Coop building advice for cold weather please

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by wolfej9, Aug 5, 2015.

  1. wolfej9

    wolfej9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi everyone from SW Michigan! First, I’m sorry this is so long. I started writing it not realizing how many questions I would have. I’ve been doing a lot of reading here on BYC on this topic, and I have questions pertaining to my geographical area that I really need some more seasoned input on.

    After a tragedy last week where two dogs broke into my coop and killed my small flock, I’ve been on a mission to ensure that it will never happen again. I received some good feedback in another thread that was not intended for coop construction, but I have so many questions and ideas that I would like to run by the more seasoned members here – so it needed its own thread.

    This is my family's first year with chickens (although I had them growing up), and as time and money dictated, we purchased a prefab kit that I did some hefty updates to. I had more plans to prepare it for the winter, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to keep predators out. We’re in an urban area, and predators are minimal…or so I thought. [​IMG]

    We have new chicks coming later this month from MPC, so I have a couple of months to build the new coop before the chicks are ready to leave the brooder inside our home. I’m just not sure where to begin.

    My first thought is to expand and strengthen the current coop, and then build a walk-in 8’x10’ (or 10’x10’) pen for my 4 birds (our city limit). The coop would then go inside the pen, and I’d fortify the pen against predators. If I go with this idea, then here are my areas with questions:

    1) Should I put a roof on the entire pen, since we get heavy snow fall in the winter (easily 6+ feet a year in my area) and plenty of rain? If so, should this be corrugated metal roofing, the polycarbonate, or full wood with shingles? Or just a poultry net?

    2) The coop house is roughly 3’x3’ for four birds. They all fit well on one roost bar with room to spare, although I would like to open it up more. It is well ventilated with a window at the peak and the entrance door. It still seems small! But then again I’m not chicken, so I don’t know how much space they really need to keep warm in the winter, which is my largest concern.

    3) What should I use for the pen walls, especially to bar against predators? 1/2 “ or 1/4 “ hardware cloth? Is there a good place to find it at a reasonable price for the amount that I would need? Or should I just overlap cheaper chicken wire in two layers?

    4) The coop location is open to the elements on all four sides – due to being in an urban setting, and my city code requiring specific distances between property lines. Legally the only place I can put the coop is in the middle of my back yard, which I don’t have a problem with, but the wind can cut through pretty good in the winter. It can get down below zero degrees F for weeks at a time. There’s also limited shade in this area for our 90+ degree Fahrenheit summers. What would be the best way to prepare this for the winter?


    Any suggestions and input would be greatly appreciated! I plan on starting this project soon, and I’m trying to get a good plan in place before moving forward.


    Thank you all in advance!


    Edited for formatting - My mobile app didn't play too well with the website and added a lot of spaces.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2015
  2. redsix

    redsix Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would use metal on the roof, but that's just me. Buy your hardware cloth on Amazon. I got twice the amount for the same price as Lowes and free shipping. Chicken wire won't keep predators out. The rule of thumb is 4 square feet of floor area per bird. I have some large storm windows in my coop provide good ventilation in the summer. I plan to close them this winter. I have a removable hardware cloth frame over them to keep out predators.
     
  3. Emma Miriam

    Emma Miriam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi! I'm from the northeast, so different area but still quite bad winters. You have some great questions! Here are my thoughts.

    1) I would roof at least half the pen. Chickens don't like walking on snow, so they should have at least 40 square feet (10 sq. ft. per bird) of clear ground to walk around in. If you can roof the whole thing, that would of course be ideal! I went with metal roofing for my run (Fabral from Home Depot), but if you want the most sunlight possible, I've heard that Suntuf polycarbonate roofing is great (for summer you'd definitely have to install some shade cloth though). Buying sheets of roof like this is easier than shingles, but either works...it's really only aesthetics. If you don't end up roofing the whole thing, drape aviary netting over the rest. Climbing predators could rip through it, but it will successfully deter hawks and is nice and lightweight.

    2) 9 square feet for four birds is quite small. The smallest I would go with is 12 square feet, and many here on BYC would recommend 16 square feet. But you might be able to get away with your current coop for winter as long as it is EXTREMELY well-ventilated. I'd say at least 1 square foot of ventilation, the more the better. Make sure the vents are high up above the heads of roosting chickies: you don't want any drafts blowing on them.

