Teflon Coated Light Bulbs Deadly to Chickens

Something I never would have thought of: Teflon coated light bulbs are toxic to chickens. In the letters section of this month’s issue of Backyard Poultry Magazine is the story of a woman who lost a flock of nineteen chickens after they succumbed to fumes put off by a GE Rough Service Worklight that was in the coop. When the bulbs heat up they release fumes that are deadly to chickens and other birds. According to the McMurray Hatchery website, birds are particularly vulnerable to airborne toxins. I can’t help but wonder about the effect of these fumes on humans too. Several years ago, Dupont was unsuccessfully sued over the toxicity of Teflon in cookware.

Sylvania, apparently, has a warning label on their Teflon coated bulbs, “WARNING: This product contains PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene–“Teflon” is a brand name). When heated, it creates fumes potentially fatal to confined birds.” GE does not have a warning label.

I let the ladies take the winter off of laying and it never dips below 40ºF here so we do not have a light bulb in our coop. But for those of you who do, make sure you don’t use one of these shatter resistant, Teflon coated bulbs.

See also the McMurray Hatchery warning on shatter resistant bulbs.

Leave a comment


  1. I only use a bulb in the water heater for my hens’ water which sits in the open. It looks like chickens can be likened to the “canary in the coal mine” in warning us of the dangers of Teflon coated bulbs. What harms can the bulbs do to us or small children? I need to buy a bulb for my oven, so I will be careful to watch out for this type bulb.

    When there is an immediate lethal or harmful response from the smallest living beings, we should wonder if there will be a slower or lesser harm done to us larger beings.

    With all the evidence of the harm from Teflon, I often wonder why it has not been banned in cookware and other applications.

    • It has been banned in cookware. I believe they have until next year to get rid of it. Solve the issues of coatings on your cookware by using cast iron

  2. Thanks for this info! Crazy!!! We let our ladies take the winter off as well, with the exception of a single heat lamp when/if the temps get exceptionally low.

  3. It’s a known fact in the pet bird community that teflon coated cookware will kill birds when overheated. Solution? Toss it all. There’s a reason why they used canaries in the coal mines! Even things like glade plug-ins, potpourri, scented candles, incense and febreze will kill birds due to their highly sensitive lungs. That’s awful that they also coat lightbulbs! Do they even say that they’re coated?

    • o russell, it is why we are still here. Frail and ethereal as we are, this our race does indeed endure. Much to the degradation of our little blue mother.

  4. Oh wow! Thank you for sharing this. I don’t have a light in my coop right now but was planning on installing one soon for when I’m out with them at night. I don’t know if I would have used one of these light bulbs but now I know not to. Thanks you!!

  5. I do use light in my coop, because in the deep shade under the avocado jungle, they were only laying half the year…and spending the rest of the time with their feet up, eating expensive organic feed and playing solitaire. What I’m using are LED bulbs, since they are efficient to operate. Since they don’t put out much heat at all, it feels safer too.

  6. Well, I’m not too sure about the soundness of reasoning that if it’s bad for chickens, it’s bad for us. After all, onions and cabbage are dangerous for pet birds to eat, but quite healthy for us. Tylenol and chocolate are toxic to dogs, but not for us.

    Teflon may or may not be dangerous to humans, but I don’t think this bit of reasoning is terribly persuasive.

    • Actually, tylenol is toxic to us. It occupies the same neural gates as glutathione and prevents action by that very important detoxifying tripeptide. Teflon is also highly toxic. Most people just haven’t connected the dots from their ‘commonly accepted as harmless’ environmental toxins to their symptoms, yet. Using birds as sentinels for toxic gasses is a well established, reasonable method.

  7. Why did that woman use that bulb anyway when it says “for indoor use?”

    I’ve only used a infrared heat lamp for my chicks when they were growing up. Apparently, this is the best because it doesn’t disrupt their sleep and generates a lot of heat vs. a traditional bulb.

  8. Oy. Well, not knowing anything about the quantity of PTFE involved, I will mention that when I read through the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS for short) for PTFE back in the day, I learned that after one works with it (in liquid form, which dries to a solid), one should avoid smoking to prevent inhalation of the PTFE. I don’t think the MSDS was really specific about the consequences, but if I recall correctly it could cause “pneumonia-like” symptoms. This would be dependent on the total dose of PTFE, so perhaps the dose on the lightbulb is very low. It still kind of surprises me that it was used as a coating on a lightbulb, given what was already known about PTFE vapors. I never did follow the nonstick cookware story, as I’ve found well-seasoned cast iron to be a wonderful cooking surface.

    I was using PTFE for a somewhat amusing application – it has been used in insect research to create a slippery surface and prevent insects (such as the ants I studied) from escaping their nest containers.

  9. For light use LED or florescent. For heat, use a heat lamp. It’s more cost effective, and safer.

  10. teflon when reaching extreme high temperature, bij for instance burning on a hot surface, releases cyanide , a well known fast working poison.And the dose is important and weather it is inhaled.

    On aluminium, the aluminium will melt befoure reaching this temperature.

    I guess thats why you do not find teflon on iron frying pans.

  11. STH The DuPont workers sued the company because so many of them developed cancer due to chronic exposure to Teflon. That is how we know it is harmful to humans; it is not an assumption based on how birds react to it.

    It is important to note that the same chemical is used in self-clean ovens, roasting bags for cooking meats, & “nonstick” aluminum foil.

    • Thanks Carmel–good to know about the other sources of this terrible chemical that we might find in our home. Kelly and I have ditched all our Teflon pans and use cast iron which actually works better anyways.

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  13. I just had this happen to me with a red heat lamp(infared)250watt bulb.dont buy a bulb like this if it is made by feit energy and you are going to use it for chickens. bought one of Feit energy brand at tractor supply and it didnt say it had a safety coating of teflon on it (P.F.A. coating or ptfe). used it in my chick brooder when chicks were eight days old (already had a ge red 250 watt at one end of 6 ft long stock tank and wanted to warm the other end with a second bulb) chicks immediately fell over and hemorraged, pooping bright red droppings, from fumes burning off bulb.

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