Yet another Coop Heating Question (coop attached to house)

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by stratoskier, Sep 22, 2008.

  1. mountaintopchicken

    mountaintopchicken Songster

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    Just another perspective - I would not heat the coop at all.

    I live near the top of a mountain in Vermont, where the frigid wind whips fiercely down on us from the top of the mountain, and across the fields, driving snow sideways. It is incredibly unpleasant here in the winter sometimes! But I don't heat my coops.

    Why?
    #1. I fear fire.

    #2. How many degrees will the light bulb raise the temperature for them? Enough to make a real difference to them? Or only enough to make them huddle under it and crowd each other?

    #3. I don't like to keep a light on all of the time, because light encourages them to lay like it's spring time. But it's not springtime, it's -20 F. I like them to slow down a bit in the winter. The energy they would put into laying as though it's springtime, they can put into maintaining their health and body temperature instead.

    #4. We have lost electricity here for days at a time in bad weather. I don't like the idea of the birds becoming accustomed to artificial light and heat, only to have the electricity go out and have that suddenly change.

    #5. Most important I don't feel as though keeping a heat lamp on them keeping them will keep them healthy. I do have a water heater base in my coops, so they have clean unfrozen water available at all times, I make sure they never ever run out of food, and keep the bedding dry and the coop well ventilated. I think moisture build-up from poor ventilation will cause frost bite more than cold temperatures will.

    You know what's really interesting? If you read older poultry books, you can read about a transition poultry keepers made in from 'tight' heated (with stoves) poultry houses to unheated 'open front' poultry houses, used even in very cold climates. Keepers found that ventilation had more effect on good health than any other factor.

    Principals and Practice of Poultry Culture

    Open-air Poultry Houses for All Climates
     
  2. seminolewind

    seminolewind Flock Mistress

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    Put a smoke alarm in the coop. And get a fire extinguisher, and it will make you feel better, and you'll be safer
     
  3. La Banan

    La Banan Songster

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    Quote:I am so with you on this mountaintopchicken! You don't even need to read the books - you can talk to the oldiess themselves if you are lucky enough...
    jan la banan, who lives in Nova Scotia where if you don't like the weather, wait a minute...
     
  4. redkan

    redkan Songster

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    I live in central Maine and it gets plenty cold here as well. A few years back we regularly had temps that went to -40F every night and rarely went positive during the day ... and this went on for several weeks in a row. The only thing I did was provide fresh water each morning (the heated water base just couldn't keep up with temps that low), otherwise I did nothing. My chickens' coop is a converted horse stall in a detached barn and the "horse end" was left open to the elements so it was plenty cold. Although I've lost plenty of eggs to freezing and bursting, I've never had any issues with my chickens. Don't heat it at all.
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    A regular household smoke alarm may not work well - they certainly don't in horse barns, another high-dust environment.

    COunt me with those questioning whether you will need a heat lamp. Especially since as I understand it the coop shares a wall with the house. Insulate the heck out of the other walls and the ceiling (making sure there will be sufficient ventilation -- but if some of the ventilation can come from a protected and thus warmer area, e.g. the enclosed run or against the house, that will help too). You may well be fine.

    If you do need a lamp, it is QUITE possible that you do not need a HEAT lamp -- try one or several (depending on your # chickens) regular 100 watt bulbs hung just above the roost, with just enough space that they will not be hitting their combs on 1" welded mesh guards that you fashion to beef up the fixture's existing guards. The idea is to heat up the cold parts of the chickens (if/when they want it) NOT to heat the whole darn coop. Think of it as the same principle that's used in a brooder - you have warmer areas they can moveinto if they feel cold but let the chickens select their temperature at any moment.

    If you are just using 100w bulbs, safety is not nearly as much of an issue, but if you are feeling really really really paranoid, run everything thru conduit in case of mice. And you or your electrician can hard wire in the light fixtures (so there is no plug and socket, they wire directly into the wall wiring, with a switch somewhere) -- just hook them up out of the way on the ceiling in the summer. (Of course, the fixtures will need to be physically attached to a chain or a piece of wood or something so they are not just suspended by the cord - you would hook the entire assembly up out of the way when unneeded).

    Good luck,

    Pat
     
  6. stratoskier

    stratoskier Hatching

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    I appreciate all of the input.

    My concerns are based largely on the fact that the coop is attached to the house, so that the consequences of a fire are significantly greater than if the coop was somewhere remote from the house. We have an ongoing debate amongst ourselves about whether or not we need a heat source at all. Although the birds are a family affair, we originally got them for our 11-year old son's 4H project. He is especially concerned about them and wants to "baby" them big time. It is true that in cooler weather there are often 3-4 birds gathered directly beneath the heat lamp, but whether or not they really need that infrared light is questionable. I would opt for leaving it off during all but the most extreme temperatures, but he wants to have it on every night.

    It does seem surprising to me that there aren't some really good (as in safe and efficient) alternatives to heat lamps for those that do choose to heat their coops. I had expected to learn about other systems that were common for back yard chickeneers, but my forum search didn't reveal any marvelous technological solutions. Instead it seems like the debate here largely centers around 3 alternatives: heat lamp, lower wattage regular bulb, or no heat. It's good for me to hear the pros and cons of each one.

    Cheers,
    Bert
     
  7. Mrs MIA

    Mrs MIA Chick Magnet

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    Radiant heat, from a hot water heater, is often used up here.
     
  8. Montana-Hens

    Montana-Hens Songster

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    I live in Montana as well. Like you I am fire phobic, b/c if a fire starts they might was well bring marshmallows. When you live out in the country, and they have to bring water there isn't much hope for you.

    Our coop is well insulated (foamboard covered with vinyl sheet flooring and a double roof with reflectex. It has ventilation that we can cover as needed in the winter. We live on a hill in an open area so we constantly have wind in good weather and in the middle of a subzero streak, I may cover some of the vents in the evening. Our coop is next to a 3/4 shed that they use when they want to be out, but not really, and then they have a full fenced "run" area.

    I have no electricity in any of this. The ladies egg production slows down in the worst weather, when they divert they energy to themselves. ( I figure this is good and healthy) I use the rubber bowls and swap them a couple times a day in the worst weather. I picked my breeds b/c they were hearty, heritage, and foragers. They haven't let me down yet.

    I like to think my ladies would have made the trip with the early settlers just fine.

    I don't think what ever choice you make can be wrong. Just know that which ever one you pick you will find someone here to support you!
     
  9. Mojo Chick'n

    Mojo Chick'n Empress of Chickenville

    Quote:I did see (on ebay) a ceramic insert - screws right into the heat lamp that is a heater. No light, just warmth - not sure if it would be any safer or not. It looks like a ceramic coil sort of. I thought about something like this, but it was pretty expensive (like 60+ bucks) and I have 4 chickens coops.

    But, for one coop - it might solve your problem. Would be harder to break it, at least, if they got to flying and chasing each other.

    Peace-
    Meriah
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2008
  10. Mrs MIA

    Mrs MIA Chick Magnet

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    I worry about fire hazards, too, just because it seems like there's always a lot of dust around. But a single 250w red heat lamp on the waterer seems to keep the water from freezing, and the girls, if they're really cold, just huddle together on the roost. I've also added more bodies in there, so the extra body heat helps.
    This morning we dipped to 26F, and the coop was probably 10-15F warmer than the outside. Quite comfortable, actually.
     

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