Should You Heat Your Chicken Coop? Warm Chickens Without Burning Your Coop
Short answer: If you want to, yes.
Believe it or not, this question stirs up many passionate emotions among chicken keepers and chicken experts.
The argument goes like this: Most people who heat their chicken coops do so with heat lamps or space heaters, which, while they work, present a significant fire risk, especially in small chicken coops filled with straw, feathers, and unruly chickens. (you can read this detailed article about Solar Chicken Coop Heater)
It is all too easy for a bird to knock something over. Not to mention their preternatural ability to poop on everything (I once had to scrub chicken poop off a ceiling. That’s talent!).
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In addition, many experts will point out that chickens are covered with feathers, one of Nature’s most efficient insulators.
The reasoning goes that chickens, walking around with their feather coats, will probably be OK in just about any low temperature possible as long as they have a warm coop with dry straw to get into at night.
I am pretty sure, with certain exceptions, of course, that this is true.
But, I chose to heat our chicken coops whenever it gets near freezing, usually with a heat lamp.
There’s a reason for this: I believe in keeping animals as happy as possible.
For the most part, this isn’t difficult. You find out what your animals need and provide it to them. This philosophy does get a bit more difficult at the time. Who is to say what proper mental stimulation for a chicken is?
It must be noted, however, that chickens did not evolve for captivity. They were originally called Indonesian Jungle Fowl, and they roamed the jungles of Southeast Asia, flourishing despite their current reputation.
Whenever we domesticate animals, I feel we have a certain responsibility to steward those animals as best as we can. We can, and will, disagree about what that means, but it’s essential that keeping chickens be something viewed as just as much a responsibility for a chicken keeper as much as anything else.
So, whenever I — and I’m betting most of the people reading this — build a coop, I make sure it has all the things a chicken needs: It’s warm, appropriately ventilated, and clean.
When it gets hot, I put ice and mint in their drinking water in the summer and even put fans and misters in the coop to help cool the animals.
So, when it gets cold enough in the winter, I make sure the coop is free from drafts, filled with clean straw, and heated.
I, personally, use a heat lamp. The goal is to keep the coop’s interior temperature above freezing, even if only a degree or two. I also keep water in the coop so they don’t have to leave the warmth to hydrate.
I use the heat lamp because it is more likely to fail, which results in fire. If the lamp is knocked over, the bulb is more likely to break than cause a fire.
Also, to prevent this, I use a clip-on lamp, usually attached to a roof joist with screws put in place to keep it from falling. I also staple any extension cords out of reach of the birds. Yes, there’s still a risk, but it’s minimal.
Other chicken keepers buy heaters for the keep built explicitly for that purpose.
I do this because it makes them happy — or at least seems to; there’s a certain amount of interpretation when it comes to keeping a chicken happy.
Happy chickens — that is, less stressed chickens — produce more meat and eggs. Besides that, as I stated earlier, keeping animals is a responsibility that many of us are proud of and enjoy.
So, if you want to heat your chicken coop, go ahead. If you are a responsible animal owner, you are aware of and able to mitigate the risks.
If you’re not a responsible animal owner, then nothing anyone’s going to say is going to change that. 
Although chickens are resilient, they can become sick quickly if they don’t get enough warmth.
Some people use heat lamps to heat their chicken coops, but these can cause fires if they are not correctly maintained or malfunction.
These seven helpful steps will ensure that your chickens are safe from the cold.
Wind chill can cause heat loss from your chicken coop to increase. As the nights draw in, you should make sure that any air leaks are well sealed. You shouldn’t find any gaps if your coop is brand new. However, if your chicken coop has been around for more than 4-5 years, then there are likely to be parts that have rotted and need to be replaced.
A plywood piece cut to size can be used to cover the hole. This is the quickest and most cost-effective way to fix the holes. To prevent your temperature from dropping too fast, make sure your vent is functioning correctly.
Make sure your coop is well ventilated.
You shouldn’t make any holes in your chicken coop that allow cold air to enter, but you should also not reduce the airflow too much. This could lead to ammonia buildup. You should have a proper ventilation system installed to prevent this.
Vents should be located towards the roof of your coop so that cold air can’t flow onto your chickens. You can keep your birds’ bedding dry and humid by venting out moistened air.
Your mesh vent should have a hatch you can open and close. You will be able to vent the coop properly during the day and then close it in the evening, colder, or during heavy rain.
Use the “Deep Litter Method”
Deep litter is a sustainable method of managing your chicken coop’s litter. It can also be used to insulate your flock in colder weather: layer pine shavings and other organic matter on the floor to get started. You don’t have to clean up or replace the chicken waste you collect. All you need is to stir the bedding with a light brush and let the natural movements of your flock will do the rest.
The litter can be made well and topped with pine shavings regularly. Good microbes will enter the compost layer and eat the harmful bacteria from the chickens’ waste. This will not only insulate your chicken coop during winter but also prevents mite and lice infestations.
To trap heat, use sunlight.
Winter days are shorter, but the sun can still heat the coop during daylight hours. If you have a dark or dirt floor or use the Deep Litter Method, well-insulated windows can be used as sun traps.
Your coop will retain heat longer if it has more ‘thermal mass’. Thermal mass is the measure of how well a material absorbs heat and releases it later. Your coop will release heat more slowly after the sun goes down if it has more thermal mass. Material like concrete, stone, and compost will retain heat more during the day while releasing it during the night.
You must ensure that your chickens have access to the roost.
If you want your chickens to stay warm, it is important that they can roost. Chickens will naturally roost together and fluff their feathers to keep them snug. Your roosts should be at least 2 feet above the ground. A roost at least 2 feet above the ground gives your pet security and protects them from the cold ground.
It’s crucial to ensure that all your chickens can comfortably roost in winter. You can check this by looking in the evening with your torch. One rooster should not be on the ground. If they are, the space will be limited, and the roosts must be extended. Roosts should be at least 2 feet above the ground.
You can make them a sunroom.
It’s tempting to keep your birds indoors from the cold, but your flock will be happier if they can move freely. You can give your birds more space by adding a greenhouse-like ‘cold frame to your coop. Cover it with clear plastic to protect them from the elements.
Your birds will be able to move around freely and get fresh air. However, they will also be protected against wind, rain, and snow.
Breeds with large wattles and combs may be more vulnerable to frostbite during the coldest months. You can protect them by covering their wattles and combs with petroleum jelly.
These steps will ensure your birds are happy and healthy during winter. You can keep your birds warm and healthy by taking care of your chicken coop and paying attention to your flock.