Thursday, March 15, 2012

Critter Warmer

Tall critter warmer


Three years ago we kidded goats out in January and February.   Since that is the coldest part of the year here on the Nebraska Prairie,  we were struggling to keep baby goats warm.   Extreme cold is very hard on new born goats.   If they get too chilled they become unresponsive and eventually will die if not warmed up quickly.    In a effort to keep all the kids warm my husband and I came up with a little safer solution than just hanging a heat lamp.  

I have used heat lamps for years to provide warmth for a large variety of baby critters.   However,  hanging a heat lamp in a wooden barn,  with straw or wood shavings as bedding is an extreme fire hazard.   We got our idea from a lamb warmer we had purchased that was a triangular welded metal hut with a heat lamp in the top.    Without time to weld a bunch of critter warmers we came up with our own solution.

Here is what you will need:

55 gallon metal drum
heat lamp
heat bulb
a laser cutter or another way to cut the metal drum


With the opened end of the drum on the ground we cut out little door ways.   Some are nice architectural curved door ways and some are just plain old rectangular door ways.    Really, the shape of the door way does not matter as much as size.   We have figured out that if the door way is too big you will  end up with momma goats putting their heads inside.  We even had a smaller momma get into the heater with the babies.   Not a good situation for the babies.  


On the top of the drum you will need to cut a circular opening to put the heat lamp through.  We have discovered smaller holes are better.   If the hole is to big it is easy to place the heat lamp through but it is also easy for the heat lamp to be knocked out.     Essentially, a hole big enough for the screw end of the heat light to fit through is enough.  The will keep the heat lamp and bulb in place. 








Once you are done cutting the door way and the hole in the top you are ready to put the heat bulb through the hole in the top and screw it into the heat lamp.   Voila, you are done.   

Shorter heater
The amount of heat in the drum is determined by the height of the drum.   We have cut drums shorter, to allow more heat to reach the critter.   We have taller drums when not as much heat is needed.     

We have used these critter heaters for baby goats, pigs,  and chicks.   With each and every use we are so thankful to have them.

Things we have learned using the critter heaters.  
  1. Make doorway only big enough for baby goats to get in and out.
  2. Allow no more than 4 baby goats access to the heater (otherwise you risk suffocation)
  3. Shorter drums for really cold temps
  4. Taller drums for milder weather
  5. Wean your critters from the heaters (do not make them go cold turkey, literally)
  6. Secure all electrical wire (we staple ours up and out of the way from critters)
Here is my warning statement.   As with any heat lamp there is always a risk of fire.    The use of  critter heaters seems to be a safer alternative to free hanging heat lamps.   However,  there is always a possibility of fire with the use of a heat lamp, no matter the fashion in which it is used.   Always use extreme caution!



Here is to warm critters!

Nebraska Prairie Girl

PS.  As I write this the temp. outside is 68 degrees and there is not much use for a warmer.   However,  I know that we will get cold temps. and snow for a couple months yet. 

1 comment:

  1. I have to say I love this idea! I‘m surprised I haven‘t heard of something like that out here: sometimes when I was a kid there‘d be young lambs in southern New South Wales in winter, where they‘d just give up the ghost in the cold. The cockies tended just to write them off as a loss.

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