Cold Weather Coop!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Tigerfeet, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. Tigerfeet

    Tigerfeet Out Of The Brooder

    18
    0
    22
    Jan 2, 2009
    Iowa
    Well, we just got the good news... we get to keep our house! And, by proxy, my garden, and our garage and the plot of empty yard that my husband is always complaining about mowing!

    This also means that I can now afford to think a little more seriously about chickens. Yes, I know it always starts out as 2-3, but here's what I want:

    Chickens:

    Layers - Dominiques ideally (rare breed preservation go!) Cuckoo Marans sound fun with their dark-speckled eggs.

    I'm not a big fan of eating eggs, I find them tasteless and bland and I'll only eat hard-boiled if I've got some salt to dip it in (can you hear my blood pressure screaming?) I've also only ever had store-bought. The husband enjoys eggs though so if I get eggs from my own chickens and don't like them they won't go to waste.

    I'm interested in having a bird for meat too. I don't know if I'd be able to kill it, or if my husband would be able to, which is why I chose Dominiques. They're described as an old dual-purpose bird so if we chicken out (hee hee) we'll still have someone who can lay eggs.

    I need the chickens to not be very loud. I don't know much about the Cuckoos, so if they're noisy I'll have to pass. I also won't be getting a rooster.

    So, on to cooping!

    There's a -40 windchill right now and I'm very worried about any living thing outside. I need advice on coop construction with cold and WINDY conditions in mind. I don't mind insulating, but I'd like to avoid needing a heatlamp if at all possible.

    I want to build a tractor so I can move it around. I'm thinking an A-frame shape with a small run underneath to start. I'm a bit of a design snob and have already been drafting sketches for norse-themed decorations (glad I've got my priorities straight!)

    Anyway, talk to me about coops in the cold, what can the chickens tolerate, how large of an A-Frame at the base, what should the pitch of the roof be? What's the best access to get into the coop (no way am I crawling in there, the thing needs to be deconstructible), Should I put nesting boxes hanging on the outsides of the ends or allot an end to be nesting boxes? (I'm thinking the latter for heat conservation, less surface area means less places for heat to escape)

    Thank you all in advance! I'll start drawing up some plans and post them in this thread as I work on them.
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    87
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Hi, welcome to byc!

    Quote:Uh, practically anything that isn't a banty or leghorn gets described as 'dual purpose', but be aware it is not going to give you a supermarket-type carcass, by ANY stretch of the imagination. If you process the bird at 16-18 wks and deal properly with the meat it will not be particularly tough (tho not as soft and squishy as supermarket chicken is), but older birds will be mostly useable for, like, soup or chicken-and-dumplings, simmered slowly for a long time and the meat cut in small pieces.

    OTOH it will be much more flavorful than store-bought chicken, too [​IMG]

    BTW, about the Marans, be aware that they don't ALL lay dark eggs. In fact some people are having a fair bit of trouble getting ANY darkish eggs - hatchery Marans apparently mostly lay the same brown eggs as any other brown-egg-layers [​IMG]

    There's a -40 windchill right now and I'm very worried about any living thing outside. I need advice on coop construction with cold and WINDY conditions in mind.

    Wind and windchill are really not that big an issue. You'll want to create a windbreak for the run, at least for wintertime use, and possibly may need to baffle the ventilation openings somewhat, but basically there should not BE any wind IN your coop and thus windchill is irrelevant [​IMG]

    I want to build a tractor so I can move it around. I'm thinking an A-frame shape with a small run underneath to start.

    Unfortunately tractors are real hard to winterize for serious cold. Because the air volume is so tiny (relative to a regular coop) it can be very hard to ensure sufficient ventilation for healthy air-quality without also a) freezing the chickens with direct drafts and b) getting it too cold in there.

    If you want a tractor for the warm months, fine, no problemo, but I would suggest SERIOUSLY thinking about a fixed coop of reasonable size for wintertime use.

    Anyway, talk to me about coops in the cold, what can the chickens tolerate, how large of an A-Frame at the base, what should the pitch of the roof be?

