Winterizing the Coop


Posted in Chickens | Posted on 28-10-2009

Winter is well on its way, and even though our hens are winter hardy breeds, it gets down below -20F here on some winter nights, and much colder still with the windchill.  Many people don’t  heat their coops, but I chose to heat mine.  I wanted to keep my birds healthy and I didn’t want to lose a bunch of eggs on those cold winter mornings if I am unable to collect eggs before they freeze,  so heating seemed like the best option.

After doing research on various heating methods, I learned about a beginner’s mistake to avoid, be careful not to seal the coop too tightly.  The birds need to stay out of direct breezes, but they also need adequate ventilation.  Their waste and their breath all put moisture into the air which can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which can make your birds sick, or worse yet, cause some to die.  Large amounts of ammonia fumes can come from their waste as well, which may also make your birds ill if they don’t get some fresh air.

When I built the coop I already put a screened vent in the top left wall under the roof so that the summer’s heat wouldn’t build up and cook my birds, only I felt that it was now going to let all the heat out of the coop, so I adjusted it to be more restrictive.

The chickens door that leads out to their attached run can be closed, but I didn’t like the idea of them being locked up in their coop all winter, or dependent upon me to let them out every morning.  After doing a little online searching, I found a company that supplies walk-in freezer doors, and bought some heavy duty clear plastic sheeting to make a flap to cover the chickens door to the outside world.

I just made a few cuts in the plastic sheeting, then made the flaps slightly overlap and then mounted them to the inside of the door.  It took a couple days before my chickens learned how to go out…and then back in on their own, but they soon learned and now they are able to go in and out all year long whenever they want, while the flaps keep the rain and cold out, but they also provide some minor ventilation for the winter.

Once the coop was better insulated, yet still well ventilated, it was time to install some heating.  I went to the hardware store and purchased a ceramic light fixture which I mounted to the ceiling of the coop, over the roost where the chickens sleep at night.  I found a small Plug-in Thermostat
on Amazon that I plugged into the power strip that I had already wired into the coop, then plugged the new light fixture into the thermostat.

Now, when the temp drops below 20F, the thermostat kicks on a 60 watt heat lamp that helps to warm up the coop, while not making it too warm so that the birds are still able to acclimate to the winter weather.  The red bulb also makes it so the chickens can sleep at night while the light is on, making them less stressed and less aggressive toward one another.

One last purchase was added to finish off the coop’s winter readiness, I bought a heated dog water bowl which is also plugged into the power strip in the coop, and even though it draws very little wattage, it keeps their water from freezing in cold weather.

In this picture to the right, the blue bowl is the Heated Dog Water Bowl, which fits nicely underneath the laying boxes.  This placement also allows easy access for me to dump the water when it gets dirty, cleaning of the bowl and refilling with clean water.

There is a food bowl next to the heated water bowl which I placed into the coop for the winter months, during the warm months it will be removed and the chickens will be fed outside.  In this picture, the chickens are eating their daily treat of spinach.

Now the chickens should be able to take on the cold of winter, and I’ll have less work taking care of them over the winter.