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Help designing coop for cold Canadian winters!

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by shabbyshic, Mar 28, 2011.

  1. shabbyshic

    shabbyshic Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi there! I'm new to BYC - I have my chicks coming in a couple of days - so my husband and I are starting to plan out our coop to build. I need some advice from more experienced folks.

    What type of coop (with what specific features) would you recommend for our situation:

    - We live in Ontario, Canada - Our winters can get down to -20 C
    - We get alot of snow
    - Our summers are hot (up to 30/35 celcius) and humid
    - We will have 6 laying chickens
    - We want to make our coop as cheaply as possible! (doesn't everyone [​IMG]
    - It would be ideal to have some part of run or contained area as part of the coop. I hope to let them range freely a bit each day - but we do have a busy household with 3 little ones - so they need their own area to walk about safely as well
    - We do have quite a few natural predators near our house as we are rural - fox/coons/coyotes/hawks/dogs

    Ok - lets here your best thoughts and suggestions! Any links to pictures or design ideas would be great! thanks so much in advance - we are thrilled to be starting our chicken journey - we just want to do it right - and I am confident that all of you are the experts we need to do it!
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    [​IMG] Welcome to the forum! [​IMG] Glad you joined us! [​IMG]


    How about these articles from someone that lives in Ontario? I think they should be required reading for anyone that is building a coop and run.

    Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION

    Pat’s
    Cold Coop (winter design) page:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-winter-coop-temperatures

    Pat’s
    Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-fix-a-muddy-run

    If
    you look at the top of this page, there is a section called "coop design". If you look in there, you can get all kinds of ideas.

    If you have any questions after doing all this homework, just ask away. It looks like you are asking for general information, so I think these should help you at least figure out what questions to ask. And again, [​IMG]

    Editted to add: I just noticed that low temperature. (-)20 C = (-)4 F. It gets colder than that in many parts of the southern US. I'm surprised that is your low.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Oh, the banana belt of Ontario [​IMG] (I'm an hour north of TO and in a low site, we get down to -35 C sometimes, but of course even *this* is not the *cold* part of the province)

    I would suggest building the coop as big as you possibly can, and make it walk-in not reach-in. You may find your most economical solution to be a used shed from kijiji or wherever, as long as it's in good condition. A metal shed would sort of be marginally-ok but you will have to put in a fair amount of work to insulate it (and it *must* be insulated if it's metal); a wood or plastic shed would be a lot better, ideally not a barn-shaped one (they are harder to install good winterworthy ventilation in, although if you get a good deal on a barn-shaped shed then go for it, the ventilation certainly CAN be dealt with).

    Even if there is zero chance you will ever, ever be keeping more than six chickens -- and practically everyone seems to want more chickens once they've got a few [​IMG] -- I would suggest absolutely no smaller than 6x10 for the coop and preferably larger.

    Alternatively you can build something like this yourself, of course, and scrounged materials can keep the cost reasonable, but I would say that some prolonged and energetic searching for a cheap used shed would be your best bet, both in terms of cost and in terms of aggravation.

    You will most likely have to buy wire for the run, although you can certainly keep an eye out for it while you're scrounging for shed and shed-related things (if there are any tractor/implement/tool/junk auctions around you, or any farm-sold-must-auction-contents auctions, they can sometimes be good sources of cheap wire mesh if your luck is running right). You do not want chickenwire, and nothing larger than 2x4" holes, and the 2x2 and 2x3 mesh stuff they sell for garden and pet purposes is frankly not very predatorproof either. Your best bet would be either livestock-quality 2x4" welded wire fencing with something smaller-mesh added to the bottom 2-3'; or heavy gauge 1x1" welded wire; or 1/2" hardwarecloth.

