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New way to approach winter using a hoop house.

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Last winter I visited  "Growing Power" in Milwaukee, WI and noticed they had a pretty revolutionary way of dealing with their chickens in the winter.  They had put their hens in a greenhouse and were keeping hens about 2 or 3 years old.  These hens were laying once or twice per week which at that time, my hens had pretty much given up (I had pullets no more than 8 months old.)  This was the coldest time of year around January or February. 

The greenhouse maximized the sun and also helped keep the hens warm.  Some of the hens were actually molting.  LOL  These birds were really happy there!

Since then, I've decided to use my own chicken hoop houses which I've had for 5 years and simply turn them into a mini greenhouse for the hens.  I'd like your opinions on this.  I live in Kansas City and the winters can get pretty cold.  I'm really hope these help me keep the egg production up. 

Opinions?

Here is a past site that shows the same hoop houses I use.

Thanks,

Dave

http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=172799&p=1

Here is growing power's website.  They didn't have the chickens on there but they are worth a visit if you are interested.  As a poultry farmer, I'm intregued by the fact that they can keep worms alive all winter in an open area.  Perfect for chicken feed supplements!!!  smile

www.growingpower.org

post #2 of 12

I live in Smithville and last year we kept our chickens in a three sided coop with tarps over it! And last winter was cold!Hope to hear how this idea works as I have thought about trying it as well!

 My how this farm has changed us!

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 My how this farm has changed us!

Reply
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Chicken People 

I live in Smithville and last year we kept our chickens in a three sided coop with tarps over it! And last winter was cold!Hope to hear how this idea works as I have thought about trying it as well!


I use tarps now and they have worked well.  I think the greenhouse will be a better thing though.  I am keeping the tarps handy just in case though!

post #4 of 12

You'd need to be very careful with keeping down humidity and making sure ventilation was adequate for chickens...not from a frostbite perspective (unless the greenhouse temp dips below freezing at night), but from a respiratory health perspective. High humidity is fine for most plants in a greenhouse but not so good for chickens. 

A few chickens in a big greenhouse...no problem. A lot of chickens in a small greenhouse would be a different matter. Chickens produce a lot of moisture from their respiration and that needs to be able to escape from the structure or humidity will go way up.

My understanding about winter laying is that it's not so much a matter of temperature as it is of the number of hours of light. There's some variation with breeds, of course, but I think people who want to encourage their hens to lay over the winter add artificial light to their environment.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

The top part of the greenhouse side is vented.  This is not just for humidity (although I didn't think of that... thanks for mentioning it) but also for dander escape.  It is only the east side left exposed. 

The greenhouse I saw was divided in half so it was probably 22 x 30 that the chickens lived in and there were 250 chickens in it.  It wasn't humid at all and again, very happy chickens.

Dave

post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanfarmerkc 

The greenhouse I saw was divided in half so it was probably 22 x 30 that the chickens lived in and there were 250 chickens in it.  It wasn't humid at all and again, very happy chickens.


If my math is right, that's less than 3 square feet per chicken. Hard to imagine how a chicken could be happy with that, not to mention the smell from the manure produced by chickens kept in such dense conditions...unless a lot of daily poop removal was going on. Yikes! 

The usual rule of thumb you read about is a minimum of 4 square feet per chicken in the coop, plus 10 square feet per chicken in the run. And for the coop, 1 square foot of ventilation per chicken.

In the greenhouse situation you describe, I'd really be amazed if it was actually healthy for the chickens over time. Were these meat birds, destined to be harvested after a few months anyway?

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

My dimensions could have been off.  I don't know exactly.  What I do know is that they had a LOT of chickens in half of a greenhouse and there was NO smell, they were very happy and were laying like crazy.  They looked very healthy for chickens that were 3 years old.  I had about 5 to 10 come over and check me out when we went inside.

These were layers so no they were not on the list to eat although in most farms, they would never have made it to that age.  They struck me as a pet even though there were so many of them. 

If you are interested, you might call growing power in Wisconsin and do a tour.  IT costs but is worth it.  You'll need to find out if they still have the chickens.

Dave

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Also Elmo,

I don't know where the 1 square foot of air space came from.  The set up you were referring to was in Wisconsin and I don't remember how it was vented.  As far as my small coops, that air space is what I always provide for my hens in the winter.  It allows air to flow out and still keeps the girls warm enough.  I have used tarps until this year and I'm GOING to try using plastic this winter.

Dave

post #9 of 12

If you haven't read Patandchickens' excellent page on ventilation, here it is:

http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION

She also has a great page about the coop in winter, also an excellent reference:

http://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-winter-coop-temperatures

post #10 of 12

Sorry, double post.


Edited by elmo - 9/28/10 at 4:43am
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