can you critique my coop ventilation? (pictures included)

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by andreamunroe, Nov 11, 2009.

  1. andreamunroe

    andreamunroe Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 22, 2009
    Hello,
    I'm just gearing up for winter, and I want to make sure my coop is good before things get too cold. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. I have 3 hens- 1 barred rock, and 2 black australorps, they are 6 months old. I also have a rhode island red, but just found out that he is a rooster, and I cannot keep him because I live in a town, so we are finding a home for him. Winters here are very moist, somewhat windy, and we get temps down to about -30'C (-22'F) during the nights sometimes, but for the most part temps stay around/above -20'C (-4'F). My coop is 3' x 4'. It has a 1' x 2' single-pane window on one side (I currently have this facing south, but the coop is easy to move, so that can change). The window can be removed, it has hardware cloth/wire mesh behind it. The coop is insulated (floor, walls, and ceiling) with 2" rigid high-density foam board (R-10). Right now, I have vents (just openings covered with hardware cloth/wire mesh) at the peaks on both ends, triangular in shape, measuring about 15" wide and 5" tall, you can see these in the pictures. Inside the coop, the bottom of the vents are 19" above the roost. Underneath the eaves, there is also a 1/2" space for air to get in. This is 14" above the roost. The pop door is 12" x 12", and is at the same end of the coop as the roost (below the roost, you can see the top of it in the pictures). I had been leaving the pop door and the window open 24/7 in the summer. I have an outdoor/heavy duty extension cord that I run to my coop, I am using this to provide a light, and will be making one of those cookie-tin water heaters, but I prefer not to heat the coop except on the coldest days/nights- from what I have read, this should be OK (winter-hardy breeds, small coop so their body heat will not be lost so quickly, 2'x4' for the perch to prevent frostbitten toes, and i'll give them some good "hot" foods in the winter)

    My questions:

    -Is this ventilation adequate for winter?
    -Should I block up the 1/2" space along the eaves, or should I leave this open? Should I be worried about this draft?
    -Should I install some sort of board to shield the main vents (triangle ones) from direct winds (maybe a piece of plywood or something, 1"-2" away on the outside, so air can still flow in/out, but so that it cuts direct wind?) Or should I make these vents smaller for the winter?
    -Do you have any other advice/suggestions/tips? I am new to keeping chickens, and am hoping to learn as much as I can (though I'd prefer not to have to learn the hard way if I can help it!)


    This picture is of the front of the coop (I took this picture on the day we found our first 2 eggs! That is our baby, Alden, sharing in my excitement). You can see the triangular vent just under the peak. There is a matching one on the other end. The roof/overhang extends to 6" past the end walls. The eave vent (1/2" wide, runs the length of the coop) is fairly well protected, because of the overhang and fascia. In the picture, there is also a large vent above the door- the door is on wrong, and missing the bottom part- the current door will be moved to the to of the door opening, and there is going to be another "door" that normally stays closed but which can open down (like an oven door) for cleaning, if that makes sense... in any event, pretend that this rectangular vent doesn't exist)
    [​IMG]

    In this picture, you can see what the vents look like from the inside. Sorry the picture is so dark. The inside of the coop (walls) are old wood paneling, painted white, but the roof and end walls/peaks are just the foam board, covered in tar paper to keep the hens from eating it. The angle is a bit funny, because I am crouching to take the picture, but the vent is 19" above the perch/roost. The eave vent (1/2" wide, it goes the length of the coop which is 4 ft), is sort of tucked in at the top of the walls- in this picture, it is where the white walls meet the black roof, 14" above the roost. You can see the top of the pop door in this picture. I will need to start closing this at night now (but the girls are going to be mad at me because I don't get up as early as they do)
    [​IMG]

    Thanks so much for any advice you can give me!

    Andrea
     
  2. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi Andrea, I wanted to be the first to post and I'll go back to look at your pic and return!

    We're from the same neck of the woods- same probs and challenges....lovely looking birds! [​IMG]
    Great-looking coop. You're well-insulated, I doubt you'll need heat.

    (back)

    How high is the roost? One option would be to lower it slightly so that no drafts run over the birds directly. Now maybe they don't, only you know for sure!
    The foam board- I'd sheathe it eventually with plywood or OSB since chickens are dreadful for breaking it up and swallowing it and the tar paper may not keep them off it. Chicken popcorn, I call it.

