Cold winter folks: Is your coop in the woods or shaded at all?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by 4myHennyPenny, Jun 15, 2007.

  1. 4myHennyPenny

    4myHennyPenny Songster

    Jun 4, 2007
    Looking for some help from those of you living in cold winter climates. How do you have your coop situated? Is it near any trees or buildings which shade it some in the winter? Or have you had to situate it so that it receives full sun?

    Ours will be fully insulated, with option of heat lamp if necessary. Ideal placement right now might mean that it will be in the shadows of some evergreens 1/2 or more of the day in deep winter. Will this still work???? Esp. since the girls can go inside to warm up a bit?

    Thanks for your help!
  2. Jsto

    Jsto Songster

    Apr 30, 2007
    North Carolina
    I'm not an experty by any means, but here's what I decided with my coop. Also, I don't have extreme winters, but some days do drop down.

    My coop is situated at the back of the fenced in portion of the property, butting against the woods. The area receives perfect shade in the summer and full light in the winter The run will extend back into the little clearing before the woods start, but the chicks will also be free ranging. For me, it was ideal because there are very few evergreens on that portion of the property, permitting full sun in winter and the trees also serve as a wind break during that time of year.

    Now, since you'll be wired for electricity and completely insulated, I don't see why not being in full sun all day would be an issue for you. I'm also under the impression that the biggest danger isn't the cold itself, but the cold draft. So, the protection the trees may serve from that would be good.

    I'm sure someone who's actually had their chickens during the winter will be along to advise you better than I can!
  3. kstaven

    kstaven Crowing

    Jan 26, 2007
    BC, Washington Border
    Mine are sheltered by trees in order to give then more clear area to range in the winter. The snow doesn't pack in the yard that way.

    The shelter in the summer keeps the hen house cooler. You have to remember that chickens do better in cold than in the summer heat. Big spruce and fir allow them more shade and allows them to forage more in hot weather.

    It really sounds like your placement is a year round ideal.
  4. dangerouschicken

    dangerouschicken Will Barter For Coffee

    May 6, 2007
    Columbia Gorge, OR
    Chickens don't always do so good in cold when they freeze to death. I lost one of mine when the bulb went out and the temps were in the 20s. [​IMG] I had them in 100+ temps for several months in a Texas heat wave, and with plenty of water, did fine. I'm not sure I buy that chickens do better in cold weather.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2007
  5. seedcorn

    seedcorn Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    NE. IN
    My coop is on east side of pole shed. I have huge mulberry tree on south side. It gives shade in summer but the sun comes through in the winter. The shed stops the cold west winds from coming through.

    I agree that the cold is not as much of a problem as drafts. Drafts will kill quickly. My bantams are in an unheated building but it is tight. Yes, the water does freeze.
  6. 4myHennyPenny

    4myHennyPenny Songster

    Jun 4, 2007
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Appreciate all of the info and suggestions.

    We haven't built the coop yet, but our plans are to have it fully insulated and wired for electricity. DH is a builder and am sure will NOT tolerate any gaps which might create drafty situations. [​IMG]

    Was reading in Storey's about the chickens really needing direct sunlight for vit D generation. Think I'll add a small 3x3x3 run to the west of the coop for that purpose. Should get more sun there in winter, and guess I can just cover it with something when it snows.
  7. rjwarren

    rjwarren Hatching

    Jun 16, 2007
    This interesting question motivated me to register on this forum to post a response.

    We live in interior Alaska and the average temperature from Nov-Mar is below zero with stretches for weeks where it doesn't get above minus 20 and minus 40 is common. This past winter we went 133 days in a row where in never got above freezing.

    In my experience, chickens are extremely tough and cold resistent. We have a plywood construction coop about 5X5X4 raised off the ground about 2 ft by legs and a ladder type walkway up to an opening for them to go in. Once the temp starts going below zero we turn on a heat lamp with a 200 watt bulb and if we are headed into a very cold stretch we close the entrace to the coop to help keep the heat in.

    In the past 2 winters we have taken 6-8 chickens (Buff Orphington, Black Australorp and some mixed birds) through without losing a single bird. Most of our birds are over 2 yrs old.

    I don't think shade or sun is much of a factor at all for us because in the winter months the sun is only up for about 3-4 hrs per day and it's not very high in the sky anyway. During the cold months the birds don't come out of the coop very often and even though we heat the water outside so it doesn't freeze the birds will stay in the coop and we have to bring water and food inside the coop for them. We also give them plenty of straw for insulation.

    I will say the the egg production really slows during the cold but it picks right up again in the spring. Often the eggs in the winter freeze if we don't get them right away but if you allow them to thaw they taste fine.

    Hope this info helps.
  8. MTchick

    MTchick Songster

    Feb 2, 2007
    Western Montana
    I live in Western Montana where winter temps often hover around zero, and some nights it will dip to -20 or -30. My chickens are too young to have over-wintered, but I have friends that have had chickens here for several years.

    I know of one flock that does not heat their coop at all. They have a very small, very snug henhouse that allows the hens to heat it themselves with body heat. I don't know if his is shaded. I do know that it is partially insulated and constructed very well.

    Another friend of mine has a rather bare-bones coop that he adds extra insulation to via straw bales in the winter. He walls up the north and west sides with the bales to prevent any drafts and trap more heat inside the structure. He heats his henhouse with a bulb (not sure what wattage). His is shaded part of the day. I know his hens HATE the snow and he caters to their pickiness by laying down little hay walkways in the fresh snow every couple of days. Very funny- it is like a yellow brick road for hens. In the spring he composts the walkways.

    My henhouse is not shaded at all but part of my run is shaded. I plan to wall off a partial outdoor enclosure (using haybales as a big temporary wall from Nov-April) so that the hens can be outside, protected from the wind, and in a snow-free area during the winter if they so please. Right now the roof of that area is a sun-shade, but I know in winter it will act as a snow-shed.

    When my chicks were 4,5 and 6 weeks old I put them in the coop. It was still regularly 28 degrees at night here at that time. They spent most of the night under a 125w bulb in the henhouse and I kept track of the temperature- it never fell below about 65 degrees near the lamp. I'm guessing in winter with that same span, when it is 0 degrees out, it will be 40 in the coop. At -20 out, it will be 20 in the coop and I'll need to put in a second lamp or a warmer bulb. I doubt that will be a problem in the larger scheme of things.

    I hope this helps.


    Last edited: Jun 17, 2007
  9. 4myHennyPenny

    4myHennyPenny Songster

    Jun 4, 2007
    WOW! Great information, rjwarren and MTchick!

    rjwarren, I'd never even considered Alaska's conditions. If they can bear AK's extreme cold temps and short winter days, they can certainly stand a bit of winter shade in Colorado! Sounds like the coop we are planning will be very similar in size and construction. Thank you SO MUCH for relieving my concerns regarding the shade.

    Whew, can't tell you all what a relief it is to stop worrying about this tonight. Now back to the roost & nest box problems... [​IMG]

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