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I'm raising chickens for the first-time and building a coop for 12 birds. I have been told that the birds and their bedding can be very dusty, and I would like to make sure I don't create an electrical fire hazard.

My original plan was to use 4S boxes, either EMT or MC, set-screw fittings, regular receptacles and switches, industrial-style raised outlet covers, and a keyless lamp holder. Is that good enough?

My guess is "yes," because there will not be enough dust to create an explosion hazard, and while dust in boxes and outlets may ignite, the metal boxes prevent it from leading to a fire. But that's just an uninformed guess.

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  • Not sure if this is home improvement, you might have better luck on the pet exchange
    – JACK
    May 18, 2021 at 15:30
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    Explosion-proof lampholders have the advantage of also being generally more robust that a naked bulb in agricultural uses (i.e. even if you don't have a dust explosion, they can be worth using.) Locate switches outside the animal area (where the humans go in and out) by preference. Chicken lights are normally on a timer, so plan for that.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 18, 2021 at 15:51
  • Backyard chicken coops seem to be the latest hip craze (Heaven knows why anyone wants that smell in their back yard...), so I'm sure there's plenty of internet info. (Attempting to be at least mildly useful, just in case this is closed as off-topic.)
    – FreeMan
    May 18, 2021 at 16:41
  • Unless very far north, I would use 12v DC instead of mains; you don't have huge power requirements for a coop, and the potential for things to go very wrong is limited. You can use truckstop fans and heaters, and LED strip for lighting, all on 12v. And no code concerns...
    – dandavis
    May 18, 2021 at 16:55
  • Sadly I'm going to need some heat for chicks, and maybe also for the adult birds when the temperatures fall below 0 ºF. May 18, 2021 at 17:56

2 Answers 2

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DO NOT use lights for heating. Use actual heaters

Lights (even "heat lamps") are a terrible choice because they are unreliable. They burn out with great regularity, and chickens don't know how to change bulbs, so they freeze until you notice the light is out.

I advise using actual, built-for-purpose, infrared (radiant) heaters. Or if you don't specifically need the radiant effect and need general heating, use actual quality heaters made for fixed installation in buildings. Any resistive heater that is 240V and doesn't have a fan (such as the ubiquitous, low-cost and reliable Cadet heaters) will cheerfully run at 1/4 power on 120V. So if you want 250W of heat, select a 1000W/240V Cadet heater (about $40).

With these heaters, you can use any common, off-the-shelf line voltage thermostat. (240V dumb thermostats work on 120V just fine).

For lighting, use modern bulbless LEDs

Since LED emitters are semiconductors, they will outlive us all. As such, having sockets on LED emitters is utterly pointless. (the drivers, on the other hand... but I digress). Anyway, hardwired, bulbless LED fixtures are perfectly sensible, and do the most to reduce fire risk.


Other than that, don't worry too much about dust. Use of metal boxes and conduit is plenty of security. Generally boxes are supposed to be relatively sealed from dust; old style "snap" dust covers for receptacles may be a good choice.

I would go with compression fittings on EMT; personal choice, and it does a better job being a grounding path IMO. Not a fan of the setscrew types. Since you have EMT you might as well use THHN individual wires, rather than pig-wrestling NM cable and violating code doing so (both conduit fill and the prohibition on assembling conduit over wires).

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I have a similar setup for my chickens I used MC and it has held up well with the 4 square boxes. I originally used “jelly jar” lights not explosion proof those are crazy expensive. I ended up removing the jelly jar lights and putting in brooder light fixtures, these plug into the 4 square outlet and can handle the 300w heat lamps. I thought the lamps needed more protection than the crossed wires that come with the fixtures / reflectors these keep the birds warm enough but we did need a small heater under there waterer to keep it from freezing.

I would NOT use a standard or keyless lamp holder they won’t hold up with heat lamps I would get a brooder fixture with the ceramic screw in part and a reflector 300-500w I have had good luck with these and red heat lamps, when I used white light the chickens were always fighting and pecking each other. My wife found a article that said to use red and they would not peck each other. If you do use a standard fixture make sure it is rated for the lamps and a reflector for best results.

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