Frostbite and coop ventilation and insulation

Aug 18, 2020
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We are first time chicken owners so this is our first winter. We have 6 chickens that we let run around in our backyard all day. This week we had a cold snap and our poor brown leghorn chicken got frostbite on her comb. It got down to 17 degrees. Really want to prevent it from happening again and I have a few coop questions.

1. In really cold weather should I not let our chickens out in the yard but keep them in the coop?
2. I am confused by how to insulate the coop and also provide ventilation. Will insulating do any good if all the heat can escape anyway? I am thinking of adding foam board insulation to the inside of the coop where the chickens sleep. I'd cover that with light plywood. Right now the inside temp where they sleep is just a few degrees higher than the outside temps.
3. Our coop isn't big enough for 6 chickens to hang out in all day. They just sleep in it and we keep the food and water in there. I need to add a run. If I do should I insulate the run?

Attached are pics of our coop. Thanks in advance for any help!

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Aapomp831

Crowing
Oct 4, 2017
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You put the ventilation up high, so a direct draft doesn’t come into contact with them. As they breathe at night, their breath will freeze and settle on their combs if it has no place to go. As far as the frostbite is concerned, just leave it. It will eventually break off and be fine.
And no, you dont have to keep your chickens inside in the winter. They have layers of down under their feathers... the combs are just more susceptible to frostbite bc they sit up high and aren’t covered by feathers.
Don’t forget chickens have survived long before human beings started caring for them and building them coops.
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
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Sadly, your coop isn't large enough for 6 chickens to roost in. And it's of a design that makes it difficult to add very much needed ventilation. That is why your BLH got frostbite. Too much moisture from the chickens accumulated in the coop and couldn't get out.
You do not want to think "insulation" and "heat" for the coop. Chickens are built with down coats and are little walking blast furnaces. They just need to be able to keep that warmth trapped in and they will do fine.
I would get out a sawzall and cut out about 6" along the entire top of the high wall under the "run" roof and cover it with 1/2" hardware cloth.
Do the same on the wall over the nest boxes but only remove about 1.5" and cover with 1/2" HC. That will help with cross ventilation over their heads. You may need to add some kind of exterior baffle to the low side depending on the direction of the prevailing winds.
Keep the coop as dry as possible. Remove as much poop load as you can daily.
If you intend to keep chickens long term, you might want to consider modifying that whole set up to serve as a coop and attach a new run to it.
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
Jul 26, 2008
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1. In really cold weather should I not let our chickens out in the yard but keep them in the coop?
No reason to keep them locked up.. keeping them locked up in a tiny space will just end up with them eating each other :oops:

Super cold temps will always result in frostbite on large combs.

Will insulating do any good if all the heat can escape anyway? I
Insulation is really only good if you have a crazy amount of wind gusting at the coop, or in the summer (if you are where it gets blazing hot) if the coop is in strong direct sun.

Insulation can be problematic since it can very easily become a rodent hotel..

Right now the inside temp where they sleep is just a few degrees higher than the outside temps.
The fact that inside and outside temps are different makes me think that the coop might be too closed up..

Also, the pictures don't show much ventilation.

Our coop isn't big enough for 6 chickens to hang out in all day. They just sleep in it and we keep the food and water in there. I need to add a run. If I do should I insulate the run?
Adding space is always a great idea. If you can add a steep roof to easily shed snow, and put clear plastic over 2 walls to block wind and snow (but keep at least one run side full open for ventilation) that would be ideal.

I would get out a sawzall and cut out about 6" along the entire top of the high wall under the "run" roof and cover it with 1/2" hardware cloth.
Do the same on the wall over the nest boxes but only remove about 1.5" and cover with 1/2" HC. That will help with cross ventilation over their heads.
Brilliant suggestion, do that.
 

rosemarythyme

Crossing the Road
Jul 3, 2016
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I like that big window facing right into the roosts, but it looks like open wire mesh only? That has the potential of letting in cold drafts right at roost level - have you actually checked for drafts in there on a windy day? I'd want to cover that with plexiglass during winter to prevent that from happening.

I agree with DobieLover, the absolute best place to have ventilation in your build is on the upper part of the inside wall facing into the run space, where you currently have 5 vent holes, as the roof will help provide protection against the elements. For the vents across from that (above nest box) you might want to try using louvered vent covers to help buffer any winds, something like this sort of thing: https://www.westmarine.com/buy/west...MI9Kzwz4re7AIV5Ql9Ch1T1AvuEAQYCSABEgIixPD_BwE
 

Navahogirl

Chirping
May 7, 2020
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You put the ventilation up high, so a direct draft doesn’t come into contact with them. As they breathe at night, their breath will freeze and settle on their combs if it has no place to go. As far as the frostbite is concerned, just leave it. It will eventually break off and be fine.
And no, you dont have to keep your chickens inside in the winter. They have layers of down under their feathers... the combs are just more susceptible to frostbite bc they sit up high and aren’t covered by feathers.
Don’t forget chickens have survived long before human beings started caring for them and building them coops.
Use Vaseline on their combs and wattles
 

21hens-incharge

Nuttier than a squirrels stash
Premium Feather Member
Mar 9, 2014
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I also agree that coop is poorly ventilated.

There is not much "head room" above the roosts either. I would also suggest making the entire structure into a coop and covering that mesh window.

@DobieLover makes good suggestions.

The best time to make the changes is now not later.
 

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