Why we don't like heat lamps

Fire spreads from chicken coop to Duluth home; damage estimated at $500,000+

UPDATE: We just learned that the Duluth ordinance requires a heat source in the coop. We understand that it gets cold in Duluth; it gets cold here too and most people do add some heat to the coop. But the Duluth ordinance is a dangerous example of ill-informed meddling by (we hope) well-intentioned bureaucrats and politicians who think they are doing chickens a favor.

We often come across equally ignorant requirements in municipal ordinancees, such as requiring one nest box per hen, etc. Most of them are merely annoying, not fatal. Our point is that there are a lot of good ordinances out there that have worked for years; it isn't necessary to re-invent the wheel in every town and village. Now, back to our original story.

Duluth Fire Marshal Marnie Grondahl recounted her observations from the fire scene, including a heat lamp and portable radiator in the coop.

“There’s a lot of combustibility in chicken coops,” she said. “There’s a lot of dust created; it can get on these lamps and that’s another fuel source that’s combustible. I’m not completely saying it was that — it could have potentially been an electrical problem — but there wasn’t much left of the lamp. It’s very sad they have to come home to that.”

Thankfully, we haven't heard as many stories of coop fires this year as last, probably because the weather hasn't been as extreme. But we did have five customers tell us earlier this year that they had fires in their coops last winter. One did $1,000 damage to her home. After reading this story from Duluth, we guess she should feel lucky it wasn't worse.

Yes, we do sell heat lamps and we even use them ourselves when the weather gets stuck below zero. But we prefer safer alternatives like the Sweeter Heater, which we have installed in one of our coops. Heat lamps can break if a chicken flies into them or splashes water on the hot bulb. They can fall. The hot bulbs can come loose and sometimes they even separate from their metal bases and can fall into dry bedding. Or a combustible mix of bedding, feathers and dust can collect around a hot lamp. When that much can go drastically wrong, it's a good idea to err on the side of safety.

Just sayin' be careful.