Baby it's cold outside - glad for the extra sq. footage!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by CityChook, Dec 15, 2008.

  1. CityChook

    CityChook Songster

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    Here in the Twin Cities, it is expected to be -20 tonight. That's not wind chill (which is going to be around -40) - those are real temps. Last night, because of ice and blowing snow, they actually closed down the Interstate. Today, at the warmest part of the day, it was -1. My girls (I only have 4) have been locked up for 2 days now. Still getting along fine and no fighting that I can hear (over the monitor).

    I am really glad that I built my coop with about 12 sq. ft. per bird - that's WAY over the recommended amount, but now with the weather on a bad streak that is expected to last several more days, they will have to stay inside. They have a large southern window and plenty of room to party (and get away from each other). I'm not feeling guilty about leaving them inside. In another 2 days I may have a different opinion, but for now it is working out.

    The down side to too much square footage is that it is VERY hard to keep warm. With such a small flock, body heat doesn't add up to diddly. Being draft free is a huge help, but -0- is still -0-.

    I'm not writing this post to whine about the cold. I just know that when I was researching coop designs, I could spend HOURS going over posts and trying to learn from other's mistakes/advice. When folks say "Build Bigger" they really do mean it. It's the best piece of advice that I took to heart. And I can only speak for myself, but I am also very glad now that I spent the extra time and money to fully insulate both the walls and the roof. With tonight's temps, I don't think I would be able to sleep knowing that the girls were outside.
  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member 11 Years

    Well, you can corral them into a smaller area for body heat if you have extra square footage per bird, but if you are fudging on the numbers and have a few extra, even at the minimum recommendation of 4 sf per bird, then the ammonia is harder to control. All that poop is wet, wet, wet, then their respiration adds to the moisture and all the moisture adds to the ammonia smell. So, you did great in that respect. Zero feels much better in Colorado or Utah than it does in humid Georgia, though! I know from experience!
  3. joanc

    joanc Songster

    Apr 26, 2007
    Shafer, MN
    I'm just NE of the twin cities metro area and I've been watching the outside temps closely too. We've got 2 coops (2 diff age groups) and I went out about an hour ago to check them. It was -9 at 8:00 and both coops were between 45-50 degrees, so I expect them to stay above freezing overnite. We have 22 adults in one coop (12x20) and 18 teenagers (13 wks) in the other (8x16). We plan on moving them in together in January, then with all of that body heat we shouldn't be having any heat issues.[​IMG]

    One bummer though. In 2007 we had a hydrant installed so we wouldn't have to lug the water from the house out to the coops. Today when I got home from work I discovered that the hydrant handle had frozen closed, so I ended up having to get water from the house. Waaa...I won't be taking that for granted again (as soon as it warms up enough to thaw out!) [​IMG]
  4. beakkeeper

    beakkeeper Songster

    Jul 20, 2008
    I was just wondering about this--don't you want a SMALLER coop so their body heat will keep it warm? Obviously in FRIGID weather like we're having here in the Twin Cities (I'm in St. Paul [​IMG] ) the chickens wouldn't want to go out, so they would have more space in the coop, but then wouldn't it get cold in there???
  5. birdlover

    birdlover Songster

    Jan 11, 2007
    Northern Va.
    Can you put a heat lamp or two in there?
  6. CityChook

    CityChook Songster

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    Yes, beakkeeper, it's very hard to keep it warm in there.

    If I was to do it all over again, I would design the coop with the same floor footprint, but not so tall, thereby reducing the volume of space to heat up. Playhouse coop style. It's easier to heat up the coop using body heat when there are 15-20 birds in there, but when you only have 4 birds, it doesn't even register on the map. They would still have the same amount of floor space, they just don't really need 6-7 ft. ceilings (they don't, but I do). I didn't do this originally because I wanted the floor of the coop to be close to the ground (more insulating and we were worried about wind rushing below the house and making the floor too cold). If I was to do it again, I'd put a food/storage compartment below the coop, making a "basement" of sorts.

