Problems with Heat Lamps and How to REALLY Help your Chickens Stay Warm

A fine line exists between caring, responsible chicken owners and owners who coddle their hens to the point where the birds are denied the unique strengths that make them the tough creatures they are! I truly believe chickens are incredibly rugged, capable birds and when we humans step back a bit, these underrated birds can reveal to us so many strengths.. . like the fact that they don’t need winter heat lamps!

I dislike heat lamps for several reasons. When put into the coops of adult chickens, they strip the birds of their natural ability to stay warm. Most breeds of chickens are equipped with the genetics to adapt to cold weather, (some as low as -20F). When heat lamps are brought into the coop, the flock becomes reliant on the warmth and loses the need to steadily adapt to the decreasing temperature outside. If the bulb happens to burn out (as bulbs do) on a cold winter day or the power goes out, (as it often does during ice storms), the chickens will perish and you’ll open the coop and be face-to-face with a flock of chicken popsicles!  Lastly, heat lamps not only pose a fire hazard, but they use on average about six times more energy than a standard household bulb: an electric bill that adds up quick.

Our Delaware cross on the left and Silver Laced Wyandotte on the right are fluffed up with their internal heating systems cranked to the max. Can't you tell?

Our Delaware cross on the left and Silver Laced Wyandotte on the right, are fluffed up with their internal heating systems cranked to the max! Can’t you tell?

The wonderful things about chickens is that they have their own internal heating system. Once they hop onto their wooden perch, fluff up their feathers, and cover their little chicken toes with their down, a warm, insulated layer of air is created between their feathers and  skin, keeping a hen (or a rooster) nice and toasty. . .(I added rooster because I don’t want to be labeled a chicken sexist.)

If you REALLY want to help your hens, here are a few ways to keep them warm:

  • Cover Any Drafts: A cold breeze flowing through the coop can ruffle the feathers and release the warm air beneath, rendering the bird unable to stay warm. (I personally have to caulk all the cracks in my chicken coop to prevent this.)
  • Wooden Perches not Metal: Never use metal! Wooden perches insulate better and keep chicken toes from freezing.
  • The Deep Litter Method: Don’t clean out your coop! By allowing the manure to build up, it will compost and actually release heat beneath the chicken’s feet. Throw some grain down on the floor and let the chickens help the composting process by having them scratch it and lift it a bit. Also, it’s always a good idea to add some fresh shavings on top.

Happy Chickening Everybody!

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8 thoughts on “Problems with Heat Lamps and How to REALLY Help your Chickens Stay Warm

    • Hi Frankie! Are they laying on the ground instead? Or are they just not laying at all? What does your nesting set-up look like? The reason I’m asking about your nesting set-up is because sometimes certain flocks don’t like to use nesting boxes that don’t have tops over them because it makes them feel a little bit vulnerable. Could this be the problem?

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      • Hi, yes they are laying on the ground,my boxes do have tops on all of them .It looks like 7 out of ten are useing the boxes 5 of my grils are over 3 yrs old 5 are just a yr. all are laying well but I keep getting 2 to 3 on the ground???? Thanks for getting back so soon .hope you can help.

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      • It’s hard to say, sometimes chickens will get into strange habits that are sometime hard to break (unlike their eggs! haha). I bet the problem is that a few of your hens are just a little bit more picky with their nesting area than the rest. I think your best bet is to make sure that if your nesting boxes are a little dirty, clean them out real good (make sure they are lice free). If box cleanliness isn’t the problem, I think you should switch up the nesting material in the boxes to intrigue your girls and realy get them checking out the new digs! For instance, if you usually use shaving in your nesting boxes, switch to hay for a while, or if you usually use hay, try the other way around. I guarantee that your trouble hens will at least be intrigued enough to go inside the boxes for a while if not lay. . . I hope this helps, Good Luck!

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      • Thanks ! I got all the girls laying in the boxes now…However I have been getting a broken egg a lot now Still getting a broken egg but the shell is gone???? Whats that all about?? 😦

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      • Are you saying that some of the chickens are laying their eggs with cracks already in them and some are laying shell-less eggs? If so, usually the fix is something as quick and easy as switching their feed to “egg pellets”. Birds who are in the prime of their egg laying years always need way more calcium, protein, and other nutrition. Egg pellets are the best for it. Just ask for it at your local feed store. Wonderful stuff! If i understood your questions correctly, my answer should help. If not, keep asking me different questions until we figure this out and fix your problem! 🙂

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