    As for easy ways to expand the coop, does your prefab coop have exterior nesting boxes? If not, consider building some and removing the interior ones to add some more floor space. I can find a link for plans for that if you'd like. If you can post a pic of your coop, we can all give you more suggestions.

    3) 1/2 inch hardware cloth is perfect. Never use chicken wire, even doubled up...predators can rip through it easily, and smaller predators can reach/squeeze through the big holes. How tall do you want your run to be? If you want to save money, some recommend installing hardware cloth on the bottom three feet and chicken wire above that...there's some risk involved, but for daytime it should suffice. Amazon generally has the lowest prices. Look at this great deal: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001QINT6M?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00

    4) I also have legal setbacks for coops in my area, so I know what you mean. For the winter, cover three (or three and a half) sides of your run with a clear tarp or plastic sheeting. Here's a link to help with that: http://www.thegardencoop.com/blog/2011/11/25/chicken-coop-plastic-wrap-winter/

    For the summer, the roof will help with shade, depending on the time of day. Consider buying some shade cloth too. Another great idea I've heard is planting tall grasses/vines on the south side of the run. In the summer they will help shade, and in the winter they'll have died and so will let in light!

    Hope that helps. Be sure to post a pic of your current coop so we can help you some more! :thumbsup
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. ECBW

    ECBW Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would suggest making an elevated coop of 3x6, 2 ft off the ground. Have access for all maintenance of coop from outside the run. Have roof over the run whereever possible. So the roof and coop can provide dry area for the flock in rainy and snowy days.
     
  5. wolfej9

    wolfej9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 25, 2014
    SW Michigan
    Great advice everyone, thank you so much for the feedback! I really do appreciate it.

    Looking at all the suggestions, I think I'll definitely hardware cloth an 8x8 (or larger) pen. I'm planning on making it a full walk-in pen, and probably use the metal corrugated roofing over most of it (or all of it, I'm not sure yet). It's pretty cheap from Lowes, I was surprised. For the coop, I'll definitely be expanding this one. It sits about 2 feet off of the ground already, but it really could use more room overall. So I'll use what's there as a base, and build off of it, keeping proper ventilation in mind.

    The original coop is two pieces, with one part being a small covered run. I think I'll close up part of the sides of it, and make it an area for the hanging feeder and waterer, just so they're covered and off the ground.

    Also great ideas with the tarps for this winter! I'll definitely do those too on the north and west sides where the wind cuts through the most. I'll probably wrap the lower sections of the other two sides as well, but I guess I'll play it by ear to see how things go.

    Another question came to mind - I was thinking of using a heated dog water bowl this winter for their water. I was going to buy an exterior, high quality extension cord and some weather locks to keep the plugs dry on the house outlet, as well as where the bowl and cord meet together. Should I try the heated metal chicken waterers instead?

    Thank you again, this has been a huge help!
     
  6. Emma Miriam

    Emma Miriam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 23, 2015
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    Glad it was helpful!

    That's a good idea about enclosing the little run...if you made that part of the coop, it would probably double the available space. One thing I forgot to mention for predator protection: any time there's a dirt floor (for coops especially, but also for runs), it's a good idea to protect against digging predators. So if you did enclose that little run, cover the bottom with hardware cloth or add a hardware cloth apron. That's something to think about for the larger run you're building, too. Here's some info on that: http://www.mypetchicken.com/backyar...n-apron-fence-and-why-is-it-helpful-H282.aspx

    Heated dog bowls are great! From what I've heard at least. Much better than the heated ones at TSC (they have pretty bad reviews). The only concern with those is if you have roosters or hens with really large wattles, they could dip in the water while drinking and cause frostbite. Most hens have small wattles, though, so you should be fine.

