Do Chickens Need a Heat Lamp?

We added Chickens to our Homestead this past spring, so this is our very first winter with them around. We Built an A Frame Chicken Tractor for them to stay cozy in throughout the year, and learned a lot about The Basics Needs for Bringing Chicks Home, as well as experimenting with letting them Naturally Till Our Garden. So far the entire journey has been pretty easy going and rewarding! But winter brings another set of challenges…

My main pondering was “will the chickens need a heat lamp for winter?”. Winter in Missouri usually reaches its coldest point in January and lasts through March, so how exactly does one care for chickens during snow, ice, and freezing temperatures?

So I did some digging and asking around to veteran chicken owners. Here’s what I found:

Do chickens need a heat lamp for winter? This is a very common question that new chicken owners (including myself) ask if they live where winters can become harsh. So what’s the answer? This blog post will give you everything you need to know about keeping your chickens safe and warm during those cold months. You’ll also find a list of more reading material on chickens at the very end of this post. Now let’s answer the big question!

Do Chickens Need a Heat Lamp?

The short answer is…usually not! This definitely surprised me at first, but the reasoning made more sense as I thought it over.

Chickens have feathers. A natural coat given to them by the Lord for protection from all sorts of things…including the cold. Most animals can withstand weather conditions without much aid from humans. I know, that can be a difficult reality to accept!

If fact, I’ve even heard other homesteaders would often find their chickens located as far from the heat lamp as possible The chickens also seemed to be out of sorts and annoyed. They were not able to rest in their nesting boxes or roost where they’d like to because it was too warm there. How interesting is that?

Why Can Heat Lamps be a Problem?

Heat lamps are extreme fire hazards!

Placing a 250-watt heat source above dry material, such as bedding in chicken coops, can be potentially hazardous.

While other homesteaders find ways to create safeties for heat lamps in a chicken coop, I prefer to avoid the hazard altogether and utilize other ways of keeping my chickens warm.

How to Keep Chickens Warm in the Winter

Here are the two main things chickens need for staying warm and safe during winter: a way to stay dry and a place to stay out of the wind.

  1. Make sure that your coop isn’t drafty, but also well ventilated. I know, those may sound like total opposites, but hear me! We don’t want to stuff them into a coop with zero airflow at all. That’s a recipe for disease and pathogens to thrive on! A draft means there is direct wind blowing into the coop and onto the birds. Definitely not what we want! This may mean leaving the coop doors open during the day and only shutting them during the night or when temperatures drop below zero. The inner portion of our A Frame Chicken Tractor (which you can see and read more about here) has a wire floor, thus allowing for plenty of ventilation. At the same time, we make sure the nesting boxes are full of warm bedding.
  2. Provide fresh bedding often. This will aid in keeping the chickens cozy while also ensuring the bedding to be sanitary.
  3. Make sure they have access to lots of fresh water. Either commit to hauling fresh water to them multiple times per day (depending on the temperature), or invest in a heated water source. We opted for the heated waterer!
  4. Keep food available at all times. The process of digestion creates heat within a chicken and keeps it warm. Make sure that their food supply is sufficient, but there’s no need to give them more than their normal ration! Simply make sure they don’t run out of food when the weather is harsh.

More on Chickens

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