If you own some pet chickens, then part of your responsibility as their guardian is to keep them warm and safe. But what about in extreme and colder weathers? In particular, what about heat? Do they require supplemental heating when the temperatures drop?
So, will chickens die without a heat lamp? For the most part, adult chickens are hardy birds and will not die without a heat lamp. As long as they have enough food, water, a dry, clean coop, and companionship, they will be able to flock together and remain warm. It is only when you are brooding chicks that you will need heating.
That is however, not usually required. Generally speaking, chickens can handle freezing temperatures and go about their day unaffected.
What needs careful consideration, is not so much the cold, but dampness and drafts in the chicken coop.
Let us now take a closer look at the topic and answer all those extra questions you may have about keeping conditions optimal for your chickens in adverse weather.
- 1 Do My Chickens Need A Heat Lamp?
- 2 What Temperature Is Too Cold For Chickens?
- 3 How Do You Keep Chickens Warm Without Electricity?
- 4 Finally
Do My Chickens Need A Heat Lamp?
Most of the time, chickens don’t need a heat lamp. They manage perfectly without supplemental heating. It’s natural to think that if I’m cold, then my pets are cold also. This is not the case with chickens.
If you are brooding chicks, then chicks do require additional heating until they become adults. A heating plate kit is what you will need.
- A heating plate simulates a hen keeping chicks warm and cozy beneath her feathers.
- Chicks stay warm by contact with warm underside of the plate. The bottom-side plate surface reaches approximately 125 degrees when fully heated.
- Height easily adjusts from 1.5" - 6" using adjustable legs to accommodate the size of your chicks.
- Warms up to 20 chicks. Requires 110 volt outlet and uses 22 watts per hour.
For elder chickens, heat lamps can be more of a hindrance than a help. From a health and safety point, they can be a fire hazard if not secured to the wall of your coop correctly. Unless you get a well designed and chicken specific product, you can also risk your chickens becoming burnt or scolded.
If you introduce a heat lamp too early in the winter, they may become overly dependant on supplemental heating and won’t develop a tolerance for freezing temperatures.
It might be an idea to introduce a heat lamp later on in the winter during a cold snap, and there is nothing inherently wrong with this. For example, you could install it over their roosting area.
Some poultry keepers have mentioned that their birds hate heat lamps and will move far away from it; this is something you must consider when thinking about providing additional heating.
What Temperature Is Too Cold For Chickens?
Chickens cope very well in temperatures that would make most people want to stay in bed with a hot water bottle. They can tolerate temperatures in the very low teens, which is very cold indeed.
The reason why they take the cold so well is that they have fast metabolisms. The resting temperature of a hen is between 105-109F (40-43C) and their hearts can beat up to around 400 beats per minute! This helps them adapt to the cold weather and generate internal heat when required.
Chickens also have a lot of feathers – designed for wintertime, which they puff up to keep warm. They also flock together, which generstes heat and comfort for all chickens involved.
Chickens are cold hardy; that’s for sure. Some chicken breeds can handle the cold better than others, particularly those with more substantial bodies and smaller combs.
In general terms, chickens can deal very well with temperatures within the teens. If it drops below this, it may be considered too low for chickens.
It is however, important to consider that some chickens have survived in temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees F. This can however, only be achieved if with birds acclimated to those cold temperatures and have been subjected to them over time.
If you are wondering whether the cold affects egg production, this is actually a common misconception. The winter is a time when egg-laying goes into decline, as this is a resting period for hens. This dip in egg-production has more to do with the days becoming shorter and darker than the cold.
Interestingly, chickens fare better when it’s cold than when it’s hot in the summer. Some chicken breeds are hardier than others and continue to lay eggs all year round, regardless of the dark and gloomy weather.
If you are expecting a cold snap, then it is no harm to provide additional warmth in the form of heat maps or heat lamps.
Whether or not it is going to benefit your birds or even be possible will of course depend on where you live, the local climate, the age and hardiness of your birds and your setup.
How Do You Keep Chickens Warm Without Electricity?
Chickens are very resourceful in regards to keeping themselves warm. Chicken feathers are designed with the winter in mind; they puff up their feathers and huddle with other chickens to keep warm.
