Yesterday, around 6:30 AM, I went down to the chicken coop to open their door. It had been a very cold night so I shut the door to keep them warm. I thought that they would be ready to go out soon as their light had been on since 4 AM. When I opened the door, smoke poured out. I looked for cobwebs because they are flammable, but that wasn’t the problem. Smoke was pouring out from under their water heater.
I had put the water heater up on a double layer of bricks. If the water is too close to the wood chips, they get into the water and spoil it. So the water was quite elevated. However, the water heater didn’t have a bottom. During the course of the cool weather, the chickens had pushed wood chips under the heater to the point that it was full up to the hot element.
I threw out the water, removed the heater and grabbed a shovel that I keep nearby. There were actually live sparks in the wood chips. Luckily, there was a good several inches of frozen snow outside the door so I was able to just shovel the live chips into the banks. The fire had not yet engaged the coop’s floor and I was able to get all of the burning pieces outside.
I asked Bob to come down and look at it with fresh eyes to make sure that all of the live bits were removed. He agreed.
When I bought a new heater, I made sure that it had a bottom. This will keep any wood chips from getting anywhere near the element. Be advised if you have chickens or other animals that need their water kept warm. Look for heaters that have bottoms.