Coop size and cold

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by rottlady, Mar 25, 2016.

  1. rottlady

    rottlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 20, 2016
    Georges Mills, NH
    keeping in mine I have not had chickens in 30 years and just getting some again, but here in NW Central NH where we often get temps below zero, sometimes 20 below zero in the winter and the winters are long my experiences back then was too large of a coop and you had chickens with lost toes and combs.

    My mom started her flock with a big coop (big to her was 4 sq ft per bird per books) and those first couple winters she had a lot of lost toes and combs from freezing (even with a heat lamp in there). She made her coop way smaller the next year (4X8 indoor part) and had 12-16 birds for the next several years and never lost another toe or comb

    Me personally I have never wintered a flock. I had mine spring/summer/fall and then they'd go stay elsewhere for the winter as my chicken housing was not good for winter

    Comments from other cold state people???

    I will be building my coop soon and planned for a smaller than suggested sq ft size based on these experiences. My coop will be mobile.

    I can't let them free range here they would all be killed in a month just like most of my neighbors birds (one of them lost 28 birds in a month). Those who still have birds don't let them out unless they can sit right there and watch them. We have everything from tiny Short tailed Weasels up to Bears all in the yard almost every day and night and all sorts of species of "Death from above"
  2. ladynewtochicks

    ladynewtochicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 21, 2016
    Following this post, would love to hear experiences... Grew up in VT so I understand a NH winter, live in Montana now and building my first coop. 4-8 chickens but really more like 4-6. A 4x4x6 coop was my first thought (with a good sized run partially covered) but then we upsized our plans to a 4x6x6...
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2016
  3. cibula11

    cibula11 Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 13, 2013
    I live in Iowa and my chickens stay in horse stall that I converted to a coop. We've had a couple die, but I don't think it was the cold. The stall is easily over 100sq ft and open to s huge, uninsulated barn and houses 15 birds. I plan on building a smaller coop at some point but our Barred Rock and RIR have done fine.
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place True BYC Addict

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    I'm in Michigan, where it can be pretty cold. I've got about five sq. ft. per bird in the coop, and this winter almost twice that with my new roofed run. Wonderful! Good ventilation is very important; damp conditions promote frostbite. My single- combed rooster has lost the tips on his comb, because he had some damage to it as a chick. I do prefer cold tolerant breeds, especially with smaller combs, like Chanteclers and Wyandottes. I've never had frostbitten toes, and wonder if an open water dish was the problem. Mary
    1 person likes this.
  5. wamtazlady

    wamtazlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    Kalispell MT
    I like the idea of 4 square feet per chicken. Due to being given a few extra pullets this summer I have 15 birds in a coop that is 48 square feet and was built for 12. It stands about 5 feet tall. We had a rather warm winter in Montana this year. It only got down to -12 F. I had no frostbite or any losses from the cold. I attribute that to having great ventilation. There are 2 upper vents about 3 square feet each that are tucked under the eaves and are always open. There is a vent in the side wall that is 2 ft by 1 1/2 ft that doesn't get any wind so it stays open all the time. Then there is the pop door. It stays open into the run that has its sides covered in clear plastic so there is no wind blowing into the run. The roosts are down low at 22 inches from the floor to keep the birds out of any breeze that might blow in the upper vents. There was 6 inches of pine shavings on the floor. The water was kept outside in the run so that it wouldn't add to the moisture inside the coop. Food was also kept in the run.

    I read on the forums that a dry bird is a warm bird. I was worried as this is the first winter I have kept birds. They did great. Got between 6 and 9 eggs a day with no supplemental light. Only had 9 pullets laying most of the winter. There was no supplemental heat.
  6. rottlady

    rottlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 20, 2016
    Georges Mills, NH
    with my mom's coop it was closed up tight all winter except the hole to the run and that was shut every night due to cold and predators and they actually were stuck in for weeks at a time when the snow or cold was too much. The water froze a lot and she took them new water twice a day so doubt they had wet feet. They had one long perch that went the length of the coop about waist high and a window but that stayed closed all winter.

