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Heat lamps for chickens in Winter? How Stupid is it?

It’s a question I get asked a lot: Heat lamps for chickens in winter? Good Idea or no?

Many people believe that heat lamps for chickens in winter are not necessary. But that’s one person’s opinion versus another person.

There’s a lot of factors to consider here and it can be a very sensitive topic for chicken owners.

In this post, I will:

– Tackle the topic of heat lamps for chickens in winter.
– Attempt to cover all of the factors involved when trying to decide if this is a stupid decision or not.
– Provide some alternative resources and products for warmth for your chickens.

Disclaimer: There are NO stupid questions. I really honestly don’t like the word stupid BUT I want to cover every angle of this topic fully. Please know that if you’re truly thinking about heat lamps, you’re like many other people in the world. It’s not entirely stupid. You just care about your animals and I respect that. about you.

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heat lamps for chickens in winter

What You Need To Know About Chickens and Cold

Adult chickens can take a lot of cold. It’s true. They’ve adapted for hundreds of years to this climate and they can take it. Here’s how:

– Their layers of feathers insulate them. So, they are much more easily stressed by heat than cold.

– Chickens need to be able adapt to the cold.

– Chickens need to be kept dry.

That being said, baby chicks under 6 weeks of age need some supplemental heat of some sort. I’m going to talk about some alternatives to heat lamps later if that’s what you want to do.

Here’s what ALL chickens big and small need to stay warm, dry and happy in Winter:

  • Draft free shelter
  • Safety from predators
  • Food and water
  • Light
  • Bedding

But I don’t want to rule out heat lamps completely because there are some instances where it’s the only option. I want to talk about the good, bad and ugly of heat lamps. First, let’s cover the good.

Good Things About Heat Lamps

So, there are some really great things about heat lamps. Many chicken owners (myself included) have used heat lamps for certain reasons successfully.

I definitely won’t judge anyone who makes a decision to use a heat lamp for alternative heat. I understand there are alternative options but heat lamps are the only option.

As I mentioned above, chickens can handle a lot of cold. But if the cold gets down to frost bite cold (negative temperatures), that could be a little too much for your chickens. There’s a risk they could freeze to death in this type of cold.

I’ve definitely seen this happen in my area of Kansas. Our winters can get that cold here. I’ve had chickens get frost bitten even without a heat lamp. What would have happened if I hadn’t provided any heat for them at all?

If you choose to use a heat lamp, there’s always risks.

I’m not ruling that out. But, there’s bigger risks if it’s going to be cold and a heat lamp is the only option.

The good part of heat lamps is that they do put off heat for your chickens. They do help if installed correctly and carefully. I’m going to cover installation and care of heat lamps later on, so keep reading.

In a nutshell, I’m not against using heat lamps for chickens. I think there are good things about them if used properly. You have to think of the bad things that could happen and prevent them. Let’s talk about some of those bad things about heat lamps.

Bad Things About Heat Lamps

Here’s what I hear a lot about heat lamps: “Heat is to make humans feel better.” They are to help us sleep better on cold nights knowing our birds will be warm and cozy in their coop.

But what if the power goes out? This could be worse than fire.

As I mentioned above, chickens need to be able to adapt to the cold. If the power goes out and you lose heat lamps, what happens? What’s the risk?

Well, the risk is that the heat goes out and your birds could die because they aren’t adapted to the cold. Unfortunately, this is a problem that can’t be controlled because we can’t control the weather.

One solution: You can purchase generators like this one to keep your heat lamps going through the cold. Or you can just keep your chickens in a thick-walled, draft free coop with bedding and risk the loss of their combs. The choice is yours. I’m giving you all parameters here.

Of course, there’s worse things that could happen and let’s talk about that now.

The Ugly Things About Heat Lamps

Of course, it’s widely known that heat lamps have been the caused of many fires to chicken coops, barns, and even houses. How does this happen?

Well, innocently, chickens bounce around the coop and knock the lamp. They could knock out the heat lamp light and it falls to the floor with all the bedding. If still plugged in, the heat from the light can start fire to the bedding.

Also, maybe the light was installed too close to the bedding and…same story as above. It’s too close and started a flame.

This is the ugliest of the ugliness about heat lamps. Who wants to use them when you hear stories like these? It definitely doesn’t make me want to.

Luckily, there’s options that are tried and true. In the next section, I’m going to give you some alternatives to heat lamps you might like to try.

What to Use Instead

In this section, I’m going to talk about a few alternative heat sources to heat lamps.

1. The first is the Brooding Heat Panels. These panels are adjustable and looks like a big flat screened TV. Be sure to double mount them to make secure them in your coop.

2. The next alternative is heat plates. The nice thing about these is that your chickens can still roost comfortably.

3. Radiant Coop Heater – This heating source has a metal safety grill keeping heat from becoming in contact with bedding and other flammable items. Also, it will automatically shut off if overheated.

4. Heated waterers are a great way to keep your chickens’ body temperatures warm when they drink. If your coop is draft free and warm, this may be all your chickens need.

5. Sweeter Heaters are a great alternative heat source that’s known to also be energy efficient. It will shut off automatically if heat is not allowed to escape.

Sadly, the bad thing about most of these alternatives is that if you ever lose power, you could lose your heat sources as well.

Again, there’s ways to make the coop toasty warm as possible without the use of heat. These are just some things to think about. As long as their coop is draft free, has ventilation and their feet can be flat on their roost so their body can cover them, they will be warm.

Some ideas for keeping chickens from getting frost bite include:

– Putting Vaseline on their combs.
– Keeping lots of straw or wood shavings in the coop that they can snuggle in.
– Insulating the sides of the chicken coop. Invest in some foam insulation here.

Also, giving some feed each day will give them extra energy to endure the cold on their own. Here’s my choice for cold weather energy for chickens.

Please note that I’m very neutral to the use of heat lamps. I believe we all have a choice whether to use them or not. They are available to use if you want to. The main thing to do is to keep them secure.

Here’s some ways to use heat lamps safely if you would decide to use them.

If You Do Decide to Use Heat Lamps…

The main thing to never ever do with heat lamps is to just trust the clamp. You have to make sure it’s secure.

Use a heavy chain or wire the clamp good around the rafters. You can also attach the light to a chain with a D Clip. Be sure the shield is on securely where the bulb can’t be knocked out. Never use any ropes or twine or anything flammable to tie on a heat lamp.

The rafters at the top of the coop is a good place to secure the heat lamp. This way, you can attach all the cords to the ceiling before crossing the inside of the coop to an outlet. All cords should be out of the way of any chickens tripping on them.

You can also make a soft landing for the heat lamp bulb in case it would happen to get loose and pop out. Install something like a metal mesh strainer with wing nuts just in case the bulb would happen to fall out – it would land there safely and not break.

A safer heat lamp to use is the Prima Heat Lamp by Premier 1. Of course, you need to install it correctly and then check it regularly to make sure there are no problems.

So, now you have some good installation instructions and things to keep in mind when using a heat lamp the right way.

heat lamps for chickens in winter

It’s all up to you

I’ve given you the good, bad and the ugly of using heat lamps to keep your chickens warm. The pros, cons, alternatives and instructions for safely installing heat lamps. But not only that, what to use instead.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: These are your birds. I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. This is purely your decision to make.

And I can guarantee, your decision will NOT be stupid if you just act smart about it.

I hope I’ve given you a multitude of options here for you to make the right decision about heat lamps for chickens in Winter on your own. I truly hope this helps you. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.