Cold climate coop design questions

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by kimbobim, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. kimbobim

    kimbobim Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 23, 2009
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    We currently have six chickens, but will eventually have up to 12. Where I live (Utah), we get pretty severe winter winds and temps drop down to below zero occasionally. We are planning on building a coop that is 6 x 12. Is that too large for 12 birds? I'm concerned about building it too large - will that be too big for them to be comfortable in during the colder months?

    Also, how tall should the coop be? We were planning on building it about 5 feet tall inside.
     
  2. horsejody

    horsejody Squeaky Wheel

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    They will be fine. Just make sure there is ventilation but no drafts.
     
  3. CarlaRiggs

    CarlaRiggs Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi, Kim ~
    I've got kids in Utah. [​IMG] My son and family live in Orem, and a daughter's about to graduate BYU. I'm assuming you're above Salt Lake, where it can really be cold and windy. brrrrr!
    The chickens will probably not want to venture out in the snow. You'll need a coop large enough to keep them in during inclement weather that they won't peck at each other. If you can build a covered run of sorts, this will be good for them, also.
    I wouldn't worry too much about the cold weather; they will generate quite a bit of heat, and sleep together on their roost. Just make sure there are no drafts blowing in on them. High ventilation at the top of the coop, above their roost will be good. You can also purchase chickens with smaller combs, which can susceptible to frostbite.
    Keeping plenty of pine shavings on the floor will help to insulate the coop somewhat.
    Some people build insulated walls as part of their coops. I think that's a great idea! Of course, seeing as we rarely get down to freezing here, I'm more concerned with heat than cold. [​IMG] I would suggest keeping a nest box inside the coop so the eggs don't freeze. Nests with an opening outside the coop are really convenient, but can be troublesome in cold weather.

    Good luck!

    Carla
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    6' is better than 5' unless you LIKE hunching over and/or whopping your head constantly on rafters.

    There is no such thing as too large a coop, not even in cold climates (and yours isn't really *that* cold). If you find yourself wanting the chickens to better be able to concentrate their body heat, you can build an insulated hover or drop ceiling over/around the roost, or partition off a 'coop within the coop' for them. That way you get the best of BOTH worlds. Also if you are concerned about temperature you could consider insulating, perhaps using scrounged packing styrofoam.

    Goood luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  5. tellynpeep

    tellynpeep Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My girls go out in the snow and ice all winter. I had to shovel a path for them to get out in the deep snow, but they will NOT stay in, no matter how cold it is (we had plenty of sub-zero temps this winter.) A little frost-bite on one girl's comb is all there is to show for their foolishness. They will roost together at night for warmth, so I don't think coop size is a factor. The only trouble I had in the really cold weather was keeping water from freezing.
     
  6. estpr13

    estpr13 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    If you are worried about keeping them warm, perhaps you should build a small enclosed roost within the coop which is heated. About 2 square feet per bird. That way you don't have to heat the entire coop and they can come and go as they please. Add a bit of extra room for the water.

    I take my very young chicks outside in too cold of weather and let them run around until they start to bunch up then I bring them in. This is what a mother hen does. She will take her chicks out and when they get cold she fluffs up and keeps them warm right there outside. When they get warm she gets up and moves along eating.

    Just some thoughts... Hope they help.
     
  7. kimbobim

    kimbobim Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 23, 2009
    Highland, Utah
    Thanks for all your input! We were actually down at BYU this afternoon for my son to compete in the regional science fair.

    I live in Highland, which is in the northern end of Utah County - not too far from Orem. We get some wicked strong winds in the winter - they come whipping down from Lone Peak and have been known to lift anything that isn't tied down. My brother's trampoline ended up about 150 yards away in a neighbor's back yard once, and my neighbor's very heavy dog kennel was lifted and thrown over the top of their house. So the coop will definitely be secured with tie-down straps of some sort.

    I hadn't thought of building a little coop-within-the-coop. Great idea! So do you build a temporary lower ceiling? Or is it a box that they roost inside of? Could it be something that's just temporary - only set in there during the winter months? I'd like there to be as much open space for ventilation during the warmer months, since it does get in the 90's here (and it'd be one less thing to keep clean and poo-free).

    I was planning on having interior nest boxes, with a latched door/flap on the outside wall so we could collect the eggs from the outside when the weather's good. I'm still trying to figure out if the flap would need insulation on it, or maybe just a double thickness of plywood. We also were planning on insulating the roof and sides. We have a lot of insulation left over from our recent remodel, so we'll use that and some sort of OSB or plywood for the interior walls - I've heard drywall doesn't do well with the humidity of the coop. Our attached 10 x 15 foot run will be covered with a solid roof of some sort (in part to shade it during the summer), and it will have sheets of plywood or OSB attached to the north side during the winter. That should keep snow from building up much at all inside the run itself, since the majority of our snow and wind come from the north. We had about three feet of snow in our back yard this winter, so we need to have a covered run for them that won't have deep snow piling up in it - I can't imagine keeping them stuck in the coop for three months at a time!

