Thoughts on Building a Solar Chicken Coop?

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    My husband and I are looking at replacing extension cords with solar for our chicken coop.  It’s a free-standing, small coop averaging 15 layers in Clancy, and we need heat lamps and water warmers to be powered.
    Does anyone out there have ideas for us?  I haven’t even started  googling it yet, because I thought I would start with the experts.

    If you have personal experience with this, or have suggestions, can you please let me know?  Much appreciated!!

    #361 Reply

    I’ll defer to the real experts in the group, but will share some thoughts.

    1. If you are concerned simply with heat (not light), you’ll want to start with design and energy conservation.

    My parents built a 200 layer chicken house in 1940 in Conrad (northcentral Montana). The first building they built when they bought the farm, and it served as their temporary home the first winter. The chickens took over after that!

    Dimensions were roughly 36′ x 18′ on E-W orientation, some south windows, concrete floor, with an inch or two of paper fiber insulation in the walls. No electricity in the beginning years. Before my time so I do not know the details, but my dad always said that it was properly designed (I assume by Extension Service specs) so the chickens and the sun kept it warm and the water thawed. Old (maybe new) Extension plans probably exist somewhere. ATTRA would likely be another source. Of course 15 birds is a lot different than 150, so scaling up or down would. The balance of solar gain, bird heat, thermal mass, and insulation may well eliminate any need for supplemental heat. And if not eliminate it, would greatly diminish it, for sure.

    2. PV . Using PV for heat is not very cost or energy efficient. But might be an option for supplemental light………. or to exhaust all that extra heat generated by our friend the sun and the birds themselves (!). ATTRA or online sources— or some of the list serve folks– would offer advice on sizing batteries to PV.

    3. Not sure if they exist for poultry, but when I ran livestock, I had commercial, super insulated frost free waterers for cattle, and also for pigs that worked well. But it required the animals to be smart enough and strong enough to “nose” the insulated covers open (pigs) or push an insulated ball down (cattle).

    Dave Oien
    Jackie – you can direct your question to NCAT/ATTRA for help. visit this page: for instructions on how to contact ATTRA with your question.

    This is Kyle with Solar Montana. If you do some research and have an idea of what you want to do, I can probably help answer any technical questions you might have about solar. I am wanting to do a similar project for having solar powered water heaters for a horse shelter. I’m thinking about using DC elements with a PV panel. I’d be happy to hear about your ideas and progress,



    Jackie, great question!
    The heaters and lights you need draw a fair amount of electricity, and I would suggest trying to insulate what you can in the coop, and add thermal mass of bigger buckets of water to hold the heat at night. You could make a small solar breadbox heater that could hold and heat water to warm the chickens at night after the sun sun goes down. Switching to PV’s is probably not cost effective at all, but heating volume of water and having that be your thermal mass could be a good alternative. The bread box heater, using old storm windows in an insulated box, would give you free hot water, as well as the mass to re radiate during the still cool nights.
    Hope this helps and good luck!
    Steve Loken

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