Frost formation on birds only in poorly ventilated coop

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by centrarchid, Dec 17, 2011.

  1. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    I have seen above assertion many times by parties explaining the merits of ventilating coops. I keep a good number of birds in pens that are separated from surroundings only by 2' x 4' welded wire. Last three mornings I have had birds in those pens nearly covered in frost. Ventilation in those pens can not be beat by any coop unless forced air ventilation were used. I am still an advocate of ventilating coops but frost formation alone is not an indication of poor ventilation.
     
  2. Chemguy

    Chemguy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for this info, it's very interesting to me. Most interesting is that it relates just how good an insulation chickens' feathers can be.
     
  3. stormylady

    stormylady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 27, 2008
    Illinois
    I'm not sure what your saying, Are you saying that your birds are in wire cages , out in the open?
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2011
  4. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    We've had a lot or mornings like that this late fall. Humidity has been high, rainfall plentiful. Everything has just been damp. When the temperatures drop overnight, the air is almost like being in a cloud. I call it frozen fog. The trees, outdoor furniture, especially the cars are covered in thick frost. The back deck is treacherous. It's like a skating rink.

    A well vented coop can only match the humidity outdoors. It really cannot be lower than the ambient relative humidity. Ventilation merely assures it isn't significantly higher than the outside, that's all. I'm sure as heck not going to run a de-humidier in our barn. [​IMG]

    Once the really cold weather sets in, our humidity will drop significantly. Real winter will dry out our air. Single digit temps here simply cannot hold much moisture.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I've had chickens sleep in trees below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. If they are acclimated, they can handle a whole lot. Think of wild birds that live outside in that weather. They do well in that weather and find things to eat too.

    Centrarchid, whether frost forms or not is going to depend on a few things, temperature, humidity, and wind. If it is calm and humid when the temperature drops enough, frost will form. There are different dynamics going on in a coop than outside. Warm air rises and holds more moisture than cold air. Humid air outside may mean that the air in the coop is also pretty humid, even with good ventilation. If the temperature drops enough frost can form. Each coop can be different. Maybe it is not as severe in many coops than in your open situation. A coop with poor ventilation may be worse.

    The greatest risk from frostbite is not when the frost is on the chicken but when it changes form, form solid to liquid or liquid to gas due to evaporational cooling effects. It's like with many plants. A light frost is not a big deal for many plants if you wash it off before it changes from solid to liquid.

    There is no real risk when the frost is just on the feathers. It is the combs and wattles at risk. I don't know how chickens and other wild birds handle that, other than most wild birds don't have much in the way of combs and wattles. They may have some way of handling that problem as long as it is not too severe. After all, cabbage, beets, kale, and many other plants can handle a light frost, while tomatoes or beans get zapped pretty easily.

    But a couple of questions. Was the frost on the combs and wattles or just the feathers? Have you noticed any frostbite?
     
  6. mstricer

    mstricer Overrun With Chickens

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    So if I have frost on the windows of my coop. I still could have good ventilation? If frost is on a chicken, does it mean its too cold in the coop. I don't know what I would do if there was frost on my birds, I would probably add heat, that's probably not the right thing, huh?
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote:No frost on exposed tissues.


    My free range games sleep trees on fence row down to -15 F under blizzard conditions. They can handle so long as in well fed state.

    I do not see frostbite until temps drop below -0 F and wind is strong. Then most prevalent on single comb birds and those otherwise stressed.

    Frostbite therefore not limited to periods of frost formation.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2011
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Quote:No, temperature stress I measure based ability of birds to put or keep weight. I do not heat, just keep adequate food and water present.
     
  9. featherz

    featherz Veggie Chick

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    I have had frost on my windows the last few mornings, even with great ventilation (the entire top of the coop is open) - I look around - if there's frost on everything outside, there's not a whole lot ventilation can do - we have high humidity right now and it's going to frost. If humidity is low and I am getting frost inside, I have to look towards venting more.
     
  10. mstricer

    mstricer Overrun With Chickens

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    Quote:No, temperature stress I measure based ability of birds to put or keep weight. I do not heat, just keep adequate food and water present.

    I see what you mean. I put 8 week old chicks out in the coop last week when the weather broke. It seemed like they started to buff up more with feathers and weight. I won't be adding any heat either.
     

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