    And, of tractors, A-frames are the most difficult design to use. In terms of chickens' quality of life. They provide only a TINY area/volume of indoor space, not all of which is even really useable (because the sides slant down, unlike a vertical wall). If you are going to try to winter the chickens over, up north, in a tractor, I would really really urge you to consider a different, more chicken-friendly, design.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  3. Tigerfeet

    Tigerfeet Out Of The Brooder

    18
    0
    22
    Jan 2, 2009
    Iowa
    Thank you very much Pat! That's a whole lot of information I didn't already know.

    I was a little worried about space and ventilation, and what you say about a tractor a-frame design makes a lot of sense.

    I am aware that I wouldn't get a Dominique to look like a supermarket chicken once processed, and I wouldn't really want one like that anyway (those poor birds). I am interested in flavor and nutrition value though and I love making soups and stews. Right now I buy wings from the store and boil two or three for a nice cold-weather soup for my husband and I (it's just the two of us)

    You talked about baffles in the ventilation, this probably sounds really stupid but I'd just assumed that during the cold it would be ok to keep the chickens sealed up... [​IMG]: now that I think about it, yeah, probably not a good idea. How would I like it if someone put me in a closet all winter long?

    As for a fixed coop, this is possible. I've got a number of unused crannies around the house and yard that could hold one. I'll have to think about it and start brainstorming. I'm assuming that a winter coop would be better if it's snugged up against another building rather than standing out in the open?
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    87
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:You'll like dual-purpose birds just fine then... they make AMAZING tasting soup [​IMG]

    You talked about baffles in the ventilation, this probably sounds really stupid but I'd just assumed that during the cold it would be ok to keep the chickens sealed up... [​IMG]: now that I think about it, yeah, probably not a good idea. How would I like it if someone put me in a closet all winter long?

    And, more to the point, in a closet *along with everything that, er, comes out of you*. Chickens process a fairly vast amount of water, and a nontrivial amount of what comes out as ammonia, and you can really quickly end up with humid ammonia-y air that is not at all good for respiratory health. See link in my .sig for more on the subject, but basically, yes, you need ventilation *even in cold weather* [​IMG]

    I'm assuming that a winter coop would be better if it's snugged up against another building rather than standing out in the open?

    Yup, for sure. Especially if that blocks some of the worst winds (makes draftproofing easier, and makes it easier to keep run appealing to chickens) but still gets sun.

    Have fun,

    Pat​
     
  5. Tigerfeet

    Tigerfeet Out Of The Brooder

    18
    0
    22
    Jan 2, 2009
    Iowa
    One more question, is it overkill to frame out the coop and actually insulate the walls? Like... with actual insulation?
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    87
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Not in the least. It's quite sensible. The main problem with wintertime temperatures are *nighttime* temps, plus which remember that chickens themselves give off significant body heat, so the basic game is to keep coop temps from dropping too low at night. By conserving daytime warmth and chickens' body heat, insulation is a BIG help. Also allows you to have more ventilation goin', when needed, without excessively freezing the chickens.

    Btw, insulate the roof/ceiling, too, if at all possible. DEFINITELY insulate the roof if it's going to be metal (otherwise you get condensation, and drips, and because water vapor condenses out instead of remaining airborne you don't get as much bang for your ventilation buck so to speak.)

    Hard to go wrong with insulation. THe worst you can say about it is, it's a bit more work and expense, you have to keep the chickens from eating it, and (especially if your carpentry is very sloppy) it has the potential to become a mouse motel. Still VERY much worth it, if you ask me.


    Pat, whose chickens are in a building with well-insulated 6" stud walls and ceiling (better than my house! sigh) which contributes greatly to it being so much warmer in there than outside.
     
  7. chica-z

    chica-z Out Of The Brooder

    81
    0
    39
    Sep 23, 2008
    Northern WI
    It's not overkill, just depends where you want to spend your money. You'll find that insulation does help retain their body heat, even though you will need some good sized ventilation holes up high. Sounds contrary, I know. ( Read Pat's ventilation page, I wish I had known this stuff before I had built my coop)
    Either that or you'll end up feeding them a bit more because when it's cold they PORK out to keep their internal temps up. It's alot easier to add insulation now, than to wish you had done it later... and it's not all that much extra. There are lots of people that don't insulate at all, and just provide a draft free coop.
    WITH plenty of ventilation. [​IMG]
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by