    If it helps, here's a pic of my run-in-progress:

    [​IMG]

    It's 12 by 4.5 feet for three hens. Still have to finish staining, install hardware cloth, and put on roof, but you get the idea. I used 2x2s, supports every three feet on the long side. Roof will be at 22.5 degrees (which might be overkill, but it was easy to cut with the saw!). I think 4/12 pitch (18ish degrees) is pretty standard. The tall side is 5 ft 10 inches, which is perfect for me because I'm 5 ft 1. :) There will also be a door in the front opening, second from the right. (And by the way, those corner braces really stabilize things...I highly recommend adding those if your structure seems at all flimsy as you're building it.)

    If you have any other questions, let us know!
     
  7. wolfej9

    wolfej9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 25, 2014
    SW Michigan
    That looks great! Pretty much what I had in my mind as well, although I think I'll be putting the actual house inside the pen also. It's off the ground, so my 4 hens will have full access beneath it. Trying some napkin math here, if I did an 18" rise on one side over an 8 foot run, that's roughly 18 degrees right? Or am I off on my rise divided by run equation from school years ago? LOL, it's been forever!

    I love your coop, it looks a lot bigger than my prefab. Is that roughly 4x4? The roof looks great! Would you mind telling me how you raised the roof cap for the ventilation? It looks really good. Do you have any other windows or anything for ventilation, or just the roof?
     
  8. Emma Miriam

    Emma Miriam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 23, 2015
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    Thank you! I actually bought that coop as a DIY kit (The Smart Chicken Coop), so I can't claim all the praise. Plus my dad helped. :) It's a little less than 4x3. For the roof cap, the kit included these two "sentinel" posts. They're just 2x2s with a triangle on the top that we screwed to the inside walls of the coop. They reach up a little past the roof, so we can screw the roof cap onto the sentinel posts. I'm explaining this horribly. How about a pic:

    [​IMG]

    Then we just screwed the roof cap onto the top of that. We also hardware clothed the top of the coop so that the ventilation hole would be predator proof.

    As for other ventilation, those white panels on the bottom come off (thus the rock...I hadn't attached the panel yet), and there's a hardware cloth screen underneath it. For the summer it gets a great breeze going. In the winter I'll put the panels on, so the only vent will be at the top (not ideal but it will work). I'll try getting a closer pic of the roof vent tomorrow.


    Let's see...I think 18 inches only gives you half the rise you want. Here's my logic: 8 foot rise to 8 foot run would be 45 degrees. 4 foot rise to 8 foot run would be 22.5 degrees. 2 foot rise to 8 foot run would be 11.25 degrees...and 18 inches is 1.5 feet, so that's probably only 8 or 9 degrees.

    I could do out the trig but it's late where I am, so I'll take the easy way out and use proportions. 4/12 = x/8 so x=2.67 feet. So you'd have a minimum of 2.67 feet rise for 8 foot run, which would give you your 4/12 pitch.

    If you have any other questions about the coop/run, please ask! I love this sort of thing. :thumbsup
     
  9. wolfej9

    wolfej9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    SW Michigan
    You've been a great help, thank you so much! Wow, I failed on my napkin math. I'll be sure to make sure and do it right before I start shoveling dirt for posts. Thank you for the quick numbers! [​IMG]

    Ah yeah, the picture helped a lot. My prefab had a hinged roof, and I think I'm going to raise it and make it solid with better ventilation. Raising the roof cap like that is a great idea, and should be easy to do. At this rate the old prefab is going to end up being vastly overworked, and in hindsight I should have just made one from scratch. It would have been far cheaper. Live and learn!

    I'll be starting this project in two weeks, right after I come back from a family vacation. So I'll be sure to post pics as I go along. It's the same week that my new chicks arrive, which will be huge motivation to get it done. If I have any more questions (almost certain I will!) I'll be sure to come back and ask. You've all been a great help, thank you so much!
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2015
  10. Emma Miriam

    Emma Miriam Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You're welcome! :)

    Yeah, I loved the idea of raising the roof cap. If you look up The Smart Chicken Coop, you can see more pics of that...I think they have a close-up on their website.

    Since it sounds like you'd have to do a ton of work on the prefab, you could perhaps build a new one from scratch or buy a kit and save your prefab as a quarantine area. Having a little hospital coop is really nice for when a chicken gets sick or just doesn't seem right. It's a thought, at least...

    Have fun on vacation and then with your new chicks!! What breeds are you getting?
     

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