    Where are your prevailing winds on the coop?

    Your vents are closeable, right? When you get a snow storm, where are the big drifts?

    I use an electric dog bowl, which you can get at the co-op, pet stores, and at Bits N' Bridles in Windsor. I plug it in only on nights when it's supposed to go below freezing, and it was a godsend suring that period last year when we had those extended days of -40 chill factor. If you get an outdoor cord with a switch on it you can decide from the house end when you want it on, or you may find a suitable thermocouple to put it on only when the temp goes below freezing. Mine is elevated on a patio block supported by cinder blocks for fire safety.

    We're near the woods and our biggest problem is predators plus we're in a pine marten protection zone!

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=7693-seasonal-concerns




    We're in Centre Rawdon...[​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2009
  3. andreamunroe

    andreamunroe Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 22, 2009
    Thanks the response Lynn! We're in Truro, not far from you at all. Thanks for the link to your page, your coop and hens look great and there is a ton of helpful info there!

    I;m not sure how high the roost is, I will have to measure it. I'm thinking about 2 ft. Is there a minimum height that is recommended for my breeds/size hens? I am just using joist hangers and a 2x4, so I could certainly lower the roost to be on the safe side as far as drafts are concerned.

    Yep, we need to cover that foam board with something sturdier than the tar paper- man, they LOVE that stuff. It is insane. We have some old wood panneling in the basement that I hope to get in there this weekend or next.

    To be honest, I am not sure where are prevailing winds are. This is something I need to find out. (oops)

    The vents aren't closeable yet, but I do have the hinges and such all bought for them. I was debating on whether to make little doors/flaps out of plywood, and put these on hinges so that the vents could be opened and closed, or whether to make more permanent covers for the vents, but fix them a few inches away on the outside, so that wind couldnt blow directly in, but there would still be lots of air movement. What do you think about this?

    We've only been here one winter, and there didn't seem to be many big drifts- the snow was always sort of even over the whole yard- the only place it piled up was along the driveway and path, from all the shovelling.

    Do you remember how much your heated dog bowl was? I was thinking of making that cookie-tin-with-lightbulb heater to set a dish or my font on, but might opt to buy something instead, depending on the cost. I've decided to move the next box, which was on a shelf above the feeder, to the ground (they weren't using it there anyways), and set the waterer on the sheld where the nest box used to be, that way we'll hopefully have fewer shavings in the water. I'm looking into getting a thermocube or something similar to control the water heater for me.
     
  4. fiberart57

    fiberart57 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 31, 2009
    Colorado
    Hello,
    Cute coop and chickens. The picture of the baby and the chickens is great.
    You seem to be getting good advice about winterizing, my suggestion is about the roost. I can see in the roosting picture that the chickens' toes are hanging out so I was thinking that the edge they roost on might be narrower than they like. Chickens prefer to sleep by resting on top of their feet and toes, not grip things all night. Exposed toes can become frozen toes. Based upon many recommendations from here I use 2"x4" with the four inch side up so they can completely cover their toes at night. This helps prevent frostbitten toes and allows the chickens more rest.

    Mary in Colorado
     
  5. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    The roost is a good height- you have large birds so the 2' with bedding below is great. I have seen the dog bowls all the way from $59.95 Cdn to $79.95, which is ridiculously high, but when I calculated how much it would cost to ship one it wasn't much less and the exchange rate from the US was prohibitive then. The best buy was at Bits N' Bridles in Windsor but if we could get the local co-ops to stock them, they tend to have the best prices. They work really well, especially for a small flock. I use about a Tbsp cider vinegar in the bowl, I find that the local 'Boates' brand, available at Sobeys, works well and sometimes there is a glob of the 'mother' in it- I check the bottles on the shelf to get one with rather more...You're hinging the vents and panelling the styrofoam, sounds like you are in good control. If you had little drifting last winter after the bad weather, you should do well. A lot of people shovel snow around 3 sides of the coop for insulation but I don't bother because we have fibreglass in the walls. I think the annual bird show in Truro, at AC, is over but maybe we should get some local BYC and Alberta Chicken folks together there next season to meet?????
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2009
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Gee, walmarts and feed stores around here have heated dogbowls for like $25-29 [Canadian], although there may be a larger size that is more expensive I dunno.

