To heat or not to heat. That is the question. Okay so maybe it’s not THE question, but it’s one of many that you may have when it comes to chicken raising. I bought our own first 6 chickens over 5 years ago now and in that time I’ve read a lot of conflicting information regarding heating the chicken coop during the winter. Dan and I talked quite a bit about whether or not (could we afford to run electric out to the chickens, could we live with fewer eggs in the winter, etc, etc) to heat our coop and we finally decided not to. Here are 5 reasons I don’t heat my chicken coop.
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This is the biggest reason why we don’t heat our coop; there is no electricity. Right now we really don’t want to run a power line out there either. Yes we could run a heavy-duty extension cord out there and run a heat lamp off of that, but that is just plain dangerous. We would have to run the extension cord across our driveway where it would be driven over every day and perhaps damaged by a snow plow (if we ever get any snow) and then as soon as it dries out, one spark is all it would take to burn everything down.
Heat lamps and space heaters increase the chance of fire. There’s no getting around it, chicken coops are dusty and after time dust builds up on hot heat lamps. Once that happens, I feel it would only be a matter of time before we had 24 fire roasted chickens-anyone up for Roasted chicken Ala 100-year-old chicken coop? We could buy expensive light set ups that reduce the risk of fire, but honestly we don’t have that kind of money.
I have a well small well insulated chicken coop. If you have a smaller coop, adequate shavings and more chickens, the heat created by their bodies is generally more than enough to keep them warm. A close friend of mine lost at least 2 chickens one winter. She or a family member would go out in the morning and there would be a frozen chicken sitting on the roost. They had a huge coop and even though they had a lot of chickens they couldn’t create enough body heat to fill all that space. After they invested in a heater, the coop stayed warm enough for the all of their chickens, and turkeys.
Not heating the coop gives them a chance to rest. Chickens, like humans, slow down during the winter. Decreased winter light signals their bodies to go in to vacation mode and not create as many eggs. This gives their bodies a chance to re-coup and focus on other things – like – re-growing their feathers (anyone else have chickens that decide to molt in the dead of winter?!). If there are heat lamps creating light in their coop, they never get that decrease in darkness that their bodies really need. I have found heaters though that provide heat with no light, but I’ve never used one.
Increased life span. A chicken who makes an egg every single day for her entire life is going to have a much harder life than one who is allowed to rest and recover. Therefore it stands to reason that a chicken who lays an egg everyday will have a decreased lifespan. I could heat my coop and get lots and lots of eggs the first couple of years but then their bodies can’t keep up and I’d be stuck with a middle-aged stringy hen that may not even be fit for the stew pot.
Now, just because I don’t heat my coop doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. In some parts of the country winter temperatures get so cold really need some sort of heat source. I decided to do a little research on heat sources that aren’t a heat lamp. After doing a little research and checking around, I found the Cozy Products Safe Chicken Coop Pet Heater (affiliate link). This neat little radiant/convection heater might just do the trick for some of you folks that get pretty cold winters. From everything I’ve read on it, it’s not a total coop heater, it heats a smaller area inside the coop and raises the temperature just enough to take the chill off. It looks to be especially beneficial for molting hens. I like that you can use either the stand (which I wouldn’t do because I know my girls would roost on it) or you can attach it to the wall. It also doesn’t use too much power which is nice for those of us on a budget. All in all it seems like a pretty good little heater at a very reasonable price.
What are your thoughts on heating the chicken coop? Do you heat yours?