Construction and a Spring Thaw

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by LynneP, Feb 23, 2009.

  1. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Since many of us are building now, and in snow zones the melt is starting, I thought it might be helpful to think about construction issues surrounding a sudden thaw. Would love to hear your experiences, I know it haws been a tricky year for coops after the snow loads diminish.

    Taken from an update on my Seasonal Concerns Page-
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=7693-seasonal-concerns




    The Spring Thaw



    I was planning to write this segment in June 2009, but a weather bomb and an abrupt thaw after a massive snow load and a rain storm have forced me to begin now. I cannot stress enough the need for good drainage when you're building a coop. The winter of 2008-2009 was the most savage in 25 years here and the ground still contains thick sheets of ice and a huge snow load. The attrition rate among white-tailed deer is though to be in excess of 30% due to inhibited movement in the search for food. We did not get the anticipated January thaw and instead we were cursed with a 'Siberian Express' which drove wind chills down to -41C and lasted nearly two weeks. Then, last night's storm.



    I know that many poultry owners did not get their January cleanup done and now that we have a thaw, their deep-litter is liquid at the base, the coops are filling with ammonia and even the top layers are getting tragically dirty. I'm so glad we used platforms and a roost and that we spot clean, because last night the rainstorm flooded beneath the snow and over the ice, driving water in the front door of the barn/coop and drenching about a third of the floor, including a corner of the coop, the feed room, and the main aisleway. The water continued until it began to drain out the back door, and when I arrived at dawn I shovelled out that foor on a slop through the middle of the manure pile to get the water out. I had placed a shovel within reach through a window by the driveway in case the snow blocked the barn door, which it had. The floor drains worked for a while but eventually filled, I must put some road salt under the caps later to see if there was a spot in the gravel underneath which had frozen. It took 4 hours to get the place in reasonable shape and I'll be going back soon to continue.



    Of course when something like this happens you also have your home, driveway, paths and other things to clear and possibly other animal to tend. It's going to take a couple of days and a freeze-up is coming tonight but there are only the two of us and a snowblower, so we are prioritizing. Because this also had happened twenty years ago on this farm, the animals, feed and bedding were all located in such a way that there were no losses. Hurrah for Rubbermaid refuse containers on wheels and for planked stalls.



    Outside, a drainage ditch runs past the farthest edge of the run, which was itself damp but suitable. Roofing has paid off yet again. The ditch, though, is still clogged with slush, and though I scraped part of it to improve the drainage, I need to go back to finish the job, especially considering it is still raining and snowing alternately. Radar indicates it should pass before dusk so I'll finish then. This type of material is very heavy.



    It helps to have spare containers for coop cleanup indoors for emergencies like this. If you can't easily reach your disposal site, or if you need a break after a hard session of cleanup, you can delay the dumping if you have a porch or other place to leave them.



    The birds were oblivious, but the horse was frantic about the 'water snake' on his barn floor. If the coop itself had flooded, the birds could access nesting boxes, platforms and roosts without difficulty. Their hopper-feeder is part way up the wall and would have been spared. So if you haven't taken a critical look yet, ask yourself if you could get to your birds during an event like this, ask how bad it might get and what modifications would lessen the impact. I'm happy now that we began building in February 2008, which prepared us for winter, and now, with a few tweaks, we can avoid too much trouble in future (hoping).
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Thaws are certainly interesting [​IMG] I keep repeating that to myself in hopes that someday I will honestly come to believe that "interesting" is the most appropriate word choice there.

    "Challenging"? [​IMG]

    For those prone to the occasional bad floody thaw, when snow traps the water around your barn/coop and ditches are iced full, it can be worth having a sump that you can drop a pump into. This will not be something you can do now, but may be worth constructing this summer for future years' use. The key is to make sure the sump thaws with an empty space in it (so you can drop in a bucket heater to melt the rest of the ice, and then a sump pump which of course is what you REALLY want in there). So, BEFORE it freezes in the fall, even if the water table is below the bottom of the sump, put in a large bucket full of bricks, poised so that its lip is just above the lip of the sump. The bricks keep it from floating up; the lip-above-sump-lip prevents it from filling.

    Then when a thaw is forecast (or surprises you), remove bricks from bucket and fill with hot water; soon you will be able to pull the bucket out of the otherwise-ice-filled sump and replace it with an immersion heater (use with care and according to directions) to melt the rest of the ice back enough to let you fit a sump pump in there. With a long enough outflow hose to get the water WELL away from your barn, this can save you a LOT of flooding, ask me how I know (having not discovered the bucket-of-bricks trick until the 3rd yr we were here [​IMG])

    Shavings are real good for getting rid of puddled water that remains after a flood. Used shavings are fine, or you can use new bags if necessary. Let them soak up the water and then dump them outside. Once they are thoroughly dry they can be reused in coop/stalls if you need to.

    "Have fun" [​IMG],

    Pat
     
  3. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    I like the idea of a sump, Pat, thanks. I paid attention when you wrote about drainage last fall, too. Used coop bedding to soak up puddled and did a thorough cleanup mid-afternoon. Now it's all going into deep freeze, but the wandering water did not enter the modified horse stall that is the coop, so I was lucky. Gave the hens a new bale of shavings anyway since I brought them in early and they're playing 'Queen of the Mountain' on the pile in there.

    This was a shocking storm, happened only once before. I think we're been through 3 winters and I'm exhausted. Great eggs throughout, though.

    Oh and I am reminded that all electrical devices that are used in a barn or coop should be hooked up well above floor level for times like these, and that if the floor is wet we shouldn't touch the plugs! My timer is a bit off because of a brief power ourage, but I decided to wait until tomorrow to fix it.
     
  4. WestKnollAmy

    WestKnollAmy The Crazy Chicken Lady Premium Member

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    Oh, man! I love that I have a chance to read this stuff but never go through it. Bless your hearts for having to deal with it. I raise cane when I have to do chicken chores in 50 degree weather with the wind blowing!
    Spring thaw? That is like another world to me.[​IMG]
     
  5. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    It's not usually this bad, Nadine, but we're longing for summer. The city of Fredericton, NB, is paralyzed after a winter hurricane- ice everywhere and no place to shovel the snow. Feels like eastern Canada has been through 3 consecutive winters. Birds doing well though. Good thing, because without a roofed run I'd be in real trouble.

    The hardware stores are again out of salt and sand as of 10 am this morning, but the sun came out and though it is cold my barn is drying out.
     
  6. WestKnollAmy

    WestKnollAmy The Crazy Chicken Lady Premium Member

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    Totally foreign to me.
    I get photos from a friend in Toronto and the way they have to make tunnels for the dogs to go outside is amazing! But then, she is amazed that 98 degree weather here is not killing me with the 100% humidity in the summer.
    You learn to live with what you have got. However, I, too am waiting for spring. It may rain a lot more but at least I can get outside without the wind ripping my hat and coat off. I long to spend all my days outside in warm sunshine. I know that is how you all feel, too.
    I was hoping for snow this year but no luck. And yet, you all have more than enough.
     
  7. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    I'll send you some!

    Can you manage five tonnes at a time?
     
  8. WestKnollAmy

    WestKnollAmy The Crazy Chicken Lady Premium Member

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    Hmmm, it may be a struggle but by the time it gets here it could be down to 3. I'll chance it![​IMG]
     

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