A big question on backyard chicken keepers’ minds when the snow starts to fly and the temperature start to drop is to heat the coop or not to heat the coop. Some people emphatically say no way! And other chicken keepers think why wouldn’t you provide your chickens with a little bit of heat during cold weather? Ultimately the decision to heat or not to heat falls on you, but here’s some information to help you make your decision.
Risk of Fire
First and foremost, heating the chicken coop with a glass heating lightbulb can be a recipe for disaster. Even when they’re used with a protective cage, chickens can get pretty crazy in the coop. If they manage to knock a hot bulb out of its cage, and it comes into contact with dry bedding, it could cause the chicken coop to catch on fire.
Lots of people will tell you stories of their neighbors, or their friend’s friend, or their Great Aunt Mary who lost an entire chicken coop because a heating bulb exploded inside the coop. While I don’t personally know anyone that has happened to, it is certainly a possibility. During their crazy episodes, chickens can also come into contact with those really hot lightbulbs and burn themselves severely.
Properly Manage Your Coop
While I will do supplement my chicken coop with a little bit of heat during extreme weather (we’re talking the polar vortex of 2019), I prefer to properly manage my chicken coop so the chickens will be okay without extra heat. Seeking winter hardy chicken breeds, using a properly maintained deep litter method, providing a draft-free, yet ventilated chicken coop are all things you can do to help chickens thrive in winter without extra heat.
Give your chickens Warm Snacks and Water
Another way to help your chickens without heat during very cold weather is to give them warm water and warm snacks throughout the day. Cracked corn makes a great winter supplement and source of energy for your chickens, but make sure to feed them their normal chicken rations as well.
Adding Heat Safely
As I said, there are times when you might need to add heat when it is really unbelievably cold. We had a heater on our coop last winter during the polar vortex because it was just so so so cold. We made sure to minimize the risk of injury and fire by using a flat panel radiant heater instead of glass lightbulbs in cages. Read my post on SimplifyLiveLove if you’d like more ideas for keeping chickens warm in winter without electricity.