Heating a coop in bitter North Dakota winter

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jdschuler, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. jdschuler

    jdschuler Out Of The Brooder

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    I have been looking up information preparing for the winter. This is the first year I will have chickens during the winter and I want to make sure they are safe and comfortable. That being said, I am looking for suggestions and/or ideas. My coop is a converted old small barn. It does have a drop ceiling, but I was concerned about the walls. I had planned on insulating the walls, but as I would put the insulation up my birds would pull it down... (that was just great!) so now that winter is approaching fast (we have extremely harsh winters) and we're preparing to bring our cattle in, I am panicking and worrying about the best thing for my birds.

    I am getting square straw bales and had planned to stack them 3 high around the outer edges of the inside of the coup, to act as insulation. I also have a milk house heater I planned on putting in there as well. I still plan on putting the straw in, but the research I have done has me somewhat confused as to whether or not use an additional heater. I have read in several places that adding heat will only hurt my birds and throw off their cycles. I have also read that heating them is better in our climate... I am afraid of frostbite and losing my birds... PLEASE if anyone has any suggestions or ideas I am open to anything!! If someone has housed their flock through similar winters I would love to know how you worked it! Thanks so much in advance... and can I just say I LOVE THIS SITE [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. Lollipop

    Lollipop Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:JD, as for insulating, the best you can do for them is to insure there are NO drafts in their roosting area. Use 2X4`s for roosts and turn them sideways to allow them to cover their feet. If they are in the barn with the cows, they should be fine. Cows make a lot of heat. Having said that, if they are allowed to get out during the day, heating them(except by cow heat), isn`t a good idea as they will get along fine with the provisions mentioned.Some birds with large combs have frostbite problems, but other than that, keeping the water defrosted should be your only concern.......Pop
     
  3. jdschuler

    jdschuler Out Of The Brooder

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    Pop... They are in their own barn, not in with the cows (the cow barn can't even fit over 100 head LOL) [​IMG] (when I said we were bringing our cattle in I meant from out at pasture) But I understand what you're saying, that I need to close up any drafts, so I will get right on that before I start lining the walls with the straw bales... Do I need to add light a light source(s) in addition to the windows? Thanks again! [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2011
  4. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    Keep them draft free, but make SURE that there is decent ventilation (up high - above roosting area). You want the warm, moist air that comes from respiration and droppings to be able to escape. Cold plus moisture is a big contributor to frostbite. The hay bales sounds like a good plan if you're not going to insulate.
    Without insulation (you would have needed to cover the insulation with paneling or plywood to keep them from pecking at it/eating it), heating would probably be a waste (I do heat my coop at night when it's in the 20s or lower, but it's an insulated coop, so it retains it longer/better). If you do add any heat on the worst of nights, I'd opt for one of those contained oil heaters (that look like radiators). A heated waterer is a good idea, since you want to make sure that your birds have fresh, unfrozen water. Some add a heat lamp, or even just a regular bulb over the roost area on the coldest of nights, but make sure that all safety factors have been addressed if you resort to this (proper bulb housing, secured to more than one point, proper elec. wiring, etc.), as improper lamp use has resulted in fires.
    When people say adding heat is bad for chickens' health, they're talking about BIG temp. differences. Like if a chicken is use to 40 degree temps and then you lose power and they're forced to spend time in -5 degrees, then they have no tolerence built up.
     
  5. Nicole01

    Nicole01 Overrun With Chickens

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    We are adding a 250 watt ceramic heat emitter for the winter. I've heard they are safe and they don't give out any light.
     
  6. ECBW

    ECBW Chillin' With My Peeps

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    jdschuler

    Curious, how do you winter your cattle? Do you insulate and heat the cattle barn? Most of us do not have experience with other barnyard animals. How severe is your winter?

    The winter in my area is in the 30's and 20's, sometimes teens. We use no insulation, water warmer, light at dawn. Water warmer is save you a lot of work keeping water from freezing, critical for the birds. Dawn light is stimulation to sustain egg production, not necessary for survival.

    Chickens do generate body heat to keep themselves warm. In a draft free and ventilated coop, they will be fine. We have a black light lamp that we turn on when it drops to teens and lower. I read somewhere that every 10 watt is equivalent to an additional bird. We do so really to make ourselves feel better. [​IMG] On occasions that we did not anticipate the temp drop, the birds did not seem to care.
     
  7. jdschuler

    jdschuler Out Of The Brooder

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    Quote:ECBW

    Our cows winter by the barn, we have a pasture strictly dedicated to wintering because it is close to the house, easily accessible by the tractor for feeding round bales and close to the pen where we bring them when as they start calving. It has wind rows (trees) surrounding it and a draw (a small valley) to help protect from wind and snow. Our winters are rough. That is putting it mildly! [​IMG] last year we received 50 some inches of snow and most winters we get weeks of daily temps well below zero and worse with the wind chill. No our cattle barn is not insulated, as it is nowhere near big enough to house all our cattle. We use it for separating or if a cow is having a hard time calving or not wanting to nurse the new calf, and to warm calves in what we call hot boxes if where they were calved is too sloopy.
    I already have the water situation figured out... I created an automatic waterer using a plastic 55 gal barrel and an automatic dog watering bowl, we are just going to put a tank warmer in the barrel so that the water will flow. There is a tin roof on the barn that I hope will help with the heat issue and I have wood shavings and straw on the ground already to help with that as well.
     
  8. ECBW

    ECBW Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The cattle winter by the barn, not in the barn?! I know that is how bisons and mustangs winter but no idea about cattles.
     
  9. Achickenwrangler#1

    Achickenwrangler#1 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am going to staple some 4 ml plastic around the interior of the coop, this will keep out drafts, and let light in, we have a vent ridge at the top that I will be able to close if it gets really bad, and I'm still trying to figure out where I want pop holes and a window (for any sunlight) with shutters, we used the plastic over insulation in the cabin and there are no drafts whatsoever, and then pine shavings(all say they are warmer) but I'm using straw as well. Where the coop is will get sunlight first thing and all day long, drafts are apparently, a bad thing for chickens,
    Maybe if it gets really bad you could bring a calf or two in the coop for heaters (just kidding)
     
  10. slc

    slc Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We live in Upper Michigan. Sometimes up to -20 degrees. Mostly single digits and a little below at night. No one here insulates or heats. Chickens go about their business completely unaware of the cold. They do not register discomfort the way we do. Like other wild birds that do not migrate they fair just fine in cold weather. We use water heaters and supplement with extra corn for calories. A chicken generates 50btu each so they provide their own heat. Deep layers of shavings keep the floor warmer. We have a high raftered building with four foot open cupola year round. We only worry about heat while roosting at night during sub zero advisories, so we put up a temporary awning just above the roost to help hold some heat lower down while they are sleeping. Our roosts are 2x4s laid flat so the birds can sit on their feet. The rest of the coop does not need anything. Originally we insulated the house but found that keeping heat in was worse because it also kept moisture in. All of our single combs lost their points. Now we have a wide open cupola and the insulation is pointless, but the chickens fair much better even if it is colder.
     

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