Now that the weather is getting colder, I have a lot of VJP Poultry customers asking me about using heat lamps in their coops. People are concerned that their silkies will not be able to stand the cold of a Minnesota winter.
My use of heat lamps has changed dramatically since I started raising silkies seven years ago. I used to worry that my silkies would die from exposure. I had 250 Watt heat lamp bulbs hanging in every color pen the entire winter. Some even had two hanging in them. My electric bill was crazy. I kept the windows open only a crack and tried to raise the temps as high as I could inside.
After seven years of experience , I now rarely turn on the heat lamps in my outside coops. The silkies are fine. They actually are very winter hardy. They have a small comb so you don’t need to deal with frostbite issues. They aren’t fond of snow but they do love to go out into their runs no matter what the temperature. What is cold for a human is not cold for them. Think about all of the woodland birds. They do just fine in the cold Minnesota winter.
I have one 250 Watt heat lamp above each waterer just in case it gets really cold. I did have them all on during the spell of -40 windchill. They shouldn’t be thought of as a way to heat an entire room. They only heat what is directly below them. If it gets to be around -10 I will flip the heat lamps on. My waterers are heated a different way (from below) so I don’t need the heat lamps unless it is super cold and the water is staying frozen.
I do use heat lamps in my baby chick room. I like to use the lower 130 watt bulbs. They are not as hot and not as expensive to run. I will use a heat lamp over the newborns and the one week olds I don’t always use it over the two week old, but I could if I needed to. The chicks are in a small room off of my garage. The room is not heated with central air, so I also use a standing space heater to keep the entire room warm during January.
I am very aware that heat lamps must be hung securely. I use chains and wire so I can adjust the distance down to the brooder. I do not rely on the clamps that come with them. Heat lamps that are not secure and fall can easily start a fire. Make sure that the hoods are wiped clean of dust and that you also blow out the outlets with an air hose.
Heat lamp bulbs gradually become less strong the longer you have used them. You are still paying for the same amount of electricity from the 250 Watt bulb, but you are not receiving the same amount of heat the longer you continue to use it. When I feel that its not as strong anymore, I generally switch it out for a new bulb. I don’t want the surprise of it burning out when I really need it over newborn chicks. The 130 Watt bulbs are harder to find so we order ours online.
Remember, it is not the lack of heat that can cause issues with silkies in the winter. It is the moisture present in the coop. If you are seeing frost on your doors or walls, it is a sign that there is too much moisture and not enough ventilation. Open the windows, but keep the drafts off of the sleeping birds. I use pillow cases stuffed with old T-shirts and place them in front of the pop holes to block the drafts on the floor.
Electricity from heat lamps can be costly. One 250 Watt heat lamp costs about 90 cents a day to run. Add a space heater and that would be an additional $1.80 a day to run.
At VJP Poultry, we use heat lamps as sparingly as possible. They are necessary for young chicks in the first few weeks of life. Make sure they are hanging securely and change out the bulbs when they start losing their heat. They can be a useful part of your breeding program.