Heating a large chicken coop

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Our coop is about 10'x10'x10' and winter is fastly approaching here in the northern regions. We have a heat lamp bulb that we could use out there but I just recently heard someone say that they weren't using heat lamps because of the risk of fire. What do you all use (if anything). We only have 5 birds this winter (result of the coyotes) so they probably couldnt keep each other warm very effectively in such a large coop. We also have a small electric heater that hubby could rig up so the birds couldn't get to it. What to do??!!

-- Lisa (tepeeclan@nidlink.com), September 03, 2000


How cold are you talking? I can't rmemeber ever using heat in my various chicken coops except to keep the waterer from freezing.

-- Hendo (redgate@echoweb.net), September 03, 2000.

It gets pretty cold here. I rely on a heat lamp and I let the bedding pile up. Once winter really gets going I no longer muck out the hen house. I add bedding to it and it starts to compost. This heats up and really helps to warm the house. Come spring I begin cleaning the house again and all that compost is great on the garden. I spread it on top of the snow and let it melt down into the ground. Then I plow it under and let it rest awhile before planting. Since I cannot plant too early because of late frosts, this has worked great. The hens will huddle together to provide warmth. My house is smaller than yours however. Have you considered adding to your flock. I have a duck in with mine, she stays on the floor of the house and does fine. I'm thinking of finding her a mate this next year. Her's was eaten by a fox the first year I had them. I consider her, and the hens, great biological pest controls. Good luck.

-- Cheryl Cox (bramblecottage@hotmail.com), September 03, 2000.

How about using temporary dividers to make your space smaller - straw bales, pallets and tarps or the like? Do you have rabbits, or anything like that that you could move inside to help warm it up? I go along with the deep bedding - I recall using bags of leaves that I picked up in town one year, when I couldn't afford straw. I had them piled in to where they were almost to the tops of my boots, and kept the extra bags that I had picked up piled to provide a little insulation on the N and W walls. I also gave the girls warm water a couple times a day when it was really cold. Sometimes I cooked up their cracked corn with hot water also - kind of a hot mash - seemed to help.

-- Polly (tigger@moultrie.com), September 03, 2000.

You should consider insulating the chicken coop. We insulated ours and used plywood for the interior walls (rather than drywall). We used recycled materials (including doors and windows) from demolished outbuildings. The roofing was new asphalt shingles, though. Two coats of barn red stain on the exterior completed the job. We now have a comfortable chicken house that is attractive-looking, too. As a result of the insulation, our chickens do not need a heat lamp, even when it snows in the winter. We live in Northern Virginia.

-- Liz Rhein (merhein@shentel.net), September 03, 2000.

gee i live in michigans upper pennisula where it drops well below zero in the winter and never considered insulating a chicken coop never had any problems except for once app.5or6 yrs ago it dropped to -60w/windchill and part of the roosters comb got frost bit if the birds are healthy and fed right they'll be fine without the pampering

-- birdman (abcbirds@yahoo.com), September 03, 2000.

Lisa, heat lamps cause a lot of fires. If you decide to use one, make sure your wiring is up to it and check it often to make sure mice haven't been gnawing on it or something.

I never heat my coop whether I've got one chicken or hundreds. I make sure to feed plenty of cracked corn and make sure they have water. It takes a lot out of any animal to eat snow for water. Warm water is best, if you use an immersible heater, again, make sure your wiring is up to it and check it often. Otherwise bring warm water from the house. Even letting a pot of water sit on the pilot light of a gas stove for some hours will help warm it up.

The most important thing you can do is close up the air (wind) leaks. You might also be able to hamg some plastic over and around the spot where they roost to give them a little more protection from the wind and also a smaller area to warm up with their body heat. If it gets really cold there, perhaps you could put straw or hay bales around and over a large dog crate and hope the chickens went in (or pitch them in every night after dark).

Heat lamps add at least $8/month each to our electric bill, an electric heater would add a lot more. Gerbil

-- Gerbil (ima_gerbil@hotmail.com), September 04, 2000.

We used straw bales to insulate our last winter and my 22 hens layed all winter with no drop in production. A couple of the floor but left the rest baled, then used them this summer in the garden. I'd make it maybe 5x10x10 to use less bales. But for the cost of the bales maybe eat the chickens and start over in the spring? It does get below freezing here in NE. I only ran the heat lamp for about a week last winter and they all made it.

-- Margie B (bromens5@navix.net), September 04, 2000.

Hey Gerbi's back! Howdy!

We used an old heat lamp (human kind) that we tore out of our bathroom when we remodeled. It's less exposed, because of the housing around it. We have it set on a timer, which we can adjust. Our hen house is also insulated. While they probably don't need much heat, we do run the lamps a bit when it gets cold...plus the little added light keeps production up slightly....although we don't want to wear them out.

-- sheepish (rborgo@gte.net), September 04, 2000.

Thanks everyone for the helpful advice. We're in N. Idaho not far from the candadian border. We did have 12 hens/1rooster but the predators 'round here got all but the 5 we have left. We were so concerned about the heat issue because last winter we had 22 birds and a much smaller coop and the combs on the 3 roosters got pretty frostbitten. We are now in the process of deciding whether we will use straw bales to insulate and take up excess space or put all 5 in the freezer. Thanks again!

-- Lisa (tepeeclan@nidlink.com), September 04, 2000.

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