Over the last several years I've been buying old poultry books ranging
from the teens through the middle fifties in that time period when
real scientific research was being done in commercial poultry
production, but before the large confinement operations became the
norm. Free range eggs used to be the commercial norm.
Chicken house construction and cold injuries were at that time
actually a fairly well known phenomena. Chickens are much cold
hardier than people generally give them credit for and are perfectly
capable of coping with even sub-zero weather if you set their house up
properly for them.
The four most important things to do are:
Protect the birds from wind and drafts. This can cause drastic heat
loss they won't be able to cope with.
Don't build the house so tight that condensation becomes a problem.
This somewhat conflicts with the first, but it can be done. Chickens
have a higher body temperature than humans and they exhale a *lot* of
moisture. If it doesn't get vented to the outside it's going to tend
to condense inside which can lead to problems and increased cold
They need liquid water at all times, preferably not ice-water. This
can be a problem, but there are means of coping. A lot of folks just
take warm water to the hen house several times a day.
If you're not feeding them free choice grains and complete laying
ration be sure to give them a good feeding before they go to roost. A
belly full of food to digest provides much necessary warmth. If it's
really cold and laying is in a slump then try mixing up a wet mash of
ground grains and hot water. The water should be fully absorbed and
the mixture crumbly but still warm. They'll devour it. Eventually
this will plateau out, but it'll get you through a slump.
In really cold locations (Canada and the U.S. border states) choose
birds with rose combs (Wyandottes, Chanticleers, and so on) rather
than birds with single combs (Rocks, Rhodies, Leghorns, etc.) as the
rose combs are less prone to cold injuries. Frost bitten combs and
wattles will blow the bottom out of your egg production until they
Here in North Florida most of this stuff is not needed (I do use an
occasional wet mash), but since most of the poultry books of that time
period were written by researchers at universities in the Northern
states it was discussed a lot.
With a bit of patience you can find many of these books for cheap on
Post no bills
Got another idea for you. It's what my dad used to use. He just
mounted a big honking resister to a small board and covered it with an
upside-down metal bread pan screwed down to the board. I'm not sure of
the exact value of the resister, but it is not really critical. It was
one of those ceramic types about the size of your thumb. Also just
drill a bunch of holes in the bread pan so the heat can get out. It
serves as a heat shield. It can be mounted on a sidewall next to the
Use the type of resistor with an aluminum housing which mount directly
on a metal enclosure using heatsink compund and screws. The
temperature of the resistor needs to only be a few degrees higher than
the desired air temperature. The chance of a fire hazard even if
flamable material comes in direct contact with the resistor is about zero.
I have in my hand a little gizmo called a Thermo Cube, that is a 15 amp
plug fixture with a thermostat that kicks on at 35 degrees. UL listed
and the whole bit. You could plug whatever you want into it, and it
would only run when the temperature got near or below freezing.
They are great for greenhouses, pump houses, etc.
All the tractor/farm supply stores around here that sell chicks and chicken
feed also sell all the hardware bits for setting up and taking care of the
coop, including heaters. I think most small-coop people w.o a dedicated
heating plant just use IR bulbs in a shielded fixture, or even toaster-style
resistance heaters, hooked to a thermostat or timer. Mounted high, of
course, to avoid that smell of burning yellow fuzz.
You are raising chickens for food .. Right. To save money ,
Right........... What is your kwh cost !!!.. Midwest USA apx
1275 out west at low .065 ... A 100 watt in midwest 24 hr x 7 is
apx TWELVE dolars a month .... EAT your chickens before they
eat YOU or they are just pets.
We never heated the coop regardless of how cold it got. They survived
the -36. The chickens just put their head under their wings and squat on
their feet. Make sure they have roosts and are kept dry.
For better egg production there should be a light with a timer that is
used from fall to spring. Chickens slow down their laying the shorter the
One other caveat for Iggy...
Most aquariums have an aeration system...circulating the water so that
the heater can sense the temperature properly. His bucket won't have
that. So, more than likely, his heater will shut off quickly...since
the heater will only sense the water immediately surrounding the
heater. Convection currents within the bucket will be slow, at best.
Have a nice week...
Dyslexics of the world ... UNTIE !
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