Safe Chicken Coop Heater For Warm & Cozy (Mid Winter Update)

I did my research for chicken coop heat that’s safe. I first installed just one of these heaters. Awhile later I purchased a second heater for more distribution across the roost since my birds take up nearly the entire length at night. It is a radiant heat and is reportedly safe for applications such as this.

UPDATE – End of January, 19 below zero… (see below)

While I researched for a chicken coop heater, I had read numerous horror stories about the coop catching on fire (different heaters). When you think about it, you’ve got a perfect combustion setup just waiting for a flame… lots of dust, shavings, etc…

That’s what led me to this one. It doesn’t get hot enough to combust. It’s radiant heat. My chickens love it. It does look like a flat screen TV. I think they’ve been waiting for me to hook up the satellite :)

Chicken Coop Heat

>> view heater on amzn

It has two heat settings. 100 watts / 200 watts. The switch has three positions: 100W – OFF – 200W.

There is no temperature control. So I purchased a temperature controller and repurposed it as a chicken coop heater temperature controller.

>> WILLHI WH1436A
(view on amzn)

You can adjust it to turn on and turn off at any temperature. I currently have it set to come on at 25 and off at 32. Although in reality chickens are going to be fine at those temperatures (but Mrs.J wants them to be warm and cozy). If it were me, I’d probably have it come on only when it got a bit colder than that. But that’s not a battle worth having just to save ~20-cents in electricity overnight ;)

WH1436A temperature controller

During the day we shut off the little toggle switch for each heater so it doesn’t run all day (on cold days) and waste electricity while they’re outside in the pen or wherever. Before sunset we turn them back on and let the temperature controller do its thing.

When I built my chicken coop, I told you how I insulated it:

[ Read: Chicken Coop Insulation | How I Am Insulating And What Iโ€™m Using ]

Well, it’s working out pretty good! We have had some fairly cold nights so far this early winter (around zero degrees). I’ve noticed that the heaters will generally add at least 20 degrees inside the coop – as long as their little coop door is closed. And that’s with vents up at the top too…not bad!

Oh, by the way, I generally leave the heaters on 100 watts (saves some electricity). But if it’s forecast to get real cold, I’ll switch it to 200 watts.

Note: Never close the chicken coop vents all the way – to keep it warmer inside – even when it’s cold. They NEED ventilation. They could actually get frost bit from excess moisture inside if you don’t vent. I do partially block the vents during winter (compared with summer), but you still need to be careful to leave enough ventilation.

As you would expect, the cold air readily comes in when their door is opened in the morning – although it still remains about 5 – 10 degrees warmer inside, depending.

We always get periods during the winter when we hit the 20’s below zero. Sometimes 30 below! We’ll see what happens when we get there…

One more thing… They say if you feed chickens cracked corn, they will stay warmer at night. Something about digestion. So that’s what we do:

One more tip: When it’s really cold in the morning, you better get those eggs promptly – or they’ll freeze and crack! Ask me how I know…

UPDATE: The heart of winter – end of January

How to Heat Chicken Coop When It’s Below Zero Outside!

The outside temperature this morning was -19 degrees, as in below zero. C-c-ccold! Though typically expected up here during the heart of winter.

The subzero temperatures were forecast, so I know it was coming. I knew that I would have my two radiant chicken coop heaters set to “high” (200 watts each). But in addition, I screwed in a infrared heat lamp into the coop’s light fixture for added heat.

First, I had to replace the light bulb fixture itself from the original plastic type over to a porcelain fixture (should have done that in the first place). A heat lamp gets hot, so for safety I swapped the fixture. Anyway, do you want to know the results?

It was 19 below at around 7 AM this morning. I checked my chicken-cam to read the temp display inside the coop – which was 22 degrees! Nice! Heaters were adding 40 degrees (though I don’t want to calculate the electric bill).

Those birds would have gotten some nasty frost bite on their crowns. A few of them have already been bitten/nipped (slightly) but this would have been bad…

They were quite upset because I kept their coop door closed until the outside temperature warmed up to at least zero at around 9 AM. You should have heard them impatiently squawking…until I let them out as they sprinted down the ramp, apparently ‘starving’, right to their food! Spoiled birds…

Here’s a few photo snaps from chicken-cam this morning:

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45 Comments

  1. Does anyone know (1st hand) what temperature (and duration of that temp) the birds might be in danger? I have had no problem in the past with my chickens dying due to the cold. They seem to do ok so far. I do feed them very well and they are champs for laying all year long without a night light. My temp range goes down to maybe 0 degrees for short periods. I have no insulation in the coop. I would like to have a setup for heat if needed.

