Design advice: Winter hay-house in the barn?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by vermontgal, Aug 15, 2008.

  1. vermontgal

    vermontgal Songster

    I am in Vermont (brrr) where it is already a little late to be thinking about Winter. [​IMG]

    I live in a very tight urban neighborhood (Vermont urban = small town). It is legal to keep chickens, and my neighbors are happy with the idea.

    On my 1/8 acre urban lot, I have a small historical horse barn for the one-horse & carriage transportation of the 1890s, when the barn was constructed. The barn is two stories: on the first floor is my workshop + car parking. On the second floor, was the hayloft, and now I have various materials stored (wood, canoe, etc.).

    In the summer, my four chickens (now 6-7 weeks old) have a lightweight chicken ark (tractor).

    For the winter, I am thinking of this design, and would like any advice:

    I have an old car-top carrier that I got in a free pile, that is about 3.5 x 3.5' or maybe a little bigger. Put half of this on the floor of the second-floor of the barn, and stack haybales around it to make "walls." I will construct a top out of wood.

    When the chickens move inside, I will add hay as litter inside the car-top carrier, and continue to add it (deep litter) over the winter. In the spring, when thing start to thaw, put the hay from inside the car-top carrier into my compost bins, and save the hay-house walls for next year, provided they are not too stinky.

    This is my urban variation on this type of approach:


    Last edited: Aug 15, 2008

  2. AtRendeAcres

    AtRendeAcres Songster

    May 23, 2007
    Clarion County
    I am in Western PA also cold ((It is col now))

    so my ? are
    why upstairs
    are you not letting them out at all ((I am thinkig smell)) & not healthy no ventilation, they need sunlight! & MiTES in that closed envirement!

    unless you could do something downstairs & let them outside or at least ventilation! but,hay or staw would go to compost don't save bugs would nest - straw is also cheaper to buy than hay!

    can you winterize your trator?
    put a buildig/ tree line on north side of coop
    cover tractor with insulation board & cover with tarp
    cover 3 sides of hardware cloth with plastic from water/snow I say 3 sides because you need to leave a side open for air to flow (& so mildew doesn't form)
    what breeds do you have

    plastic dog houses are good in winter to hold in heat also (most people just have them in basment- try craigs list)
    motheath has direction to preditor proof one!!

    let me know if you com up with anything!!!
  3. vermontgal

    vermontgal Songster

    Thanks for the feedback and ideas, but I'd like feedback on the coop design itself. The second floor of the barn is pretty much where they are going to go.

    Why don't I winterize my tractor or put them on the first floor...

    First, an adjustment about what "winter" means. Yes, it gets somewhat cold in Western PA but not really. I am from Pittsburgh, myself. In Western PA, over the winter, a typical snowfall is ~5-10" and then it melts a few days later. In Vermont, there is a snowfall, typically in December, after which you will not see grass again until April. Every winter it hits -25 F at night at my house. Which is considered "not too cold" by Vermont standards. In the winter, my entire yard is covered with snow 5' tall due to sliding off the roof and plowing the driveway. That is five FEET, and I mean the whole yard. I shovel it up as high as I can reach, and then I rely on the good will of my neighbors to shovel a little into their yard, otherwise I would have to pay someone to haul it away with a dump truck.

    If I keep the chicken tractor out, I will have to shovel it out and it will also reduce the places I can store snow. This is not an option. My chicken tractor is designed to be folded up and stored for the winter.

    If I keep them on the second floor of the barn, I can open the hayloft door for sun & fresh air. The barn has windows.

    On the first floor, there is no space for chickens - my car goes there, and my car barely fits through the barn door.

    The question is the design of the second-floor coop, unfortunately that's the only place they can go. Thanks in advance for any other ideas folks might have!

