Cold weather coop size

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by akchickenman, Feb 23, 2017.

  1. akchickenman

    akchickenman Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 2, 2017
    Anchorage, AK
    I know that there are tons of "cold weather coop" threads on here, but a lot of the ones I see in the search go back many years and it seems that there has been a shift in ideaology regarding insulation and heating coops. I live in Alaska where we get freezing temps (day or night) for about 7-8 months of the year. I am designing a coop right now and do not plan on adding any insulation nor do I plan on having a heat lamp in there.

    The coop is planned to be an indoor/outdoor coop, like most are, with a fully enclosed area opening to a run. I rent my house and my landlord is only allowing 3 hens. I do plan on expanding in the future but when the time comes, I will be building a whole new coop, so room for expansion is not necessary for this coop.

    The thing I keep scratching my head about is the inside dimensions of the coop. Common sense tells me that a snug inside will stay warmer since the chickens will be heating it with their body heat, but at the same time, I imagine they will also not be inclined to go outside when it is -15F... so the other side of common sense tells me that more indoor space is important. So, the base of my question is, how much indoor space is required? I would like to keep the coop as small as possible knowing I will only be using it for a couple of years before I move and build a bigger coop.

    So, what are the indoor space requirements for an Alaskan coop with only 3 hens in it? I also plan on having Wyandottes or Orpingtons as they are very cold hardy breeds.

    Thanks!
     
  2. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 5, 2014
    Kansas City, MO
    I agree that they'll be better able to conserve their body heat in an appropriately sized coop and I wouldn't underestimate them going outside in -15 degree weather. We had some -10 days this winter and mine were out in the run acting like it was no big deal. I'd think it would be more important for your coop to be built well, draft free, and well ventilated. Draft free and well ventilated aren't an oxymoron-keep the ventilation towards they top of the coop, above where they roost. Draft free below that. It is counterintuitive to have as much ventilation as they need, especially in cold weather, but it is very important as it keeps the humidity lower and prevents frostbite.

    The commonly quoted space requirements are 4sq/ft per bird in the coop and 10sq/ft per bird in the run. If you wanted to bump it to 5-6 in the coop and 15-20 in the run (assuming you have the space), they'll love you for it.

    If I could offer you one piece of advice, it would be to look into breeds with a rose comb or pea comb as opposed to a single comb. They'll fare much better in bitterly cold weather and be less susceptible to frostbite. Wyandottes, Dominiques, Chantaclers, Ameraucanas, Brahmas, some Easter Eggers. Not a comprehensive list but you get the idea. Not that an Orpington wouldn't do well-I have single comb breeds who did fine down to below zero temps but it is more of a concern.

    Good luck and have fun!
     
  3. akchickenman

    akchickenman Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Anchorage, AK
    Thanks a ton, Leatherpug! I will keep breed choices in mind. I was considering Orpingtons because they are known for being good in confinement, but it looks like if they have a nicely ventilated spot with a good run as well that they will be fine either way!

    I am happy to hear that 4 sq/ft per bird is adequate. I can likely increase the inside to 5-6 sq/ft per bird, but dont think I will be able to significantly increase the size of the run over 8-10 sq/ft per bird.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  4. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 5, 2014
    Kansas City, MO
    I think you'll be fine. Look for a way to let your birds stretch their legs a little-if they can get some free range time that's great. I haven't been able to do it much at this point but will be doing significantly more starting this spring. There are a lot of breeds that are cold weather hardy. Chickens tolerate cold much better than hot. It would be easier to raise chickens in Alaska than somewhere along the equator :)

    Here is a really good article that explains ventilation and cold weather. It's worth reading several times.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/...-go-out-there-and-cut-more-holes-in-your-coop
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. akchickenman

    akchickenman Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 2, 2017
    Anchorage, AK
    That ventilation article is great! I will need to make sure I build enough head space in to ventilate properly while not cooling off the birds.
     

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