    My husband wants to run electricity out to it so we can have heaters and/or lights during the winter, and a water heater, but I'll have to see what the city says - we can build up to 120 square feet without needing a permit, but running electricity may require one.

    I am going to convince my husband to build the inside of the coop to be 6 feet tall. I'm only 5' 2" so that would be just fine for me. He seems to think that the kids (from 4 to 11) will clean it, and they're all still short. Ha! I'll be the one cleaning it most of the time.

    I've read Pat's ventilation page (even printed it out), and am wondering how much ventilation I should build into this - it doesn't really say how many square feet of ventilation space is needed. How big should I build the vents? We're planning on vents in both gable ends up under the eaves so they'd be high enough that the ladies wouldn't be sitting in drafts, although the one in the north end may need to be shut during the winter (darn wind). We'll have windows that can be left open all day during the warmer months with hardware cloth stapled over them to keep out predators - we have racoons, coyotes, mink, weasels, skunks, hawks, eagles, cougars, and who knows what else here. Our area has enough predators that we'll be putting the ladies in each night and shutting the pop door and windows.

    Thanks again for all the suggestions! Hopefully our nice Spring weather will return and we can start to build this weekend. I'll post pictures when I have some progress to show.
     
  8. yfchoice

    yfchoice Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hey Kim.......We live in Sandy. Our coop is almost done . Hopefully the weather cooperates this weekend and it can be finished and I can post pics. It will be a coop (in the corner and off the ground) within an enclosed run. The entire "home" will be roofed but the top of the coop itself will be open for ventilation (but no drafts). The entire run is over 6' tall so I don't have to bend over when I clean it out and visit. The walls will be double OSB with a space inbetween so I can slip some insulation in if the winter gets too dramatic. I can also place a temp roof over the top of the coop (the ventilation) if needed. The bottom of the entire run can be covered with plastic to keep snow out but the top half can be left open for ventilation. I will post pics as soon as possible.

    If you haven't checked in with the Utah gang in the "Where am I" section, please do so.

    This link: theGardenCoop.com shows what our chick home will look like.
     
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Sure, any of those, whatever seems most appealing or effective to you.

    I was planning on having interior nest boxes, with a latched door/flap on the outside wall so we could collect the eggs from the outside when the weather's good. I'm still trying to figure out if the flap would need insulation on it, or maybe just a double thickness of plywood.

    I'd recommend a second outer flap for winter use (like, a plywood shell filled with foamboard and weatherstripped around the outside)... otherwise it may be difficult to prevent wicked cold drafts getting into the nestbox.

    <snip> rest of your plans which sound good to me [​IMG]

    Make real sure the support structure for the run roof is STRONG vs snowload, and thoroughly braced vs wind -- remember that because it will not have a solid skin like the coop itself, it will need you to insert well-chosen diagonal braces to keep it from turning into first a parallelogram and then a flat pile of lumber when you have strong winds.

    I am going to convince my husband to build the inside of the coop to be 6 feet tall. I'm only 5' 2" so that would be just fine for me. He seems to think that the kids (from 4 to 11) will clean it, and they're all still short. Ha! I'll be the one cleaning it most of the time.

    And remember that you will be standing atop however much litter is in there [​IMG]

    wondering how much ventilation I should build into this - it doesn't really say how many square feet of ventilation space is needed.

    Yeah, I know it doesn't say, because it depends on so many factors and neither I nor anyone I know has a good working equation for it [​IMG] As a first-cut rough guesstimate, I'd suggest building at least one square foot of ventilation per chicken -- for most (not all!) situations that will give you sufficient to play with. More is always better of course.

    How big should I build the vents? We're planning on vents in both gable ends up under the eaves so they'd be high enough that the ladies wouldn't be sitting in drafts, although the one in the north end may need to be shut during the winter (darn wind).

    there are lots of ways to do this, not just one right way; but personally my preference would be to do the high, sheltered gable-end vents you describe, plus soffit or high-on-the-wall vents along the tops of both long walls.

    If you will be relying mainly on gable-end vents, I'd suggest building them as VERY BIG as you can stand, and rigging a multi-part cover for them so that you can leave just the top open at times. For instance you might have a triangle of 5/8" plywood that matches the vent opening (well, slightly bigger than, to allow for overlap), hinge it from the BOTTOM, and cut it horizontally about 2/3 way up and hinge again there... so you could fold down just the top bit, or the whole thing. Of course there are lots of otehr ways of doing it too.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  10. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hubby and I put together a page on winter insulation, hope it helps!

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

    I hear you about the cold winds. When you make those nest boxes, be very cautious about the outside access because in your zone your birds may get cold when laying and refuse to use them, and you could get frozen eggs, too. Plus if you open it while someone is in there she'll not want to be there very often! If you do choose outside access, try to design a double-door system with sheathed insulation and strong predator protection.[​IMG]

    As Pat says, you'll love having the top high enough for you to be comfortable- this can't be overrated when you're cold and out there doing chores!
     

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