If you have chickens or other barnyard animals, you have probably heard:
“DON’T USE HEAT LAMPS, THEY ARE DANGEROUS AND A FIRE HAZARD!”
I heard this. I read it. And I still used a heat lamp in the chicken coop. In my chicken coop tour video, I even mentioned that I probably won’t use the heat lamps that were left in there due to the fire hazard potential. Well, I went against my instincts, used the heat lamp, and ended up with a fire in the chicken coop!
Thank goodness all of my chickens survived with no injuries, but it was terrifying for me and them! Through this experience, I have learned about alternatives to heat lamps and how to safely heat your chicken coop.
The morning of the fire, I woke up and went outside to get Kintla. Every morning, her and I go and check on the chickens together. This particular morning, I was on the phone, so I didn’t immediately get to the chickens. Kintla and I strolled past the coop and I smelled smoke, but it’s common to smell smoke when my neighbors and I use woodstoves to heat our homes, so I didn’t think anything of it.
About twenty minutes later, I got off the phone and walked back towards the coop to refresh the water and feed for the chickens. I noticed as I paced closer to the coop, the smell of smoke grew stronger, so I began to run towards the coop with the worst thought in mind—a fire in the coop. I yanked open the door and smoke billowed out, my mind raced as I flew into the coop to see what was going on. I turned the corner and found the heat lamp hanging in a hole where it had burnt through the floor with smoke and flames whipping about. I immediately looked towards the chickens in the cowering in the corner and quickly counted them to make sure every chicken was accounted for—thankfully, they were.
Sadly, I was not equipped for a fire in the coop. I didn’t have a fire extinguisher in there nor did I have a hose equipped to the water bib outside the coop. I ran across the yard to get a hose and hurried back to equip it to the water bib. My mind raced as I focused on screwing on the hose to the bib. I cranked on the water spout and flew into the coop to extinguish the fire. I drowned the fire, opened the coop windows, and spoke to my chickens to try and ease their fright.
This was the chickens’ first battle on the homestead, and I’m grateful they all lived to tell the tale.
What are alternatives to heat lamps in a chicken coop?
- Hot water bottles. This is the safest way to supply heat to your chicks and chickens. These are a great alternative to a heat lamp because there is no risk of fire. Although, these will require more time and maintenance because you will have to continually warm up and replace the bottles. Once the bottles are warmed, you can wrap them in a thin towel inside of the coop and the chicks or chickens can cozy up to them for a safe heat source.
- A brooder . These help the chicks maintain their temperatures and are safe because they are a heat plate that doesn’t reach extreme surface temperatures like a heat lamp. If it collapses onto the floor, it shouldn’t start a fire like a heat lamp would (and did in my case!)
- Heat pads. You can get heat pads to provide heat for your chicks or chickens. You will want to place a pillow or cloth over the surface and the surface shouldn’t get hot, just warm. Heat pads are safe because they don’t run a risk for fire because the surface doesn’t reach extreme temperatures. These also have the benefit of chicks not being able to misuse it—a brooder they may jump on top of.
- Body warmth. Chickens are able to cuddle and huddle up to provide body heat to each other. They can take turns rotating through the group and keeping each other warm. Purchase more than a couple chicks at a time, so they can have some friends to hang out with too.
- Thick bedding. Chickens will want to cozy up into their bedding when they get cold. I have witnessed my month-old chicks do this where they dig into their bedding and huddle up in the wood shavings. They huddle together and provide extra heat by doing so. I’ve been using wood shavings, and they have worked great for my chickens!
- Insulate your coop. Insulation can add a barrier between the outside and your chickens. It will make it more difficult for the cold to penetrate into your coop.
It is safe to say that I will never use a heat lamp on my farm again. I don’t care how well it is secured; I will never run the risk again!
What are the risks of using heat lamps?
There are a few risks when using heat lamps to warm animals:
- The animal could knock the heat lamp. I believe this is what happened in my case. I believe a chicken flew and knocked the heat lamp unstable and it dropped to the floor and caused a fire.
- The wiring could come loose and come in contact with hay or other material causing a fire.
- Animals could chew through the wiring causing electric shock and death.
How can I make my chicken coop safe?
If you have electricity in your coop, make sure there are no exposed wires. You don’t want your chickens or animals to get caught in the wires or bite at them. Make sure that any outlets are properly enclosed for the same reason. Mice and other rodents can also chew through wiring and make nests in them.
Keep your coop as clean and organized as possible. If there was ever an emergency, a clean and organized coop is easier to navigate than a messy one. Don’t leave tools and other unnecessary products laying around in the coop that could pose a hazard to you when you are in there.
ALWAYS keep a fire extinguisher in or near your coop. I learned this lesson recently, and now I understand the importance of fire safety. You need to have a fire extinguisher close in case any fires pop up in your coop. Your chickens’ safety is your responsibility!
Ensure the openings to the coop are predator proof. When you close your coop up at night, make sure predators can’t just knock through your closure. You definitely don’t want predators getting into the coop at night—they will pick your chickens off and you will wake up to a deadly mess! Hang up solar motion detection lights around the coop that can flash on at night if an animal is near to hopefully deter them. I have these hanging above the entrances to my coop. This can also signal activity to me at night if I see them flash on.
How can I safely heat my chicken coop?
By using one of the alternatives I mentioned above! Definitely don't use heat lamps, lol.
You want to make sure it is a safe environment for your animals. Worst nightmare would be to lose an animal to negligence or accident. I am a first time homesteader and learning as I go, so learn from my mistakes and don’t use a heat lamp!