Cold weather coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by boisblancboy, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. boisblancboy

    boisblancboy Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 18, 2013
    Hello, I've been doing a lot of research for building a coop for the cold weather. Now I know if you heat it then its something that you have to continue to do. Here is my thought and I would like to hear any and all feedback.

    My coop is going to probably be an 8x8 shed with only 6 chickens. I want to insulate it in case of our cold nights during the winter that at times stays below zero for days. I want to install a couple vents near the ceiling that would normally stay open unless these cold times happen. Then they would be closed and just enough heat applied to keep the coop around 20 degrees or so. Is this a realistic idea?

    Brandon
     
  2. Daisy8s

    Daisy8s Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My coop is 6x8 and has 8 chickens in it, so very similar to yours. I constructed a double wall--two layers of plywood sandwiched outside and inside the 2x4 studs. I also have vinyl siding on the outside--not much insulating factor but helps keep out the wet and some drafts. The roof is just plywood with shingles. No insulation anywhere.

    Along the top of the walls, at their highest point, I left a gap about 3 inches tall and 12-14 inches long. This is covered with wire and nothing else--never closed in any weather. When the wind is blowing you don't feel a draft right on you but you do feel the air moving.

    Here's something to remember: ventilation is the warm and moist (unhealthy) air venting out over their heads. A draft is cold air blowing on them. Keep those ceiling vents uncovered no matter what the weather.

    I live in MI. This winter a few times temps dipped below zero at night and stayed in teens during the day.

    I didn't provide any supplemental heat until temps went to single digits in January AND I had one fool bird start to molt. She's my best broody and a great layer and a little bantam so I made some concessions for her pathetic state and plugged in a heat lamp that's suspended securely about 3 feet above the roost.

    I have been watching the flock since I plugged in the lamp. If temps are in the 30s they both spread out along the top roost and some move down to the lower roost to be farther away from the heat lamp. If temps are low 20s and colder then they're all on the top roost huddled together, closer to the lamp. This tells me the lamp is helping out when they need it on really cold nights but also not overheating them since they can get away if they want. I'll turn it off once temps are consistently in the 30s and above.

    Note: I made a cookie-tin water heater (search for threads here on BYC) and it has worked perfectly, with a 20 watt bulb, so that my water has never frozen, even on the coldest nights.

    Last thing--I use the deep litter method and I swear that adds heat to the coop. Once I was watching them scratching and I saw steam rising. Thought it was a fine dust till I put my hand down there and it was HOT! I add plenty of dried leaves and grass so things are breaking down quickly and composting really well. Last year when i cleaned it out I found live earthworms in the bottom so it's an active, healthy thing! Plus it make such a soft landing when they come off the roosts and gives them something to dig in when they're inside on the bitter cold and wet days.

    Good luck. I've heard some people say that frostbite occurs when there's too much moisture in the coop and I can say that my birds, even the rooster in my avatar, have never had frostbite with my permanent vents in my coop because all that warm, moist air is venting out.
     
    2 people like this.
  3. boisblancboy

    boisblancboy Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 18, 2013
    Thanks for that detailed description. I too am in Michigan, right near the Machinaw bridge.

    We had a few nights already with high single digits below zero. So I guess I'm more worried about them getting frostbite more than anything.

    Sounds like a heat lamp is the best thing to do vs a small radiant heater?

    For the water dish, if I got a heated dish and was able to hide the cord so they couldn't pick at it any reason I couldn't use it?
     
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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  5. boisblancboy

    boisblancboy Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 18, 2013
    I like that plan! I think I'll get something larger so my kids can go I side and play with them. Plus I want to be able to store all the chicken related stuff in the coop too
     
  6. 4 the Birds

    4 the Birds Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You will want a few or more vents always open up near the top. It is best to have many vents with the option to open or close them. Close the ones upwind to keep out COLD drafts. You can add a heat lamp so that they have choices to huddle near it or not. You can bury the cords in the flooring material. Mine have never bothered elec cords; However, I put my elec cords in flex metal wrap in the goat shed. I love the large 2 gal capacity poultry heaters. They hold alot of water and you can slosh out water in the trough to remove pine chips/contaminents when you don't need to do a refill (I refill every other day). Below are some pictures.

    This shows a lamp at the end of the coop and one of a few small vents up high. In the summer months I remove large openings for ventilation (under run roof). I have a couple of pop doors down below that are always open and well covered to block drafts.

    [​IMG]

    This one shows a heated waterer under a poop board table. I also have a heat lamp nearby.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. JackE

    JackE Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Check out the link below. The book is full of info on coop ventilation, and coops in cold climates. You do not, (Really the chickens don't) need a heatlamp or any other kind of added heat. (Unless you have some kind of thinly feather tropical breed) You don't have to worry about insulation either. Chickens already have perfect insulation of their own already. On pg. 24 of the book, it tells of people in Canada keeping chickens in -40F temps in an open unheated, uninsulated Wood's style coop. I built one of those coops, it was a proven design almost 100yrs ago, and it's still a good design today. The Wood's coop kinda disproves the theory of cold weather ventilation that HAS to be up over the bird's heads. The whole front is wide open, right at chicken level.
    Jack

    http://archive.org/stream/openairpoultryho00wood#page/n0/mode/2up
     
  8. Going Quackers

    Going Quackers Overrun With Chickens

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    You know i pondered the insulated factor myself, but ended up using this fancy type siding from lowes and raised the coop, built the floor quite thickly(all wood) and my birds have been fine. I have no heat lamp and honestly, they have never acted like they needed it. I have this HUGE window in the back of the coop which lets sun come in which aids on cold days. I am vented on the door and the sides.

    I think if you choose a bird good for your climate and build the coop with sturdy, naturally insulated materials all should be fine. I get cold, I am in Canada, heck it was -20C(-4F) just the other day, my birds were fine, i just use a heated dog bowl(for water) i don't deep litter either... i am really pleasantly surprised how well this winter has gone, they have fared better than I [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2013
  9. boisblancboy

    boisblancboy Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 18, 2013
    Thanks everyone for the advice!! Here's a different question, with a cold hardy chicken in the winter what can you do to help with the production of eggs?

    Some articles I've read say they stop in the winter. But having light in the morning to give them a long day will help. Anything else besides light?
     
  10. 4 the Birds

    4 the Birds Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Westfield, Indiana
    You can make your choice of whether to insulate or whether to add heat. :) Our birds are both warm and cold climate hardy (Buff Orps, Plymoth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds) They say the reduced daylight will lower egg production. I have a light in our coops and egg production is the same as the warm months (nearly 1 egg per day per hen). I have windows as well on the southern side of my coops. You may want a heated water dispenser in your coop as well so that the birds always have access to water during the cold months.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2013

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