    PS. to be clear, I am thinking to put down only HALF of the car top carrier, as a giant tub, not both halves together like in the photo. Originally, I was thinking of using a hard plastic kids swimming pool, but then this came along for free. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2008
  4. AtRendeAcres

    AtRendeAcres Songster

    May 23, 2007
    Clarion County
    Quote:fresh air & sun I think would be key for heath!
    if you use the top of car carrier & make sides & roost inside that should work well - I would use wood chips for litter on floor & add DE & PDZ
    remember to put a light on timer for eggs
  5. I think you'd be better off making a lean-to beside the barn. Putting livestock overhead means you could ruin the ceiling of that historical barn and introduce mites.ticks into the crevices. If you want to use some hay for insulation areound a lean-to it would give some wind protection, but remember you'd lose that hay due to moisture and manure. Your layers need light for eggs and light/ventilation for health. If you close them up, respiratory disease might take them...also the loft gives predators like raccoons access, I suspect your eaves are open for hay ventilation...[​IMG]
  6. ams3651

    ams3651 Songster

    Jan 23, 2008
    NE PA
    interesting dilemma. I wouldnt want to put the hay on the wood floor, maybe a tarp or some kind of rubber mat underneath? Are you using the shell as a bedding area only? Is your tractor small enough to put it up there and insulate part of it with foam where they roost at night and put down the hay in the run part? They definately cant be "confined" and need some place up there to exercise but I know what you mean about your winters, my sister and aunt live in MA.
  7. GlacierNan

    GlacierNan In the Brooder

    Mar 22, 2008
    Here is a link to a hay bale winter coop.

    I like the idea of using the car carrier half, you may consider putting it up on bales so they have a little more room and then stacking bales further out as walls for a run.

    If you use Diatomaecious Earth liberally throughout the winter you shouldn't have a mite problem.

    Enjoy your chicks and the winter! It's all a learning process.

    I just went to the link you included and I love that kind of coop!
    I would suggest walling in a run area for your girls also. I think they will need more room to roam than just the coop!!
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2008

  8. If you put hay in your second floor of your once barn now garage you may be inviting FIRE. Fumes and sun and light could possibly start a fire. (note I can not spell so please over look~always need spell check)
  9. Alaskan

    Alaskan The Frosted Flake

    Quote:totally with you on the snow problem. I have lots more land, but I get lots of snow, and the thought of having to shovel through several feet of snow every day (since the wind will just blow it back into the walkway) is sending me into conniptions.

    They will need a 'run around' area up there, and you will want it totally waterproofed.

    So I like the idea of the car top thing for a super insulated sleeping spot, but could you connect it to a kiddy pool which would act as the 'run'?

    The reason the other posters are a bit stressed about the possible lack of ventilation is because high humidity (caused by no venting) greatly increases the risk of frost bite. Also, hens sitting in a cloud of ammonia isn't good either.

    I have seen in historical villages a little cage over an open window so that the birds they had could fly out to the outside cage to get a bit of sun and air, then fly back inside where it was warmer.

    You could maybe build something like that so that one window could stay open 24/7 and still be predator proof. That would make sure you had some good venting. I don't think it would be feasible to make it so that the CHICKENS could go in and out through the window, but that would be a riot if you could figure out how to do it.
  10. vermontgal

    vermontgal Songster

    With the feedback earlier on this thread, I abandoned the hay-house + car top carrier model and instead have been spending way too much time creating a more conventional coop structure on the 2nd floor of the barn.

    I cut two new windows in the south-west corner of the barn. The windows are sized based on windows I had lying around, and to fit between the studs so as not to affect the structure of the barn.

    This southwest corner will become a coop with floor area 4x5, plus a second story that is 4x2 (a partial second floor), plus nesting boxes, plus a roost. All the walls and ceiling will be insulated. I partly insulated the floor, where I could get between the joists easily.

    There will be two windows - one of which I don't plan to open in the winter, and the other I will open on nice days and let the gals hop outside via a chicken ladder. When the snowbank is at its height, they will probably just be able to hop down directly, no ladder.

    Here's a photo, part way through construction. Both the windows are new.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2008

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