    The coop was not insulated at all though

    Once she made the coop smaller she never had anymore lost toes or combs and she kept adding bedding all winter but did not hoe it out til spring. I have no intentions of doing that I can still smell the reek of the spring cleaning.....
  7. wamtazlady

    wamtazlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    Kalispell MT
    Between breathing and pooping a chicken can make a lot of moisture. All that moisture locked up inside a coop is going to cause problems. As I said earlier, dry chickens are warm chickens. Add a roost made out of a 2 by 4 with the wide side up. They can then cover their whole foot at night with their nice warm bellies and keep the feet and toes toasty warm. Small round roosts mean that their feet and toes are exposed to the cold. They grow those nice down feathers for a reason. We love our down comforter, light weight and warm.

    If the coop smelled that bad then it was probably ammonia, caused by the poop rotting in the bedding. Those fumes can cause health issues with birds.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
  8. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Overrun With Chickens

    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada

    I am subject to -40º weather l live in Canada think North Pole. I have been keeping chickens and birds for decades.

    Your best practice I find is to not be too concerned about winterizing or heating your coop to help your birds combat the cold.

    Predator proofing "ABSOLUTELY".

    Your efforts should be spent in winterizing your birds and letting them acclimatize to their surroundings.
    This is done by feeding them whole corn if available (try to stay away from cracked corn) as an added supplement in a separate feeder.

    The extra nourishment is more then adequate to bring them through the
    "COLDEST" winter.

    Do keep an eye open for birds that maybe not be adapting well to the new menu and may be at the lower end of the pecking order they can sometimes run into problems and may need extra TLC.

    That being said in a perfect world the flock will flourish and do just fine .

    I do not add any extra heat or lighting.
    Egg production does slack off but I have more than enough eggs for the table all winter long (24 hens).

    Some people may disagree with my method but it has worked well for me and I am not about to change.

    I look at it in the same light as winterizing your car.

    You really do


    have to winterize your car if you can keep it in a controlled environment at all times otherwise you are in for

    "MAJOR" problems.

    When it comes to lighting if you find you are short on eggs it does apparently help. I personally do not bother in my operation eggs are sold only to neighbours when they are available (if the sign is out I have eggs). Eggs in my operation have a tendency to crack and freeze during the winter months (we do not discard them and are fine but use them in house not for sale) the more eggs you produce during these months the more eggs will fall into this category.

    I have roughly 24 Golden Comet hens the longest I ever been out of eggs can be measured in hours >12<24. You will find that the egg supply in any hen is a finite resource the quicker you milk the eggs out of a hen the faster it will be spent and end up in your stew pot.

    On average one hen produces somewhere between 600 to 700 eggs in its life time. Lighting only effect the speed of delivery of the eggs which at the end of the day would amount to less than a year in the hens life is my guess

    If you do decide extra lighting is necessary have your light on a timer to lengthen the day "MAKE SURE IT IS SECURED BY 2 MEANS OF SUPPORT" one being a "SAFETY CHAIN" in case one fails especially if it is an incandescent bulb or heat lamp.

    I personally raise hens as a hobby; and for their manure to enrich my vegetable garden any thing else the hens provide is merely a bonus.

    Here is one BONUS NOW not many people can enjoy seeing in their back yard on a regular basis.


    Nest boxes
    In my nest boxes I fold a feed bag to fit (nest boxes are 1 ft³). When a bag gets soiled; fold a new one; pop out the soiled; pop in the new. Feed bags are a nylon mesh bag.
    Frozen poop just peels off in below freezing temperatures and just flakes off in summer when left out in the sun to bake and dry.

    I have 65 trips around the sun it is the best method I have stumbled upon.

    Make sure the twine is removed from the open end of the bag it can get tangled around your birds.


    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
    2 people like this.

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