Could someone please explain ventilation vs drafty??

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Leihamarie, Aug 14, 2016.

  1. Leihamarie

    Leihamarie Songster

    Jul 28, 2016
    San Diego
    Hi all,

    so I have my 3x 7-week old chicks out in their coop now (this is night #2) and I noticed today that they were too warm. My copper comet was panting and holding her wings away from her body and the other two were cooling their bodies without panting (I gave them ice water and frozen strawberries and made sure they got cool & were okay). I am keeping them in the coop for the next couple weeks full-time to get them to adjust to it being "home"... I have 3 windows at roost height and they get a pretty good cross breeze but I'm worried now that there's still not enough. I'm in San Diego pretty close to the beach, so it doesn't get TOO extreme with temp fluctuations but I am considering adding louvered vents up top and screen door inserts in their clean out doors (hardware cloth) for good measure. In the winter when it can get down to about 45 in the wee hours, will all of this "ventilation" turn to "drafty" for the girls? I guess I don't understand the difference and I've read repeatedly about the need for good ventilation and the absolute need for no drafts... could someone please explain retaining ventilation without drafts?

    Last edited: Aug 14, 2016
  2. Howard E

    Howard E Crowing

    Feb 18, 2016
    They might be too hot if in the full sun with no shade. Shade and water as much as anything. Their radiator is to pant and that expels water that has to be replaced.

    I would suggest you operate with the coop wide open as much as possible. In your climate, cold drafts are not the issue they are in New England, Canada, upper Midwest, etc.

    At least "wide open" in the summer. The upper window seen in both photographs could probably be removed completely (assuming some type of screen to keep critters out), only closing the other two side windows in the coldest times.

    The cold chill drafts people are concerned about are the type of air movement in winter that will lift feathers, creating wind chill. Even in the coldest weather and climates, birds seem to be able to fend for themselves nicely provided they can stay dry and in an area that is free enough of air movement that they can fluff up their feathers to stay warm without the feathers lifting.

    Staying dry? The moisture comes from them.......their respiration rate is much higher than hours and they expel moisture with each breath. So well ventilated means the coop or house has to be open and ventilated enough to allow this water vapor laden air and CO2 to be vented to the outside. So you want a high exchange rate or at least a clear pathway for this moisture laden air to escape. So well ventilated and draft free........seemingly contradictory terms, but not so tough once you understand the concepts.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2016
  3. SunHwaKwon

    SunHwaKwon Crowing

    Jul 19, 2015
    Coastal Bend, TX
    You may need to get some air flowing down low as well. I know the pop door is open but if there's no air moving in there's nothing to move the air at chick height.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I don’t like the word “draft” in this context. When people think about a draft they think of taking a candle around their windows to see if there is any air movement even if it is so light you can’t feel it. That’s not what we are talking about with chickens. You need some gentle air movement to replace bad air with good.

    Just like wild birds that overwinter, chickens keep themselves warm by trapping tiny pockets of air in their feathers and down. These tiny pockets of air are great insulators. If they get hit with a strong enough breeze to ruffle their feathers these air pockets can escape and they lose their insulation. The “draft” you need to avoid is a breeze strong enough to ruffle their feathers.

    Ventilation is good air coming in to move out bad air. You have to have some air movement to accomplish this, but not much. There are different ways to achieve this. Many use the concept that warmer air rises and cooler air sinks. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about cold air in winter or the hot air in summer, you are talking about differences in the air temperature. If you have an opening down low on the shady side of your coop where the air is cooler than on the sunny side, the cool air will flow into the coop and push the hot air out of openings up higher. That works pretty well in the summer, provided you have enough openings. In warmer weather it doesn’t matter if a direct breeze hits them anyway, they’ll enjoy that. I keep a window at roost level open, that’s a prime roosting spot for the dominant birds.

    In the winter you can get heat from the birds’ bodies and breath, from their poop, from heated water dishes if you use those, or if your coop is on the ground, from the ground during the colder weather. In cold weather this is enough movement to exchange the air, again provided you have enough openings up high. You don’t need openings down low, the cooler outside air will come in those higher openings. Remember you are talking about differences in air temperature, not absolute hot or cold.

    In winter, if you have openings up over their heads when they are on the roost, any breeze will pass right over their heads when you have a wind blowing. This cross breeze will generate some turbulence in the air down below to help exchange good air for bad, but won’t hit them with a strong breeze. Even without a breeze, you will still get an exchange of air just from the warmer air rising. This is when you don’t want openings lower down that can create a breeze that hits the chickens. There are some specialty designs that have openings fairly low in winter, these work well even up in Canada. The chickens roost in a quiet spot in the back where breezes don’t hit them while the air is exchanged up front. There are always different ways to accomplish any of this.

    In your climate you probably never need to worry about cold at all. It just doesn’t get that cold. I’d think you could have a lot of ventilation year around high and low. But in the winter it won’t hurt to block off some of the lower ventilation to cut down on the breezes hitting them directly if you wish. In your climate your summer heat is your enemy, not your winter cold. And that close to the water you are in much better shape than people further inland. You are right, bodies of water moderate extreme temperatures. When I lives in Louisiana there was normally a 5 degree difference on the north shore versus south shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

    So open your coop up and let some breezes hit them now. Don’t worry about it being too cold for them. At seven weeks they could handle temperatures below freezing without problems if they are out of a breeze. At that age and in your temperatures a breeze will feel good. Let people further north than you worry about cold. You don’t have to.
    1 person likes this.
  5. Leihamarie

    Leihamarie Songster

    Jul 28, 2016
    San Diego
    Thank you so much everyone for your replies!!!! It's a huge relief to know that I'm not in an area that needs to be too worried about cold. I am getting my jig saw out and making some modifications today.
  6. Leigti

    Leigti Songster

    Oct 22, 2015
    Walla Walla WA
    In the learning center there is a good article about ventilation. It's called something like "go out there and cut some holes in your coop" it is nice that you don't have to worry about cold temperatures. Here it gets over 100 in the summer and below zero in the winter. It's a little harder to figure it out in that kind of climate. In that article they show a way to just Cut a series of perfectly round holes along the roofline. It looks kind of neat, I think I may try that on some of my coop. Although I do have opening all the way around at the top rafters.
    1 person likes this.

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