cold climate coop construction

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by fairviewchickens, Mar 18, 2011.

  1. fairviewchickens

    fairviewchickens New Egg

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    Mar 18, 2011
    Hi. I am planning to build a coop this spring for about 2-4 chickens. I live in Montana. We are planning on procuring birds adapted to colder climates. Any advice on whether I should insulate the coop? I would rather not, so it's easier to clean. We usually have a couple weeks each winter of lows around -15, -20, but the more usual temperature is 0- 15 lows. Also, does anyone have experience regarding how cold it can get before water freeze using the "clay pot" method of keeping water thawed (i.e. overturned clay pot with bulb, water system on top of the pot). Thanks for your time and expertise.

    Dave
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Insulation has no bearing whatsoever on how easy the coop is to clean. The insulation will have to be covered by plywood or something like that to keep the chickens from pecking at it ANYWAY... in fact if you do NOT insulate, and have open exposed-stud walls, that is a bit *harder* to clean just b/c of the irregularities caused by the studs sticking out every X inches.

    While you could certainly keep well-chosen breeds alive and even healthy without insulation, I honestly do not see the point in letting a coop be colder than can reasonably be avoided and in your climate I would think that insulating would certainly be worthwhile if you were willing to do it. (Unless you are planning a fresh-air type open-front-even-in-the-winter coop, in which insulation is utterly pointless... but I doubt you are).

    The main thing I'd say is to give your chickens plenty of room by building BIG. Not just so they have indoor space to while away long boring cooold winter weather, but mainly because it is extremely difficult to balance air quality, nondraftiness, and temperature in a teeny tiny coop such as one *could* potentially build for just 2-4 chickens.

    If you can possibly manage to build a walk-in size coop, at least 4x8, you would not regret it, and bigger would be better. See my 'cold coop' and ventilation pages (links in .sig below) regarding designing with cold winters in mind. Put the ventilation that you will be using during wintertime on the usually-downwind end, high on the wall, and with the roost as far as possible away from that end (especially important the smaller the coop is)

    Picking cold-hardy breeds (esp. those with pea/cushion/etc type combs as opposed to large single combs) makes life a lot easier too.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  3. clairabean

    clairabean Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 7, 2010
    Kootenays of BC!
    We live North of you in BC, Canada. My coop is insulated with boards on the inside walls. As easy to clean as any other coop. Extremely draft free. I can control the temp a bit better during our cold snaps. (Think -25* C) The insulation also helps in the summer, as it keeps it a bit cooler. And another bonus is the sound proofing. No rooster crows until I let him out.

    I say if you can do it, then insulate.

    As for the waterer, well, it all depends on the outside air, the size of the waterer, bulb size.... They are also called cookie tin water heaters. I just preferred taking water out to the flock a few times a day in the winter. I keep my coop very minimalist, though.
     
  4. fairviewchickens

    fairviewchickens New Egg

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    Mar 18, 2011
    Thanks Pat,

    I'm planning on building a 4X12 coop, with 4x4x4 enclosed, up off the ground. The other 8x12 will be meshed in, whole structure from about 6-7 feet high. Looks kind of like several of the coop pictures I have seen at this site. I will insulate, and the enclosure will be (hopefully) draft free, vented through attic space if possible. A couple of windows too. Sound about right for 2-3 chickens?

    Dave
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    4x4 is real small for 2-3 chickens in what I understand a Montana winter to be like -- any chance of making the indoor part larger?

    Pat
     
  6. Amy Chickie

    Amy Chickie Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 19, 2011
    I live in western Idaho, not as cold as you are but we can get pretty cold. I have a chicken tractor for night time and during the day the chickens free-range. Our hen house is pretty small, 3x4x4 feet high with elevated nesting boxes and a "loft" for additional space, so it's cozy but our two hens seemed to be very happy during the winter and we're planning on adopting a couple more. I insulated the outside of it by draping a water heater blanket on top, clear plastic from my garden over that, and then filling the gaps on the sides with bales of hay. I have a heat lamp on the inside, and a radio thermometer so I can check the temperature from the convenience of my kitchen. For ventilation we have some small holes on the peaks of the sides, plus the small chicken entrance door is always open but we designed a wind baffle like a darkroom's light trap (I used to be a darkroom photographer before the digital age). I found that even on the coldest nights (-10F) in which the waterer developed ice, if I pointed its opening toward the heat lamp it would thaw quickly after the lamp came on so the water would be available for the chickens.

    I hope this helps!
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2011

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