    And yes, birdlover, I do have a 250 watt heat lamp. When the temps are 5 and above (which is pretty normal), it keeps it around 12-17 degrees warmer inside, which I think is okay. But what I'm finding is when the temps go below 5 (which would be downright BALMY today), the heat lamp is only keeping the coop about 5-9 degrees warmer. And if it's going to be -20 tonight, that still makes it -15 to -11ish in the coop. The lamp is just no match for the frigid temps. I just keep telling myself that it's warmer directly under the lamp, which is above their roost, than it is in the rest of the coop, so they can huddle together there if it gets too bad.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2008
  7. orcasislandchickens

    orcasislandchickens Songster

    Jul 9, 2008
    Could you do a coop within a coop. Like a big doghouse thing with a heat lamp in it in one corner that they could all fit in? Then the regular heated coop, which is probably none too hot right now could be sort of like the run play area, that they could access for exercise. You could do a temporary kind of thing and dissassemble the "bedroom" when the extreme winter weather warms up enough in spring.

    It got realy cold here suddenly and so I have been thinking all afternoon. I think I am putting a cardboard dropped ceiling in my small coop in the morning.

    Edited to add: Traumatic cold temperatures to us out here would leave you laughing it is +15 here with highs like +25.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2008
  8. K7 Menagerie

    K7 Menagerie Songster

    May 6, 2008
    Bend, OR
    Here in balmy Central Oregon, it's only going to be -1 tonight. I have a flat panel heater in my coop, with 1 roo, 1 hen, and 5 teenagers. In the corner farthest from the heater, the thermometer reads 20 degrees. Nobody's huddling for warmth, they're just running around doing their own thing. I've been worried, as this is my first winter with chickens. How cold is too cold for them (breeds are golden laced giant cochin, easter egger, brahmas, and wyandottes).
  9. digitS'

    digitS' Songster

    Dec 12, 2007
    ID/WA border
    Quote:And, I think that's a good idea (whether it is necessary or just desirable is up to you [​IMG]).

    This year my coop was set up so that a tarp could be lowered to just above the roost during the coldest nights of the year. Then I decided that it was not likely to be of much help - too thin. After dark, they are already in an insulated room that is really quite small.

    Now, I'm thinking of a large cardboard box above the top rail of the roost. I could even cover the box with shavings. But, not all the birds get up that high and they may not be able to fit, either.

    The top "rail" is actually, "rails" and there's 5 of them placed fairly close together - a horizontal roost. Probably if I had 1 or 2 more rails they could all fit and then a large box could cover them all. Right now, 2 sleep on one of the ladder steps.

    Of course, they may try to get on top the box. Or, the box may be too new and frightening and they won't climb on the roost at all . . .

    I've never bothered with such things in past Winters but the BYC people are starting to soften me up [​IMG]. It will go below zero tonight and is supposed to be 15 below later this week so I'll scout out a box and see what they think about it [​IMG].

  10. Well we don't have 0 Temps here, yet... I really don't envy you in this situation. We have a couple of bantam cochins in a space that is real big for them (the coop being 4 x 4 x 3 1/2... the run being 8 x 4 x 2. For bantam cochins that is great when they need to stay in (it's rainy and cooler here today (40 feeling like 37).

    Maybe you could get a little dog igloo - we have a guy in our area that sells pigeons, cages and feed out of his house and we got a nice shelter thingie from him for $30.00 - we feed a stray Blue Russian male cat we named Vladimir and he's now figured out that little thing under the deck is his winter home, it's great for $30.00 maybe one of those in your coop would be a place they could cuddle up...

    But in anticipation of really brutal cold, snowy and windy weather the wife and I hit our local Agway this weekend and got a Chicken Hutch... we put it together and put it down in the basement, all filled with pine shavings and put a night light nearby (our hen is only 3 1/2 months old and newly with us) to keep them company. We have one of those projector clocks that puts the time and temp up on the ceiling. We put the sensor in the basement and it was a cozy 55 down there all night... I know it's an extreme measure but we can't stand losing animals for ANY reason. So the wife and I gave each other this peace of mind present to each other for an early Christmas...

    After putting together this Chicken Hutch I will say it's an ok thing for an inside environment or as a place to stash a sick bird INSIDE a larger coop, but not suitable as an outside standalone building. But for what we needed it was better than us pestering and waiting for our carpenter neighbor to have time (especially during the Holidays) to help us build a tiny coop. $139.00 isn't bad for peace of mind.

    Last edited: Dec 16, 2008

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