Advice for a coop in ever changing New England weather

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by LeghornLisa, May 18, 2009.

  1. LeghornLisa

    LeghornLisa Songster

    Apr 9, 2009
    Hello All,

    I need your help. I have 6 chicks arriving today and they will be in the brooder, in my den for the next 4-6 weeks but I'm not sure about how to build the coop. I live in Massachusetts and the weather is constantly changing. The shell of the coop is up and it roughly 5x8. Should I insulate it or just use a heat lamp or both?

  2. chickie momma di

    chickie momma di Songster

    Jun 6, 2008
    Southeastern, MA
    Hi. We live in southern MA. In my opinion you should insulate if possible. As you know we have a wide range of temps here and i want my babies cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Insulation will help to accomplish this. remember to include ventelation (spelling?) and to preditor proof. also draft free (in the winter) is important also. if you insulate right from the beginning you'll never have to say "I should have done it when....."
    we also used a heatlamp on the coldest nights
    Last edited: May 18, 2009
  3. We have our seven one week old chickies in our garage under a heat lamp. The brooder is a watermelon box from Costco. We'll move them into their coop when they are about 4 weeks old. They'll stay out just during the day and then go back to the gaarage at night until the summer temps are 70 degrees or higher at night. Our two older hens (who will be a year old in June) are in a playhouse coop that is not heated or insulated.

    We had no problems at all last winter,which was pretty cold in Massachusetts. Insulation is very much a personal choice and heavy breeds can take a Mass. winter no problem.

    Last edited: May 18, 2009
  4. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    Apr 15, 2009
    I live in NH and have even more variable weather than you, if that's possible. When I decided to get chickens I asked for hardy breeds, able to withstand cold temps. I got Wyandottes and Giants, and they have done beautifully even in the coldest temps. My house is not insulated, but I do enclose their run in thick, white, plastic sheeting in the winter. I used a heat lamp in their house one morning when it was -25 degrees with a vicious wind, and that's it. They have never shown any signs of distress in the cold. They don't care for the wind blowing on them and HATE getting wet, which is the reason for the plastic sheeting around their run. I have found that my birds have a harder time dealing with the heat than the cold, which was surprising to me. (I suppose it makes sense with the down coats they're wearing.)
    Insulate your coop if it will make you feel better about them when it's sub-zero and snowing.

  5. OutdoorFun4

    OutdoorFun4 Songster

    Mar 28, 2009
    Southern Maine
    Welcome aboard! I think you got good advice.

    What do you have for breeds? Some are not great in the winter and need special attention.

    For example, they suggest putting petroleum jelly on combs of leghorns to prevent frostbite. Seriously, if my neighbors caught me chasing a chicken over a snowbank with a jar of Vaseline... I would have to move! I will stick to the very cold hardy breeds.

    It is really a matter of choice. I insulated my coop and will not have a heat lamp. I tried to provide good ventilation without drafts. If you have any doubts... checkout posts from members from Canada and Alaska!
  6. vermontgal

    vermontgal Songster

    I insulated my coop and used a heat lamp (emitter) only on the very coldest nights in Vermont. Last January we got to -30F, which is about 5 degrees colder than our normal lowest temp for the year. My goal was to keep the coop above 10F, and the coldest it got in the coop was 6F. I think my gals got a little frost nip on their combs.

    The bigger factor, in Vermont, was that I had not realized they wouldn't go outside all winter due to being chicken of the snow. By the end of the winter I started to have some pecking problems. You'll want to size your coop with the idea that they might be in there for at least a few days at a time.

    Depending on where you are in Mass., it is a lot warmer there than in Vermont. (I formerly lived in Boston/Arlington/ Newburyport for 3 years.)
  7. happyhensny

    happyhensny Brown Barns Farm

    Here is our small coop = 7 hens were very happy in there all winter, had an attached 6 x 14 run that I wrapped a tarp around and they went out in all winter. We also got very cold here last winter, many nights well below 0 and days in the single digits. All were fine. On a few of the very coldest nights I put a 100W light bulb on over the roosts just to take the chill off.


  8. CityChook

    CityChook Songster

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    Insulation and heat are very personal choices. You will get a variety of answers on this post, and all or none of them will be perfect for you. One thing to consider will be the breed of chickens that you have, and the type of coop you are putting them into. A larger coop (which will decrease pecking issues if they have to stay inside for a couple days because of weather) will be harder to keep warm with only 6 chickens. A smaller coop will be easier to keep warm, but will be harder to ventilate properly and you could end up with some frostbite or pecking issues. It's a trade off, I guess.

    For me, I have 4 BOs in a 6x8 coop and I insulated AND used a ceramic heat emitter. Even still, my coop got down to -5F inside. When it got down below -25F outside, which was about 2 weeks in January, I supplemented with another red light on an extension cord and could keep the coop around 11-13F inside. I had no problems with frostbite. More important than insulation is making sure that the coop is free of draft. Seal up seams, wrap the framing with paper if you can. Even when the coop was at 0F, it didn't feel so bad inside as there was no draft. Ventilation should be high up and close-able in bad weather. My chickens refused to go outside into their run if there was snow on the ground. Luckily, the run is covered, so the snow there was minimal. Still, they spent a lot of time inside the coop even tho their pop door was open. One thing that I really like is that I hardwired my heat lamp fixture into the wall and can operate it with a switch. Now I wish I had wired it for TWO lights. Having the fixture installed in the wall helps me sleep at night without fear of fire.
    Last edited: May 19, 2009
  9. chickens3

    chickens3 Songster

    May 5, 2009
    Eau Claire, Michigan
    sounds like you have a good plan on how you are making this coop.

  10. Buff Hooligans

    Buff Hooligans Scrambled

    Jun 11, 2007
    I live on outer Cape Cod and have found that rigid insulation in our small coop keeps 4 Buff Orps plenty protected even thought the windows are not airtight.

    I don't use a light bulb or have added heat.

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