I hope this is the right place to post my questions - I've done quite a bit of reading on winter readiness, but have some specific questions I would like addressed to put my mind at ease. I appreciate any time you have - this week has been our first cold snap (other than the frost we had in JULY ). I've also been VERY occupied with a sick and needy toddler so not a lot of time to futz about with the girls.
Location: SW Montana. Temps this winter will get down to well below zero, more with wind chill added in. We're at an elevation of 5,400, so one of the colder places in Montana.
Flock: 3 lovelies, Jersey Giant, Black Star, and Buff Orpington
Coop: 3x5, raised 3', built following The Garden Coop plans. Attached, 5x9 covered run. Access door is in the floor of the coop. Roost is a 2x4 with long side up slightly off center from the access door (only place I could figure out to put it that checked all the boxes many have listed for length requirement, and not on top of nesting box access). Pine shavings 6" deep in the coop. Straw in nesting boxes
Shadows: The coop/run is placed where it gets direct sunlight from 9 am-sunset. The light hits earlier when the days are longer, but it's 7:51 am right now and the sun has not popped over the large mountain to our East. Front of coop is facing South.
Activity: If I'm home, the girls get to wander around our yard freely. We have a very large lot (10,000 sq ft) with many bushes and flower beds to cuddle in, plus a big crabapple tree under which they spend a lot of time.
Winterization thus far: The coop is designed to have floating walls placed inside. They're installed, with 2" high quality insulation sheet sandwiched. I pull the water at night after they go to bed, and my husband puts it out in the morning when he leaves for the gym, well before they wake.
My points of concern:
1) I know that moisture is the enemy. I'm careful to remove droppings from under the roost every couple of days. The top of the coop is open air between the actual coop and the tin roof. There is 1/2" wire fabric around the top for security, but it's open to the air. I built the coop according to the design and the scores of others who have done the same, so no windows. the coop gets pretty good light because of that. I am concerned though that it's too open. This picture is from last spring and you can see the space above the coop area (this is me standing in the run looking into the coop through the big door). Do I need to add boards and insulation that high, or would that be too airtight? Just how many inches of moisture escape is necessary to balance warmth and dryness?
2) I have a temp monitor inside the coop. Last night was our coldest thus far, 12 degrees inside the coop. My gut is telling me this is as low as I should let things get. Please talk to me about this. I know my breeds are ok in cold climates (even though they really, really don't like to walk on the snow). I just need to be hand-held a bit with this. First winter with chickens.
3) I plan to wrap the run with plastic before winds begin. I'm also considering getting some old windows and putting them on the south side to create a bit of a greenhouse effect. Thoughts on this?
4) WATER. Such a pain in the bum, and our system isn't going to work if we go anywhere overnight. I've seen the little wall-hanging waterers but at the temps I've mentioned, they're going to freeze. Is an electrically warmed water bath my only option?
5) Access door - This stays open all the time, because of the closed run. If the run is wrapped, this won't be a source of drafts, but I am still concerned about it as a cold source. Do any of you have thoughts about this?
Thanks so much for your help. Again, my biggest concern is the 1st question about the space at the top of the coop. I don't want to close it in too closely so moisture can't escape, but I don't want all the warmth generated from the girls to float off into the air.
Edited by 406Jen - 11/7/15 at 8:05am