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Coop ventilation in -20 temperatures? - Page 3

post #21 of 31
Roosts should be above the nesting boxes, to stop them from sleeping there. It would help keep the nesting boxes cleaner.
post #22 of 31

On the topic of ventilation, there are several concurrent threads running on the Woods coops, which were designed to maximize ventilation. These were designed over 100 years ago and one of the issues cited by Woods in his book, and the reason for his design, was all the frostbite seen with birds in closed up coops in winter. Without ventilation, moisture builds up (source is from the birds themselves.........mostly from their breath) and the moisture is what causes the frostbite issue. His claims then, and it seems to hold now, is birds in his well ventilated houses will come through fine, whereas birds in closed up houses.....nearly adjacent to his, will suffer frostbite. That is pretty much the issue in a nutshell.


So if you want to duplicate the process, you need to open up the coop to let the moisture escape and get good air turnover. How you do that will depend a great deal on how your coop is setup.......some designs lend themselves to it, and others will be hopeless deathtraps if opening the coop up results in a drafty house (read wind chill) or creates openings for predators to enter. 


Birds will survive OK at those temps (and lower), but only when conditions are right. If you are getting frostbite and can't do anything about venting the moisture that is causing it,, for the short run, you may want to consider some type of supplemental heat, knowing that too has it's risks. For the short term, be thinking "keep my birds alive", and nothing else related to motivation or anything else needs to be considered. Get through this, learn from it and plan to do better in the future.


BTW, I have my water bucket inside my Woods coop, right at the front. It has both a cup and horizontal nipple, and is kept from freezing by using a submersible bird bath heater in the bucket. Neither the cup or the nipple leak, so water is not an issue. I can leave my birds in for days on end if need be and they will always have food and water.

post #23 of 31

I've been reading old materials on raising chickens, and they talk about using curtains a lot. As in, some windows don't have glass in them - they hang curtains (burlap or cotton) over the openings, which also have chicken-wire over them to prevent predators from coming in (hardware cloth would be better).


Everything I've researched - and this is my first winter with chickens so I can't speak from experience - suggests that how cold it is is not an issue for the chickens.


It's all about making sure the wind isn't blowing on them, and there isn't excess moisture in the air.


I'm not using curtains on my coop (yet). If the wind is from the south, it will blow in right over my birds. So I have plastic stapled up, covering the top half of the windows from the outside, and then, especially if the wind is from the south, I cover the bottom half of the windows from the inside.


My coop is double-walled, so this leaves a gap of roughly 4-5 inches in between the plastic. Air does get into my coop, but it doesn't blow across the chickens.


My coop also has large cupolas serving as vents in the roof, allowing the air to exit the coop.


I live in central-west Minnesota, so am dealing with cold temps too (though perhaps not as cold as you are). Supposed to be down to -25 below later this week.


You might be able to try opening that window more than 2 inches at the top, and placing a barrier that will block the wind from blowing, but not the air from circulating. With your door raised at the bottom, that may provide enough ventilation.


Or, if your wall is thick enough, you may be able to do what I did: cover half the window from the outside, and the other half from the inside, so that again: air circulates, but doesn't blow.


I agree with the earlier post: priority 1 is keeping your birds alive and in good as health as possible, RIGHT NOW. Priority 2 is setting things up right for down the road.


Best of luck!

post #24 of 31

To check the effectiveness of different venting tweaks, I purchased (and just tested) a little weather station that measures coop humidity and sends the information remotely where I can read it (as in, IN my house lol). This will allow me to make various adjustments across time. Hygrometer/thermometer is at roost level. Where they breathe.


Outside temp now: 6F

Birds are in run on roosts. Their choice.


Coop temp without birds: 13F atm

Coop humidity without birds: 60%


Taking castor oil out there now, thanks @Beekissed! I am a big fan of castor oil anyway. Petroleum jelly not so much.


It's all good.

Edited by mobius - 12/14/16 at 11:09am
post #25 of 31

Good idea on the humidity would be a good idea to keep track of what percentage of humidity produces frosted tips and what level reduces it or eliminates it.  I, too, keep an old Coke thermometer out in my coop at roost level just to keep track of relative coop temps for the roosting birds. 


