Cold weather coop design- help!


8 Years
Feb 23, 2011
Dundurn, Sask
So i've read the few articals i can find- but for those folks in the COLD (we're tlking -40C here )

So i am planning to be abe to put some heat in if needed. but would like to cut down on the amount (length of time) as much as possible)

obviously vents/windows that close for winter, but able to open some for ventiltion...

but on the ground? raised?

know i don't want it too small- was thinking around 4x4 for the coop size- maybe a bit bigger. size isn't a HUGE issue(ie i've got room) and don't want them squashed since obviously n winter they will be inside mostly
Hi, I'm from Duluth, Mn so I know what 40 below means. The first thing I'd recommend is choosing chickens that are cold hardy. Next, BYC recommends 4 sq ft per chicken in the coop and 10 sq ft per chicken in the run. For us in cold weather it's likely the chickens won't always be able to go out to the run, so a larger coop is recommended so they don't go stir (sp) crazy. I was told 10 sq ft per chckn in a cold weather coop. Dance hall .... I know. I think a coop floor up off the ground is best because then you can install insulation under it. If the floor is 18 to 24 inches off the ground, the chickens can go under it ... it can be part of their run .... and a shady area in the summer. I'd insulate all the walls and the ceiling. Ventilation must be adequate because moisture is more harmful that cold. It sounds nuts to insulate and have big open vents ... but yah. The important thing is to not have drafts on the birds. Especially while on the roost. High vents so it's not drafty on the floor, and no venting near the roost. And lastly, don't heat the coop. There are folks on here from Alaska who don't. I've talked to others in Minnesota who don't. They'll be better off without heat because their downy understuff will grow thicker in the cool fall, but if they are used to heat, and then you can't warm the coop for some reason, like 40 below, they may not survive. Pine chips are recommended for cold coop floors because of its insulative qualities.
You probably know most of this stuff, so please don't be offended. Anyway, you now know about everything that I know .... yah know?
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We are in Wisconsin and currently have a good 3 feet of snow in the yard. I am very glad our coop is raised because we can get in the door with all this snow! DH still snowblows a path out to the coop, but it would be be difficult if the coop was on the ground. There'd be snow getting in there every time we opened the door.

Also, we don't have heat on ours. It is very well insulated and the girls (and boy) have made it through the winter most happily. I did apply vaseline to combs on the coldest nights to prevent frostbite, and egg production took a bit of a dip during the cold snaps, but they're just fine.
Whoaaaa.... a 4x4 coop at -40 C is going to be *really* tough to manage. I would strongly, strongly, strongly, strongly, strongly urge you to build it bigger (like, much bigger, like, no smaller than 8x8). For one thing your chickens will need a lot more room than you seem to be planning (personally I would not consider putting more than ONE chicken in a 4x4 area if it were going to be in for much of the winter, wihc if you get -40 temperatures they will be). For another thing, ventilation will be next to impossible. And heating it will be very difficult and complicated because of the need to not actually catch chickens or coop on fire (your best bet I think would be to have all parts superinsulated, like at least 8" of insulation or even more, so you can use a low wattage)



I have a small raised coop that's 4 x 4, and a larger one that's 8 x 8. Now, we don't experience anything approaching a real winter, but we do get down to freezing and below once in a while. One thing that's been obvious is that the temperature swings in the small coop much more quickly than the larger coop. It's that thermal mass thing, I guess.

If you're planning to add supplemental heat, it's going to be very hard in a small 4 x 4 coop to find a place to properly site the heat source. If you're using a heat lamp, it's recommended to secure it at least 18 inches away from all surfaces, top, bottom and sides. And if you're adding a heat source, it also makes sense to insulate your coop to retain as much of that added heat as possible.

How many chickens are you planning to keep? I'd shoot for building them a coop that gives them around 15 square feet of indoor space per bird.
In addition to what everyone else has said regarding insulation, drafts, and ventilation, site location I believe is also very important. If you have a somewhat sheltered location on one side of your house, away from prevailing winds, that can help tremendously. And preferably not on the south or west sides, as they can become overheated in the summer months. And as others have mentioned, heat can actually be more of a foe than the cold.
Bigger got it
Bigger i can do- i've got space. in the yard- i can also change and put it on the western end f the property (eastern side is the front yard no go and the house is flush to the north side of property

I am planning on south side of my property but it's against the fence on the south side so it will be northern sun on it and just the end of the coop will be facing west- but theres a tree on that side. It's right by the shed then so easy for storing food etc

So for locked up all the time how much floor space for 3 bantam sized hens? 8x8 is 64 sq feet. if it's 2-3 sq feet inside and 4-5sq feet outside (so that's a total of 6-8 sq feet total per chick) i'm thinking 4x8 feet for the coop. Plus i'd have some more run n top (and all the space under for a run) for in summer)
Our winters pale in comparison to yours, but here's the bantam coop I just (almost) finished:
I do like is the space beneath the shelter and a roofed run. It's small enough to totally wrap the run part in winter, so that the chickens can make use of it, even with lots of snow. And you'd want at least R19 insulation rather than the R13 I used. You may want to go bigger, but you might find some ideas that you could use/adapt.

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