This is the last in a four-part series on getting your chickens and coop ready for the winter.
Once you’ve done everything else, you may find that you still want to provide extra warmth in your coop. We live in a fairly temperate climate, and even during freezing events we typically do not heat our chicken coops. However, many backyard chicken keepers in steady sub-freezing conditions have need for and success with artificial (electric) heat, through lamps, radiant heaters, and heated waterers.
At what temperature should I consider adding heat to my coop?
If the temps are forecasted to be steadily in the mid-teens Fahrenheit or lower (-10 degrees Celsius or lower) for a few days or more, it’s worth considering helping your flock out a bit. Keep in mind, this assumes your chickens are otherwise in good health and fully feathered. If they are lacking their natural insulation or ability to generate their own body heat, think about supplementing heat when the temps dip below freezing.
How should I heat my chicken coop in the winter?
If you decide to supplement heat in your coop, here are some tips I’ve gathered from those who’ve used our coop plans and have used electric heat effectively. Be sure to read the comments section for more tips, cautions, and advice, particularly if you keep males as well as females. . . .
- You don’t need to add much heat. For a small henhouse the 250W “brooder” bulbs may be too much. A 100W bulb should do. Radiant panel heaters with a thermostat are also available. See our online Buyer’s Guide for ideas.
- Don’t place the heat source directly over your chickens’ roost. Your hens need to be able to get away from it to regulate their temperature.
- Chickens get used to the heat, which is a problem if the power goes out. Basically, they get spoiled, so plan to stick with it if you start it. Have a backup plan in case a bulb fails or you lose power. And plan to wean them on and off of the heat gradually.
- Be careful with anything electrical in your chicken coop. Makeshift wiring can cause fire, as can the heat lamps themselves. Coop fires are a real problem. Consult a professional electrician. Keep lamps away from bedding, plastic, and other flammable materials. Use ceramic bulbs and fixtures. And make sure the bulb can’t accidentally swing into anything and break.
- A heated waterer may offer the most benefit, providing warm water for your hens and reducing the need for you to trek out to the coop as often. You still want to check on their water in a cold snap, especially if you’re using a nipple waterer where the water may stay liquid, but the exposed waterer nipples freeze. Again, see our online Buyer’s Guide for ideas.
- Finally, both visible spectrum lights and heat lamps give off some light, which may increase egg production in the winter. In fact, some people use lights on a timer specifically for this purpose, extending the day by a few hours in the morning and evening, but the merits of this practice are outside of the scope of this post.
Of course, the most important thing is to have fun this winter. Enjoy caring for your flock and watching all the amazing ways they adapt to the season. They are counting on you to help keep them happy and healthy. In return, you can count on them to get you out of the house and moving around — even when you’d rather stay cozy on the couch. 😉
Do you heat your chicken coop in the winter? How? And why or why not? Help make this post an even better resource by sharing your perspective in the comments below.
That’s it for our series on Winter Chicken Coop Care (if you missed the other posts, here’s a link back to the start). And here are all our posts tagged “Winter” if you want to see what others are doing.