    If the chickens will be in the run basically full-time, I would suggest making it at least 6x10 for six chickens, bigger would be good too. You will want the run fence to be sturdy enough that you can put something on as a windbreak on three sides for wintertime. Later on when you have more materials/money/time/energy available you may wish to add a real roof to all or part of the run, since that makes chickens MUCH MUCH more apt to go outdoors in winter up here and alleviates the "snow is piled up higher than popdoor" problem near the lakes; but because you would have to build a real roof as if it were a whole 'nother actual building, to support the snowload, this is neither cheap nor trivial and you probably wanna focus on getting a coop and run built for now [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  4. shabbyshic

    shabbyshic Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for such quick feedback - I have lots to think about.. but i will be sure to post some more questions in response to your ideas. Pat.. do you live in Uxbridge? I have family there.. we live near Baxter, (closer to Barrie). I have skimmed through some of your articles - and will be sure to come back with specific questions! Thanks for so much feedback so far - I will try find a few quiet moments to process the info.... Oh - one thought off the top of my head - have any of you had trouble with dogs and chicks... and eventually chickens? I am sure it will be tricky enough keeping a 4 year old, 2 year old and baby out of the chicks ( in the basement) - but the dog might be the hardest!
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Yup, just on the N side of Uxbridge [​IMG]

    How does it only get to -20 C in Essa Twp? Seriously? On a hilltop maybe?? [​IMG] (e.t.a. - or is that a typo and you meant -20 F, which is -29 C ?)

    Yes, dogs are an issue. Many many many BYCers have lost chickens to their family dog who is a wonderful pet and great with animals and children and would never hurt a fly. Sometimes with the right dog the dice can keep rollin' the correct way for the rest of your life; but fairly often, at some point a chicken does something unwise and the wrong brain cell wakes up in the dog's brain while the wrong *other* ones are off having a smoke, and you have fewer chickens than previously.

    It is safest to keep them entirely separate all the time; if you can't, then certainly do your darnedest to train the dog that the chickens are YOURS and not to be messed with ever, and don't get too complacent. (Some of the people who've lost part or all of their flocks to their dogs have had the dogs living peacefully with the chickens for years before that)

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011
  6. shabbyshic

    shabbyshic Out Of The Brooder

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    Ok - so yes - it does get much colder than -20 ... i was trying to not sound like I was an exaggerating Northerner! Probably could get to -35 without a wind chill.. and wind chill just makes it that much worse!

    thanks for keeping me honest [​IMG]
     
  7. shabbyshic

    shabbyshic Out Of The Brooder

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    Ok - i have a few minutes while the kids are napping. So it does sound like working from an old shed is a good starting point. We do have an "ice hut" as I like to call it that we could work with. It is 4 x 8, plywood walls, and floor, it is raised on some 2 x 4's. It has a shingled slanted roof with a vent. Both ends are basically a big door on hinges.. which isn't good from my point of view, because they aren't practical. So.. it might be worth trying to retrofit this shed, although it is smaller than what you recommended Pat. My husband is an excellent builder, but as usual time is the main challenge as we are in a new house, with many ongoing building projects as we speak.

    So lets say we work with this "ice hut" as i like to call it. Maybe someday we can upgrade and upsize.. but for now lets see if it would work...

    - Do you think i need to insulate it? And if so, with what?
    - Would one square vent on the roof be enough, or should there be more?
    - Would the whole "shed" need to be raised up on legs, with a pop door, and ramp extending down into an enclosed run? (would this help or hinder keeping the coop warm enough in winter?)
    - Would you recommend a window? If so, a real one, or a cut hole with hardware cloth/chicken wire, and then a cover for the cold weather?
    - Is it best to have nest boxes that extend out from the coop? Would it be a consideration to just keep them in for simplicity sake, or would egg gathering and cleaning be too hard this way?
    - What is the best method for access to cleaning out the coop. Building one bid door.. or swing doors.. where and how large would you suggest?
    - Is plywood an ok flooring material? Do you then cover it with "so many" inches of bedding? (and which bedding do you suggest for the best bang for the buck)
    - If it is an enclosed run, what do you do for the ground cover? Grass wouldn't last long with their constant walking and pecking.. so to avoid a muddy mess, what ground cover is preferred?
    - You mentioned not to use chicken wire on the run. How come? Are the holes too large.. or is it too expensive? How does hardware cloth compare?
    - When do you think it would be safe to move the chickens outside. They arrive tommorrow, and I was planning they would have to be inside for 7 or 8 weeks. Hoping they could move out by June. Do you think it would be warm enough by then?