        1. Don’t just use extra bedding chips, you need to let the droppings build up as the decomposition of the.poop adds heat…

    1. SoulSurvivor,

      Used deep litter, canvas tarp to form a hood and trap body heat over the roost, and heated waterer. When temps dipped down to -25F, I added a heat lamp angled so light directed at the roost. Uninsulated coop. At -25, the rooster had frostbite on the tips of his comb. This was with Buff Orpingtons – a pretty cold hardy breed.

      1. Farmgirl – Wow -25? Talk about a well diggers……! I’d have to pile that litter knee high to a 40 foot Indian. Thanks for the info.. I don’t have hard wire to the coop. Guess I could run a HD extension cord if I need a heat lamp.

        1. SS,

          That’s what I had to do – run an extension cord. Not far, just from wired shed to coop right next to it. One thing to think about, safety wise, is keep the cord elevated so the chickens can’t get to it and water can’t spill on it. I brought mine in through an opening at ceiling height, and held it up with a couple hooks in the ceiling. That canvas tarp really made a difference by itself. Chickens generate a lot of heat, and trapping that around them at night helps. I made it sort of like a bed canopy, but left the bottom half of the roost open, and one side open when the heat lamp went on.

    2. The otherhalf worries of the chickens in the teens and below.
      Their waddles and combs can get frostbite.
      Especially after drinking their water, which is usually heated.
      They are free to roam about, but enclosed at night.
      Depending on the severity of the temps, a heat lamp is used to warm the coop(s).

      I like Ken’s method…
      safer.

      Hell, maybe NRP can move into the coop and stay out of the pole barn loft.

      1. Joe c – Thanks for the info.. Heated water? I just change it out frequently when it freezes as I have no electricity at the coop. Is there another way? I do that for my ducks too.

        1. SS
          Pounding out ice or taking dishes in to thaw is a pain.
          Use rubber tubs if you must.
          We run an outside HD extension cord, set on a timer, for additional light, heat and water’s.
          Not the best set up, but…..
          we do what we do.

          Did I ever mention,
          I dislike winter?.

          1. I’m using a heated water-er that I bought at Tractor Supply. It automatically comes on when temp is below freezing. Works well. Just add it to the winter electric bill! Winter eggs cost more…

          2. Yeah, no kidding…

            Hmm
            I’ve never seen/heard of such a waterer and Christmas is over…

            Thanks for the heads up, Ken…
            I’ll have to take a look at TSC.

          3. Ken – Thanks to you, and all, for getting the wheels turning. I don’t like to use extension cords outside in bad weather. TSC heater & Iron Edison battery – Solar panel & Heat lamp. Got it ! (Amish around here call those batteries “canned sunshine”)

          4. We use those black thick rubber round “bowl” tubs, maybe 18 inches in diameter for watering our ducks and chickens. It does freeze but we put in fresh water in the morning and late afternoon. Also every day (once) scrub out with a little scrub brush. I think ducks like warm water enemas. In the coop is a red base heated waterer. We have the cord running up the wall and into a socket well out of splash and peck reach.

            We have lots of hay under the heavy duty shelter (which is right next to chicken coop) for the ducks to keep warm. They are insulated from wind and weather quite well.
            Chickens sleep in the cabin coop. We have deep litter plus one ceramic tile heater that keeps it above freezing. It has lasted for 10+ years. Don’t remember the brand name though.

            PS Your set up is AMAZING! Love to see well cared for birds! :)

      2. Joe c:
        Let me tell ya son.
        I’ve had a MANY good nights in the old Hay Loft staying as warm as ya can imagine
        ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜
        Any questions?

        1. Yep, only one question, NRP….

          Does Ken know?….

          Maybe his layers are producing more than he is actually getting?

    3. I read chickens need protection if it gets to 0. We had chickens in Alaska and just had a heat lamp over the water. They did fine. Coop was always cozy

    4. We use deep litter method and have never had a death from cold. But at minus 30 degrees F, I did see some frozen skin on rooster comb. Our coop is not insulated. Lesson to me – only have chickens with small combs.

