coop ok for winter?

rzs37

In the Brooder
Jun 30, 2018
6
5
17
hi all, now that winter is upon us in the Hudson Valley, I'm starting to sweat whether the coop is ok for the cold to come. The more you read online the more confusing it gets...insulate/ don't insulate? Heat/ no heat? Now much ventilation is good without causing a draft?...Last couple years we have had a month or so with lows around 0F and not warming up above 20F.

Attached are some pics and I'll explain the "design". I read a bit about the design and planned it out but I am no carpenter and we made it out of scrap wood. Don't let the paint job fool you, it's a real homemade contraption. Being a first time chicken owner, I'm now seeing the problems...Any thoughts/ recommendations are welcome...

we bought 14 hens (auricanas, RI reds, barred rock, black sex linked, siena star mix) in April and then 6 ducks (black swedish, cayuga, buff) in July...maybe we over did it but it's been fun. They are all supposed to be "cold hardy" breeds...They free range on a fenced in 2 acres and they have been out all day every day, we just closed them in at night, but now that night comes at 4:30pm and it's cold, perhaps I need to winterize?

The chicken coop is the bigger structure (7' x 8'), it's raised off the ground, wood frame and floor, corrugated sheet metal sides/ roof, 4 nesting boxes with door on front to get eggs, that red door is south facing with a window with hardware wire, there is a 2' tall x 8' long window on the south/ east facing side above the run also with hardware wire. There's a small chicken door (1' x 1') with a ramp down into the run. There's no insulation and no heat. For bedding I'm just using straw, they all roost on a roosting rack that we made out of old stairs and 2x2s. The run is 8'x 8' dirt with straw, metal roof, chicken wire sides, hardware wire buried 18" around sides. The ducks have the small structure on the other side (5' x 6'), also wood frame and floor, metal roof and sides, with solid doors that swing open to clean, a small hardware wire window and 18"x18" door into the run, another door on the south side with a small pool. No insulation, no heat.

For winter:
1. I covered the windows with corrugated plastic to block the wind and I did use some spray foam to seal along the walls / roof of the chicken coop where there were a lot of gaps but I left about 4' of the higher side gaps (small 1 inch wide gap between the roof beams and the metal) open to allow ventilation. The door also has about a 1/4" gap around it...it doesn't seem drafty, but it is definitely not an air tight box either, no issues with smell or ammonia.

2. The water is out in the run with a heating plate under it to keep the moisture down inside the coop

3. Extra thick straw on the floor of both coops and in the run.

4. All bird doors slide shut at night.

5. also put plastic up on the front of the run to block wind (and try to keep the noise down because I have a neighbor complaining).

Questions:

1. Would anyone insulate these structures? I hear so many issues with rodents/ insects/ mites/ chickens eating the insulation...I'd rather not do it if not needed.

2. Would anyone use one of these radiant wall mount heaters so they have a place to go to warm up for the nights that it gets below say 20F?

3. I thought about putting the ducks in with the chickens on cold nights because it seems like it stays warmer in there with all of them (they don't fight)?

Anyway, any thoughts welcome. thanks.
 

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Backyard Bruce

Songster
Apr 11, 2018
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Sullivan County, N.Y.
I'm over in Sullivan County and this will be my first winter as well.

I have electricity in the coop for all sorts of possibilities and it was my intention to heat the coop but am now shying away from that idea now. I want fried chicken made in my house not the coop.

I also thought of those radiant heat panels but the birds have to be directly next to it in order for them to be effective.
This means either you would need a few of the panels all situated right near the roosts or some birds will get heat and some will not.

I also was thinking of the ceramic heat plates that screw into a light socket and give off no light.
They're supposedly very robust but I still think it's a huge risk, I did actually go ahead and buy one of these but yet to have taken it out of the box...probably going back.
615TvNObVpL._SL1001_.jpg

The reason why I say it's probably going back is because I read on here one post after the other of experience chicken keepers that live well far north of us, Canada, Alaska... And every single one of them, to a person, recommend no heat.
I have yet to read one post from anyone living in the far north recommend heat at all.
All you read is keep your run and coop well Ventilated(not drafty) and cover the run with some plastic for wind block.
I have done this and that is where I will probably end my winterization at.

On edit; If you do go with a heat source such as the one shown above you MUST use a ceramic light base, no plastic sockets. Very important.
 
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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,278
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Southeast Louisiana
rzs37, the reason you get so many confusing opinions is that they are mostly opinion, including what I'm going to say. We all have different coops, flocks, climate, management techniques, and experiences. A lot of different things can work depending on what combinations of these we have, Some people insulate, heat, wrap, and do all sorts of things and their birds do OK. Some people do none of that and their birds do OK. Even if they live in the same county they may have different flocks, coop, and management techniques. One may be more exposed to wind. I don't trust blanket statements that no matter what this works while this doesn't.

When I was in Arkansas the coldest we'd see most winters was a few degrees below zero F and that was only a handful of times. Your coldest temperatures will be colder than that. Growing up in East Tennessee I remember one spell when we went 4 days and 5 nights with the temperature never getting above zero F. I don't remember how cold it actually got, you will probably see worse. In Tennessee we had chickens sleep in trees during that cold spell without issues. They did sleep in sheltered spots so the wind was not an issue and they had great ventilation. They were a barnyard mix so not specific breeds but similar to your chickens. They can be a lot tougher than many people expect. The issues come in when we lock them in confined spaces an don't give them enough options to find good places to sleep. Instead of providing good ventilation we build a tight box where moisture or (rarely) ammonia cannot escape. Or we turn the coop into a wind tunnel.

I consider that a great job in recycling materials. You've shown that a coat of paint can make it look really nice, especially from a distance. For some people that is really important, especially if your neighbors or the public can see it. For others it is less important.