I'll be doing the castor oil thing on my own birds tonight, supposed to dip into single digits tonight and tomorrow here and I haven't gotten around to doing the CO yet this year...just been too mild until now. 

Matthew 10:32-33 - Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 10:32-33 - Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

post #26 of 31

Thanks @Beekissed!


Here is a quote from @patandchickens:


Commercial chicken barns seem to aim for around 50-70% humidity.  IMO for backyard flock purposes it's when you get to 75-80% that you start getting a bit iffy, and I'd say above 85-90% humidity is really courting trouble.

HYGROMETERS ARE NOT USUALLY ACCURATE right out of the package; you need to use something like the salt method (see 'incubating and brooding eggs' section of BYC forum for instructions) to figure out how wrong yours is so you know how much to add or subtract to its reading. I would not suggest believing a hygrometer reading otherwise wink



Here are a couple of my recent threads on this topic while I have been figuring it out and getting lots of good help:


Maybe it can help others! Seems like the entire country getting swept with colder weather than expected in the last week or two. Certainly true here in Montana.

Edited by mobius - 12/14/16 at 10:45am
post #27 of 31

I leave the south window in my coop open about 6 inches all winter long regardless of temp.  I do have two vents on either end as well.


That being said don't put the roosts close to the window.


Easy ideas for you for quick roosts,  wooden ladders, pallets and remove every other slat.

post #28 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much everyone for the help and suggestions. We are first time chicken keepers and have a lot to learn. Just built them a new roost today from your suggestions and plan to install the vents tomorrow when they arrive!

Also put castor oil on my roosters comb this afternoon and he seems to be doing ok now smile.png
post #29 of 31

I wish you all success this winter!  Be careful with your heat lamp....many a coop and bird has perished each winter due to heat lamps.   I'm glad your rooster seems more comfortable...that castor oil sure makes them have bright red combs and wattles, doesn't it?  Brings blood to the area pronto. 


I'd venture to say you will still get nest box sleepers with that current roost height and configuration, so you may want to tweak that later.  And that's a never ending thing, that tweaking....I'm still tweaking each year and find it to be kind of fun to figure out a better way to do this or that in the coop to make it better for the birds and for me. 

Matthew 10:32-33 - Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 10:32-33 - Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

post #30 of 31

I'm finding my first winter with the flock to be difficult already. One of my leghorn hens got some mild frostbite on the tip of her comb a few days ago after a morning low of 3F. I have an 8x8 slanted roof coop that goes from 6ft high on the roosting side to 8ft high on the opposite side with windows and open eaves. My hope was that their moisture would rise up and out of the eaves and that leaving the windows open a crack would help with convection. There's no drafts on the birds...the windows are on the south side and there's no insulation. The floor probably has an average of 10" of pine shavings on it right now. The inside coop temp always tends to run similar to the ambient 2m temp from my personal weather station.


Anyways, if you're near saturation and 0F on a night with radiational cooling (clear skies & calm winds) then I'm not sure how you can keep the relative humidity below 85-90% without adding a little heat to increase the dewpoint depression (i.e. the temp and dewpoint difference). Those windy, cold air advection days are bit different because you usually have lower dewpoints/RH which gives you a cold, dry, breezy airmass. The relatively calm arctic high pressure systems are a different story. Anyways, I have a couple of those Premier prima heat lamps on the way and I'll try a couple of ceramic heat emitters on the below 0F nights. I don't want to heat the coop...just take the edge off on the coldest of cold nights here in C NH. If it looks like it'll be a dry cold, maybe I'll keep the lamps off until it's well below 0F. If it looks like a calm, near saturation night maybe I'll turn them on at a warmer +5F or +10F or something. The big lesson I learned is that not every chick sold in your region is necessarily very cold hardy. My 2 leggies are a blast, but they cause me a lot more worry than my other 9 (2 barred rocks, 2 easter eggers, 2 buff orps, 2 nh reds, and an olive egger).


I don't know how you guys in the interior of Alaska do it without any heat with frequent nights around -40F/C and occasionally around -60F. I'll assume none of you have leghorns. :cool:

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