    Ventilation sounds adequate to me; you will want to have the capacity to block all parts of it off depending on the weather. (Er, you will probably seldom want to block *all* of it off at once of course; but I mean, since any direction will be upwind sometimes, all openings should be block-off-able). There will probably come a time, in a month or two, when you do want to block off that half-inch crack; strips of feedbag folded in half and shoved in there using a screwdriver or blunt knife would work fine, if you do not require fancy [​IMG] For the triangular vents, if you make panels that are hinged from the bottom, then having them only part-open will automatically result in some baffling of direct wind so it doesn't whoosh straight in at the chickens. You will just have to fool around with open-partlyopen-closed strategies til you arrive at what works well for your particular coop in your particular site. It would be worth putting a max/min thermometer, preferably a mechanical not battery-operated one, in the coop so you can learn about what temps do in the wee hours of the night.

    Only other suggestion I could make, which Lynn may already have suggested, is that you could put burlap or plastic or something on the usually-upwind sides of the run to make the run a more appealing place for the chickens to hang out; you could even put a total or partial roof on it if your structure is strong enough (can't really see the run well enough in photo to make a guess). Don't enclose the run 100% though or you will get horrible humidity problems.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  7. sashurlow

    sashurlow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Aug 18, 2009
    West Rutland, VT
    "Ventilation sounds adequate to me; you will want to have the capacity to block all parts of it off depending on the weather. (Er, you will probably seldom want to block *all* of it off at once of course; but I mean, since any direction will be upwind sometimes, all openings should be block-off-able). There will probably come a time, in a month or two, when you do want to block off that half-inch crack"
    Just when is this appropriate anyway?
    Scott
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    I would say, you would probably close up that half-inch crevice when it is very cold and windy out and you start seriously thinking about 'how much of this can I shut down and get away with"; or if you start getting frost forming around the edges of that crevice.

    I know that people tend to want there to be a cookbook formula for managing ventilation, like "when it is X degrees outside do Y"... but honestly, as with any building or livestock or *especially* a livestock building, you kind of have to see how things go and adapt accordingly. If you start having humidity problems, or if the animals start having difficulties with temperature or breezes or anything else, you adjust things to try to fix it, and by trial and error you will figure out a custom-tailored strategy for your situation. It may be a pretty simple cookbook rule, but it will only be really useful for *your* coop, not everyone else's.

    Pat
     
  9. andreamunroe

    andreamunroe Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 22, 2009
    Thanks so much for all the advice, this has been very helpful! I have some plastic (I think it is 6mil stuff for vapour-barrier) That I can use on the run. Over the summer, I just stuck an old piece of plywood on top for shade, I have taken that off for the past couple of months because the sun is so low now. I think I'll rig up a permanent roof now- I'll have to fix it up a bit so that it sloped, or the snow will cave it in. I might be able to get ahold of some rigid plastic (that corrugated stuff) or some sheet metal, that would maybe be the lightest option.

    Just a few last questions:

    -My roost is a 2x4 with the 4'' part on the flat (so they stand on the widest side), but you're right, their toes are hanging off there. Would you suggest getting a wider roost (I think I have some tongue-and-groove boards lying around, I think they are more like 5" or 6").
    -I am going to rig up a dust bath for them, I think I will make it in a covered litter box. If it was protected and dry, would it be OK to leave this out in the run for the winter, or do they need it to be in the coop?

    Thanks so much!

    Andrea
     
  10. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    I looked for the electric dog bowls in Walmart (New Minas) today without luck but I didn't ask the staff if they could be obtained because it was insanely busy. I one I was pricing is the 1.5 gallon model. Worth looking some more, though, the price I paid was dreadful, though it's an excellent product. Amazon carries them in the US, but I haven't found them on the Canadian site.

    Andrea, you could always make a shelf for the birds by bridging some 2x4 with some plywood or OSB. I built roosts for mine and they use them for grooming and gossip, then move over to a shelf over the nest boxes to sleep. I left the roosts for them, but they told me in no uncertain terms where they wanted to be overnight. I think they liked the security of a wall directly behind them and no gaps underneath, or maybe mine are fuss-budgets!

    I completely agree about roofing the run, should it be possible. Better predator protection and elimination of most mud. -I didn't see all of your run in the pic, maybe it was taken before the run was completed?

    Basically, there is always more to do in the coop and run. It's the nature of what we learn by experimentation and as Pat says, we're always tweaking the setup until is *nearly* right! [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2009

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