My coop in Arkansas had a metal roof and one wall where the roosts were was also metal, neither insulated. Metal is extremely poor in insulating values, it can get really cold or really hot if in the sun. My metal wall was on the west and got really hot during the summer, that's where the roosts were. But by the time the sun went down and they went to roost it had cooled down enough so it was not a problem. In the winter my flock size dropped considerably so they were all able to sleep on the roost furthest from the wall and they usually did, even when it was not that cold. I don't know how your roosts are arranged or how far they need be from the wall. With your breeds I'd think 12" is enough but you might consider putting a strip of plywood on the wall at roost level if it is really close. In those winter temperatures mice are not likely to nest next to that metal but if the gap is big enough they may haul in nesting material.

One of the issues with metal is that you can get condensation on it with drops of water raining down from the ceiling or running down a wall. If that proves to be a problem with yours that might be a reason to insulate instead of worrying about cold temperatures. I had that happen in the spring more than any other time of the year but with my good ventilation it wasn't an issue. It soon dried up. For others it can be an issue.

My attitude in any weather was to open the pop door and let them decide what they wanted to do. I did not have ducks but the cold did not bother the chickens. Even around zero F they would go outside as long as a wind was not blowing. Slight air movement is not a big deal, it's when it is strong enough to ruffle their feathers and let the tiny air pockets that are trapped in their down and feathers escape that they stay out of the wind.

The other issue is snow. When they wake up to a white world they tend to stay out of it for a few days. Usually after two or three days some would go out to forage in the snow, some stayed inside. I think having vegetation sticking through the snow or them having sheltered places where they can forage makes a difference. I had some wade through 9" of snow to check out the compost pile or go to other foraging places. I took this photo a few years back, about 1" of snow. It snowed during the day when they were already out so they never bothered to go inside. With yours free ranging during the day they are more likely to go out in a snow than someone with a small bare enclosed run.

Snow Feb 2013.JPG


I took my other standard "cold" photo when it was 4 degrees above zero. I left the pop door open and let them decide what they wanted to do. Since the wind was not blowing they went outside and enjoyed the sunshine.

Ice.jpg


I don't know how good your ventilation really is, probably better than you think. I wish you had not sealed the top of the walls, high up ventilation is really good in my opinion. That 1/4" opening around the door doesn't scare me that much. You read a lot about drafts in here. I consider a gentle air movement to be a good thing, it causes an air exchange to get moisture out and fresh air in. Remember those chickens sleeping in trees. It's when you get a breeze that it becomes a problem. I don't know how big an issue that is with your coop.

You asked for thoughts, you have mine. Good luck!
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
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I consider that a great job in recycling materials. You've shown that a coat of paint can make it look really nice, especially from a distance.
It is great looking, I'm not a painter, but that looks fantastic.

Slight air movement is not a big deal, it's when it is strong enough to ruffle their feathers and let the tiny air pockets that are trapped in their down and feathers escape that they stay out of the wind.
Key point.... it's literal and probably where the adage comes from.

1. Would anyone insulate these structures? I hear so many issues with rodents/ insects/ mites/ chickens eating the insulation...I'd rather not do it if not needed.

2. Would anyone use one of these radiant wall mount heaters so they have a place to go to warm up for the nights that it gets below say 20F?

3. I thought about putting the ducks in with the chickens on cold nights because it seems like it stays warmer in there with all of them (they don't fight)?
No, no, and no but really not sure as I don't know much about ducks, tho I believe they are more cold hardy than chickens....and your coop is already kinda tight space for 14 birds already.

The first winter is hard, another big learning curve, they are tougher than you think but you won't fully know that until you actually see it yourself. It's pretty hard to 'warm up' a well ventilated coop and having spot heat with any kind of lamp or panel may only help the few that can get into the small area of warmer air.....not to mention the fire hazard that any heater can create.

Our climates are very similar, my brother lives in the HV, I've never used heat except for the waterer. Tho I have had cold stressed birds, in those weeks where it never gets out of the teens day or night, that needed a bit of extra care. As long as they are dry, out of any feather ruffling drafts, and are eating and drinking well, they will be fine.

As far as knowing if you have enough ventilation, it's hard to know except by observation. Your nose might tell you first, standing inside the closed coop on a really windy day may also show you some things, measuring humidity levels inside and outside the coop may be a clue-they should be roughly the same.

One thing I see with your coop is the eaves appear to be closed off, that is often the best place to manage airflow. Any chance you can take some pics of the inside of the coop? Will you also cover the north side of the run? Good to leave the top 4" or so for run walls open for ventilation there too.

Those are my thoughts.
 

rzs37

In the Brooder
Jun 30, 2018
6
5
17
thank you all for these posts. great information. this is such a great site.

I don't know how your roosts are arranged or how far they need be from the wall. With your breeds I'd think 12" is enough but you might consider putting a strip of plywood on the wall at roost level if it is really close.

ha yes I was eying some plywood in my garage for this purpose! put up yesterday. thanks.

I don't know how good your ventilation really is, probably better than you think. I wish you had not sealed the top of the walls, high up ventilation is really good in my opinion.

One thing I see with your coop is the eaves appear to be closed off, that is often the best place to manage airflow. Any chance you can take some pics of the inside of the coop? Will you also cover the north side of the run? Good to leave the top 4" or so for run walls open for ventilation there too.

Eaves were open about an inch on the high and low side of the pitched roof, I closed them off partially, leaving about half of the high side eave open...I will probably knock that spray foam out of the high side eaves to open it back up fully.

Might close off the north side of the run with the plastic if they are stuck in there more from snow...so far they are not too fond of the snow! The ducks on the other hand stomp through it to the stream and hang out there in 15 degree weather. they really don't care.

thanks again for the suggestions.
 

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