As their owner, there are things that you must do to ensure they stay warm throughout the cold winter days and nights.
Before the onslaught of winter, make sure that you have fully stocked up on the necessary supplies that your hens need to be safe, comfortable, and warm during the winter.
Your list of essentials should look like the following:
- Feed – Lots of it, make sure that you stock up on pellets, this ensures that they are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals they need in their diet to be healthy. Add grit to the list. (this is an excellent grit on Amazon)
- Water – Make sure that you can supply your birds with enough clean water throughout the winter. If you get your water supply from a well, fill as many plastic containers as you need. Chickens need at least one cup of water a day.
- Petroleum Jelly – This is for protecting wattles and combs from frostbite.
- Bedding – What bedding you choose is your decision, but it is a necessity as chicken poop and urine go everywhere. Hemp bedding, like this one on Amazon is particularly useful.
Chickens regularly leave urine and droppings everywhere, so you must clean their coop regularly.
Remove the old soiled bedding and replace it with clean bedding. This will help your coop to stay clean but also dry.
When it comes to keeping your chickens warm and dry in the harsh weather, you must waterproof the chicken coop – that is a top priority.
Chickens can handle some rain; however, their feathers are not completely waterproof, so they need to escape to an environment that’s dry and doesn’t have any drafts. Let’s look at the best way to water-proof your chicken coop.
Provide a Robust Coop
First and foremost, you need to ensure that you are providing a safe home for your chickens; both from predators and the extreme weather.
If you are yet to invest in a long-term coop; this is the best place to start.
A coop that is self-enclosed will ensure that your chickens will never be subject to drafts and cold high winds. It also enables them to retain their heat much more effectively.
- Dimensions incl nest box (approx): 4ft 9"(W)x 3ft 3"(D)x 3ft 1"(H)
- Galvanised metal pull-out tray for very easy cleaning. Suitable for up to 10 birds depending on size.
- Made from animal friendly treated timber, designed to last for years. Totally Fox and Coyote proof.
- Two nest boxes with 6 compartments and four perches. Feet of Coop covered by rot free adjustable plastic cap.
- Comes flat packed, supplied in two boxes which maybe delivered separaterly. Requires assembly, clear instructions
Waterproof Your Chicken Coop
Alternatively, you may already have a coop that you can either improve, or requires an upgrade. Here are the main things to watch out for:
1 – Check That Windows And Doors Are Sealed Properly
Hens have a natural way of generating heat to stay warm, and drafts deprive hens of this natural heat.
Consider that if air can get into your coop, so can water. Chickens hate dampness and drafts; it stresses them out and makes them very uncomfortable. Stress can make chickens more disease prone. They are much happier when their environment is warm and dry.
Therefore it is very important that you ensure that all windows and doors are closed and sealed properly.
2- Examine The Exterior Of The Coop
Water has a way of finding its way into your coop, so you must inspect the outside to ensure that all of the components are in place.
Check for any gaps or cracks in the roof and the flooring. If these start to appear over time, then you may either need to replace your current coop or invest in sealants and other products to cover these gaps.
3- Cover Up The Cracks
You can apply waterproof sealant tape to cover any holes and cracks in the coop. After that, you can use a waterproof liquid sealant to the inside of the coop.
With a good quality sealant inside the coop, you could wash the interior of the coop with a power washer with no fear of damaging the infrastructure of the coop.
It is commendable, as a chicken keeper, to want your birds to be as warm and comfortable in winter as you like to be.
Many who are new to poultry keeping wonder will chickens die without a heat lamp? This is a natural concern, but most of the time, chickens do not require additional heating.
The best way you can support them in the winter is to ensure that they have enough to eat, plenty of clean water, companionship, and of course, a clean, waterproof coop.
If you can supply these simple needs, your chickens will remain happy and healthy in the harshest climates.
Of course there are always exceptions to the rule. If you live in a particularly cold region, supplemental heating can be provided. It will not harm your chickens (if you get a heater designed for chicken coops) and it can improve their well-being somewhat.
Ultimately you will be able to make that call and decision. Either way, proactively ensuring your chickens are well supported with out other recommendations are simply a must.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.