap on the top of the window with a wind block somehow. Stupid question but where would there be frost formation? On the pine shavings or window or? I'm totally new to this and learning more than I ever thought I would!
  8. greenmulberry

    greenmulberry Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 17, 2007
    When you are worried about how cold your chickens are, go you, and wiggle your fingers deep into their feathers. You will see they are toasty down near the skin. :)

    I haven't used Vaseline on combs, and I think feet will be fine without it, because when they settle down on the roost, the feet are covered with feathers.
  9. ll

    ll Chillin' With My Peeps

    Adorable coop - I love the clear plastic over the vent as an awning.
    Don't heat the coop :( use the heater for your house or workshop.
    If you lose power from a storm they won't be acclimated to the coldness.
    Somewhere I read vaseline isn't actually good for preventing frostbite -can actually make it worse? So many members believe it's good, but idk, worth researching.
    Good luck!
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2013
  10. jetdog

    jetdog Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 18, 2013
    Definitely add ventilation maybe the window like you said, I have used Vaseline in the past it seemed to help, a heated waterer is the only way to go, personally I would make the run bigger so they can stretch their legs a little they look pretty snug from the pictures.

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