Cold Night, Red Light
It’s getting wayyyy too cold here in Nashville. Even though we did a fairly thorough “winterize” on the chicken coop back in October (read all about that here), when we noticed that next week the forecast is calling for numbers in the single digits, we decided we might need to take one more precaution to keep our feathered friends warm: a heat lamp.
Keith did lots on online research and then we finally found the perfect lamp at our local Lowe’s store. We kept finding the correct bulb (a 250 watt red heat bulb), but most clamp lights are only approved for up to 150 watt lights, so it took a bit of calling around and searching. (I couldn’t find the exact one online at Lowe’s for ya, but here’s a similar one available at WalMart.) The lamp and bulb were each about $10…and we were happy to spend $20 to keep our girls warm and healthy. We hooked it up this afternoon and when I checked on them tonight, the inside of the coop was warmer than it would have been without the lamp, but not hot, which is important. The girls have a pretty luxurious down coat so they don’t need it toasty….just….well, warmer than 5 degrees.
If a heat lamp is something you’re considering for your coop, make sure you get a red-tinted bulb. White tinted bulbs will keep your ladies awake at night. In fact, some folks use a lamp in their coop to trick their girls into thinking its still daylight when the days get shorter. It’s supposed to keep them laying eggs longer, (lots of chickens slow down their egg-laying frequency during the darker colder months) although some people say it’s healthy to let their little bodies follow this natural process of slowing down and taking a break from all that egg production.
Our girls seem to be faring well so far this winter. Louisa, our “Littlest Woman,” is still laying an egg a day like clockwork and Jane is still pretty steady as well. Beverly and Sylvia have both slacked off a bit and we’re getting an average of 2 to 3 eggs a day total instead of 4, but that’s still plenty for us to eat and still give some away to friends. They girls had their first snow day a few weeks ago and absolutely hated it. Louisa, Jane and Sylvia all stumbled around in confusion for a few minutes before heading back into the coop. Beverly however, ventured out, got startled by the cold, powdery stuff underfoot, and instead of turning around and heading back to the coop, got all flustered and flapped over to a dry spot on the deck under some patio furniture. Then she laid down and refused to make the journey back to the coop so I had to pick her up and carry her, which she seemed to appreciate.
I’ll keep you posted on how the heat lamp goes. If it’s something you choose to do, make sure you approach it carefully as it could be a fire hazard if it’s too close to hay, shavings, or other materials, and you want to make sure it’s not where your chickens will burn themselves. Another good cold-weather chicken care tip is to rub coconut oil on their combs and feet to help prevent frostbite.