  2. Thatโ€™s a great setup! Coldest it gets here is high 20โ€™s. Our only problem is they love to get soaked in the rain on cold days. Now if there is rain in the forecast I donโ€™t let them out of their run/coop so they stay dry.

    1. Glad to hear someone else using the same controller. It is a good one! I’m sure the chickens appreciate the decimal point on its accuracy too! (grin)

  3. Fogg Horn Legg Horn would say โ€œI say, I say Boy thatโ€™s a mighty fine, high society chicken mansion you got thereโ€. ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. Bought one of those radiant heaters this fall. Barn is 8ร—12,so far one heater is keeping things at least at freezing!
    We are mid state in Grafton County, don’t normally get as cold as Ken but did last night.
    Just received electric bill and so far running less than a heat lamp.
    Safety a big plus also, we had a close call when birds nocked heat lamp down and scorched the floor. Never did figure out how they could do it where the heat lamp was!

    1. Hello fellow Granite Stater! I am in the Monadnock region on the Mass border but at about 1600 feet in altitude…gets darn cold here.

      1. I am also in the Monadnock region. Just got freaked out about using the heat lamp. When it is raining in the winter, I turn it on to get them dry. I didn’t think about the downy feathers floating up and catching fire on the hot bulb. Augh! I am not trying to baby my chickens, just trying to get them safely through the winter. Oil filled electric heater is my pick so far.

    1. Same here Nor. I live by st.louis. This last could spell didn’t bother them. I have an enclosed “Foyer” that goes into the nest boxes. And they still stayed on the outside.
      The problem with getting chickens used to climate controlled spaces is that it can make it to where they lose the natural ability to survive when the heater ain’t there.

  5. Speaking of chickens, I just saw on ice age farmer that the UK just banned outdoor chicken flocks.

  6. Ken
    Like you I had to add a heat lamp last night, but I only have one heater. Down to 25 degrees in the morning, not bad!
    Egg production still good and no sign of frostbite.

  7. I’m really struggling with the whole chicken thing…..my biggest concern is what to do when you go on vacation for a week or so. We have no family around and our closest neighbors I would never ask to tend to them, just because we don’t know them well enough. What is the longest chickens can be left “unattended”?

    1. Wisconsin Badger don’t you think it might be a good idea to know your neighbors friend? Chat them up, do something for them first. Maybe given the snowstorms lately help them with their driveway?

      Someone smarter than I said both trouble and help will mostly come from a few miles of your home. Best to know if they are worthwhile friends or not?

      Most folks are stand offish because they expect to be taken advantage of or offend someone. Show them that your a honest helper and maybe you have someone to help you later.

      But to answer your question given a predator proof chicken house and yard (good luck with that, most failures take a few days of determined effort by the predator), self collecting roll away egg boxes (so they don’t learn to eat them) an automatic solar chicken door to let them in and out as well as food and water… maybe 3 days in my opinion?

      Trusted friends are an asset beyond value.

    2. Yes, it’s definitely a commitment. The length of time unattended would depend on how you’ve set up waterers and feeders. So, it’s difficult to answer that one. Plus, there are predator issues to be concerned about (and mitigate — i’ve got an automatic coop door for example). With my present set up, I could do about 3 days away without someone else helping out. We’ve been at the homestead every day since we got the chicks, so I haven’t had to test that situation… Oh, and then what about all the eggs building up in the nesting box! Whoops…

    3. Wisconsin Badget,
      It depends on security of place you have them.heat/cold of nest box areas. lot of variables.. Feed and water containers chosen and utilized.. number of chickens.. 6-9 chickens in a secure covered run with attached coop/automatic door… 5 gallon waters/ filled with float valve(s)…3 gallon feeders one needs to have lime/calcium. one layer pellets… can go several days.,if adequate scratch/grass is available….
      one good way to check feed: is fill feeders/ see how long between fills.if mine are free ranging i fll my 30 lb feeder about every 4 days…if not feed required triples…esp winter.. summer more bugs are available…
      Many time a close neighbor or a reliable teen will check chickens,feed and water in exchange for eggs or a few $ for a few days. If you want a neighbor be a neighbor.

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