Introduction: Chicken Coop Coffee Can Heater

About: Building design/consulting in Vancouver, WA. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to look in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to …

Winters in Minnesota are long and cold. Chickens manage without a heater but in order to maintain egg production it's helpful to provide a light + heat when temperatures are below zero (-18C).

Reuse: Coffee Can + Exterior Light. The heater I put together last winter uses an exterior light fixture combined with a coffee can. Each component delivers multiple functions.

  • Exterior Light. Durable construction. 120v wiring in place. Structure in place to shed water (poop). Fireproof materials. Mounting hardware in place.
  • Coffee Can. Durable, fireproof construction. Relatively water tight but open enough to vent. Metal to radiate heat from the light below. Serves as a container for electrical connections ---chickens can be curious of wires.. they can look like worms

Backyard Coop Heating. A problem for the urban farmer is that most exterior heat lamps for chickens are designed for larger coops than my 30sf (5'x6') A-Frame. In this instructable I walk through how I put together the light/heater for the cost of $5 exterior fixture from a thrift store. Typical exterior heat lights are way to expensive like this $65 model on amazon(cheapest I found).

Step 1: Tools + Materials

Tools and Materials. The requirements are pretty simple and anyone raising backyard chickens will likely have these materials handy.



  • Exterior Fixture -there are a lot to choose from on amazon... ---easy to find at a restore/thrift
  • Coffee Can - all metal ---we are big aldi shoppers and tend to find their metal basics a great value
  • Replacement Male Plug - for connecting wires to extension cord
  • Packing Tape

Bulbs. We used a 40w bulb most the winter. There were a few weeks below 20 (-30C) where we switched to a 75w bulb. I didn't have my infrared thermometer at the time to take the chicken's temperature but I was feeling their feet at night. They never got cold.

Step 2: Coffee Can

Start with the coffee can.

  1. Remove Label - You'll want do this first as it is the one part of the assembly that's flammable. It will also be harder once you cut the tin and have sharp edges.
  2. Mounting Slot - Cut a whole for the fixture. You'll want to create a slot large enough for the decorative or structural element on the top of your light fixture. Most exterior fixtures have this especially if the wires come out the top. (see note below for side mount fixtures)

Side Mount Fixture. If your wires come out from the side... this is not as good a fit with my demonstration. If your wires come out the side it does make it potentially easier to mount to the side or slanted roof. you would want to have a junction box on the outside of the coop that you protect from the elements... but that's a great way to hide the wires. You wouldn't get the radiating feature (as shown) but that's not a significant loss.

Step 3: Mounting Slot

As noted in the previous step the exterior fixture fits into the coffee can. This is a key part of my design because it allows me to hide wires inside the can.

Once connected I find it best to use galvanized wire to secure.

Step 4: Power Connection

The photos show how I feed an extension cord into the coffee tin. I had a scrap plug that I was able to splice into the exterior fixture. In the materials I note the use of a replacement male plug which I would have used to connect to the loose fixture wires.

Note: What I show is an ungrounded connect to an exterior structure. Power is run for a garage GFI outlet. Technically it's a grey area regarding code as it's not classified as an accessory structure. Please consult an electrician in your area before constructing.

Step 5: Finished Product

The Coffee Can Heater has served me for one full season. Our girls never pecked at the connections and even with leaves at the base of the fixture (as their general bedding) I wasn't concerned about a fire hazard using this exterior fixture.

Connections. From the garage I ran an extension cord to an outdoor photocell timer. From there I ran a second extension cord into the coop. I used the packing tape to fix the cord under the roosting pole and make a connection inside the coffee can.

Chickens in Winter. Chickens are incredibly resilient. Ours laid their first eggs right around new year and managed better then us in our first MN winter. Please find more on raising chickens through the winter, Chickens Thrive in Winter. Photos of our girls are on instagram @kutzkycoops.

Here are a few other Creative Misuse projects:

Thanks! Jeff

Ready to start raising chickens? Here are plans and instruction for building your first coop. A-Frame is my go to design.

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