Heat in the Coop?
Keeping Your Chickens Warm
Content supplied by Purina
If you don't have a roof on your chicken run, you might want to consider adding one, at least for the winter. (In summer, it will be a good source of shade, too!)
To create a wind and weather break, add construction-grade plastic sheeting around turn-out areas. This serves several purposes. It will keep out wind, rain and snow which will also help keep the area dry. If the ground is dry and there's no snow on it, chickens are happier to go outside of the coop. It also makes one less area for you to shovel! It is a good idea to ventilate though, so be sure to leave some small areas at the top of the turn out for fresh air to get in, without compromising the integrity of your cover!
We've talked a lot about how to prepare the chicken coop for winter, and why it's important for chickens to go outside. Many people ask the question, "Should I heat the chicken coop?" But by now, you can probably guess that the answer to this question is "No." You do not need to heat your chicken coop.
Heaters are difficult to properly install, and if they fall or get loose, they run a very high risk of starting a fire. If you have a power loss and there is suddenly no heat, flocks can be wiped out in very little time. Birds need time to adapt to cold, and once they are used to it they do just fine. But, if they are used to a heater in the dead of winter, then the heat source is lost, the consequences can be dire.
Please note that care for baby chicks is completely different — chicks do need supplemental heat for the first few weeks of life, regardless of outside temperature. That's a topic for another day. Adult chicken care is not the same!
If you absolutely insist on heating your coop, there are a few guidelines you should stick to. First, buy a high quality product from your local farm supply store. Do it yourself (DIY) projects are too risky.
Have a qualified electrician install a proper outlet in the coop. Running long extension cords from the house or garage is a safety hazard and is asking for trouble. Avoid heat lamps, especially those used for brooders. They are hard to secure properly, and if the hot surface falls on dry litter, you have a recipe for disaster. Radiant or flat panel heaters are sometimes recommended as safer options.
If you decide to heat the coop, you absolutely must prepare for power failures! I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating — chickens need time to adapt to the cold, and do so very well. However, the sudden loss of a heat source on a very cold night when the birds aren't used to it can mean the loss of your flock. No one wants that! But having a generator or other proper source of power will help you get though any disruptions.