Q: Is it okay to heat my coop in the winter? I don't want my flock to suffer!
A: We don't recommend you heat your coop unless your temps regularly drop below freezing... Seriously! Chickens adapt to the cold weather over time. Their body metabolism actually changes along with the seasons. When you heat your coop, the birds will never get used to the colder outside temperature -- so if the heat were to accidentally cut out causing a sudden change in temperature, you could literally lose your entire flock overnight. We've seen it happen.
(See? Here's an Easter Egger enjoying the out-of-doors in winter!)
ALSO, heated coops can catch on fire! We've heard from customers who have had this happen, and even one of our employees suffered a devastating chicken coop fire started by a heat lamp.
Heat lamps are an especially dangerous way to heat coops and brooders, because they are both dusty places, and the bedding itself is quite flammable. Double and triple check that you are not creating a fire hazard with your heat lamp.
If you live in a really cold climate, there are a few precautions you can take!:
1. Protect combs and wattles from frostbite by rubbing on petroleum jelly or another heavy moisturizer every few days.
2. Make sure the water supply does not freeze! This is very important. Chickens cannot live long without fresh water. If you don't have electricity in your coop and therefore cannot provide a water heater, we recommend you bring the waterer into your house every night, and return it outside every morning. Check the water once or twice a day to make sure it's not frozen.
3. Make sure your coop is ventilated, but not drafty. The ventilation will keep the air dry, which will go a long way toward protecting from frostbite. Dancing the line between well-ventilated and drafty can seem tricky, but think of it like this: your birds will fluff themselves up and trap body heat under their feathers. A drafty coop will allow the wind to lift up those feathers and the body heat to escape. A well ventilated coop, on the other hand, provides for good air exchange without allowing the wind to affect your birds. Read more about this in a great blog post about 8 things NOT to do when preparing your flock for winter.
All that said, if your area regularly sees temps below freezing, you may indeed need to give your flock a little heat boost to help them through the winter--and for that, there's nothing better than the safe, energy-efficient Sweeter Heater, OR the low-wattage Cozy Coop Heater!