Saturday, January 26, 2019

To Heat or Not to Heat

To heat or not to heat, THAT is the question.  Winter is surely upon us and we have had some exceptionally frigid temps the past week.  We were having such a mild winter and then BAM, it hit.  Winter vortex.  Freezing cold.  Brrrrr!!  If you had the perfect, right answer then you would be a very rich person.  There is always an ongoing discussion in the chicken world about whether to heat your coop or not and just how cold is too cold for your chickens.

The catch is that there are SO many factors to consider.  What is your climate like in general, is humidity a problem, what breeds of chickens do you have, etc.??  If you have had chickens for any length of time then you know what they say about chickens surviving cold over heat to be true.  They can tolerate very frigid temps but tend to have many more issues with excessive heat.

I have been raising chickens for 5 years now and while I am FAR from any type of expert, I have experienced a lot in these past years.  I have learned that they certainly can tolerate cold MUCH better than the heat.  I have never lost one to the cold but I have lost 1 or 2 from the heat.  We don't have electricity in the coop but we do run electrical cords year round now.  I use heated waterers in the winter and fans in the summer.  While any type of electricity can be a potential fire hazard, I do agree that heat lamps in the coop are just not safe.  Many, many coops have burnt to the ground from heat lamps and some have even lost their homes and their lives because of it.

After watching my girls struggle so much during the winter last year when we had negative temps, I still wanted to provide some type of heat or warmth (we do have older hens now and it shows in the cold).  I did have one of those hard plastic radiant type heat pads that you buy for outdoor cats/dogs plugged in for the past couple of years.  It doesn't heat anything but I have watched some of my older crew and snuggle up next to it when they got too chilled.

I have learned that even newly hatched chicks can survive the cold with a good momma.  Twice now I've had hens go broody much too late in the year and hatch babies in the winter.  I had heard from another chicken momma that babies do just fine but not until I experienced it myself did I truly believe it.  Amazing, momma keeps them plenty warm and you will notice them mature and feather out faster and be more healthy and vibrant from being raised in that type of environment.  They have always been my healthiest chickens.

All that being said, I did just purchase and had hubby install our new Cozy Coop radiant heater in the main coop.  I still have 3 other coops with chickens that have no heat whatsoever and probably never will.  None of the coops are insulated but we have gone to great lengths to ensure that they are all well ventilated.  Everyone says it over and over again and it is so true, "keep them dry, draft free, and well ventilated and they will do fine."

I am happy to report that the heater does not heat the coop whatsoever.  As a matter of fact, I have noticed that it doesn't even heat up the roost that is about 6 inches away.  While in my opinion even on the lowest setting (there are two--high and low) it is too hot for me to keep my hand on it without feeling like it is burning, it does allow for them to warm themselves if they feel the need by camping out right next to it.  We mounted it on the wall just behind the roosting area and I know they appreciate the extra warmth at night during these frigid nights.  It is in my main coop and there are 38 chickens in there and they roost in different spots so almost half of them do not roost anywhere near the heat source and they do just fine!  I just keep it on low and let them decide how they want to use it.  I generally do not notice anyone fighting to be near it during the day which is good. I installed it mostly for any crazy temp drops like last year and for peace of mind for me.  If we lost power, not a big deal since it is not raising temps at all and they are clearly not depending on it for constant warmth.

Again, heating is so dependent on your personal feelings and those I stated above about weather and types of chickens.  Our weather can range from low negative temps (generally not lower than -10 degrees Fahrenheit) to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (I think our hottest so far with chickens has been about 102 with pretty high humidity and boy were they struggling).  Most, if not all, of my flock is pretty much dual purpose birds and tend to all do just fine in hot or cold temps.  Some breeds can't tolerate cold at all and some can't tolerate heat at all.  I have barred rocks, easter eggers, a rhode island red, a leghorn, buff orpingtons, lavender orpingtons, brahmas, speckled sussexes, black copper marans, silver-laced wyandottes, australorps, various sex links, homegrown mutts, and even 1 purebred silkie boy.

To heat or not to heat?  That will be up to you to decide.  Do you heat your coop(s)?  Why or why not?


Disclaimer:  This is NOT a sponsored post and there are no affiliate links.  I simply shared what is working for me and what I like so far.

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