    So.. there.. how's that for an abundance of questions! If you have any time to respond, that would be so helpful.. take your time.. i am sure you have a busy life too!

    Cheers!
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:This is like an ice fishing hut? They can make good coops, as long as your # chcikens matches the size of the coop. In 4x8, 6 chickens would be really pushing it, though, and personally I feel that even just 3-4 would make it pretty full.

    I wonder, if you would be permanently decommissioning this thing to make it into a coop, if you could just stick an addition onto one end. You said the ends are not structural, just doors -- perhaps the back could have an extension added onto it? It would be easier NOT to try to seamlessly tie into the existing roof, but rather do a lower-down gable roof or a shed roof, depending on the size of the addition.

    - Do you think i need to insulate it? And if so, with what?

    It wouldn't hurt, but if you stick with the 4x8 size and it has a raised floor, there is kind of a limit to how much good you'd get out of the insulation unless you plan on having a heat source in the coop (passive solar features with a reasonable am't of thermal ballast to store the heat for nighttime; or planning to use electric heat on a frequent basis). OTOH "limit to how much good" might still be useful on those -35 nights, so, personal choice. If it were me I think I'd insulate.

    - Would one square vent on the roof be enough, or should there be more?

    Don't do a roof vent (leaks, blowing snow, drafts). For wintertime use, do vents near the tops of your WALLS, on several sides including the S and E sides b/c they are usually downwind; for 6 chickens, I would say you're unlikely to *need*-need more than 2-3 sq ft of ventilation at any one time in January, so maybe each wall that has vents could have something like a 6" high opening all along the top fo the wall, or slightly less if you want to avoid exposing studs. For summertime you will need additional ventilation, perhaps 2 large openable windows, or one large openable window plus have the "people doors" INSIDE the run so you can leave them open during hot summer days.

    Would the whole "shed" need to be raised up on legs, with a pop door, and ramp extending down into an enclosed run? (would this help or hinder keeping the coop warm enough in winter?)

    If it has a wooden floor that you are going to keep, it needs to be raised up enough to prevent the floor from rotting due to being too close to the ground, and preferably far enough up that rats etc don't feel comfy hanging out under there. I would say AT LEAST up on cinderblocks; higher is better in some respects but then you start to get into issues of tipping over. Even if you only put it on cinderblocks, make sure you have some sort of earth anchors involved so that a stout storm does not blow it over.

    - Would you recommend a window? If so, a real one, or a cut hole with hardware cloth/chicken wire, and then a cover for the cold weather?

    Absolutely for sure at least one window; frankly I think the easiest thing is your second option, just a mesh-covered hole with a hinged plexiglass cover.

    - Is it best to have nest boxes that extend out from the coop?

    No. Don't do that (it only makes sense if you have a teeny coop too small to mount nestboxes indoors without taking away floorspace). They are a structural nuisance, and a weak spot for weather and predators to get in, and accellerate freezing of eggs in January. If you really want exterior access to the nestboxes (e.g. so chickenphobic or fancily-dressed people can collect egggs without walking into the coop) you can make an exterior access hatch to your normal INTERIOR nestboxes.

    - What is the best method for access to cleaning out the coop. Building one bid door.. or swing doors.. where and how large would you suggest?

    A normal people door is fine. Be it storeboughten or homemade.

    - Is plywood an ok flooring material?

    Yes. Prime and paint so that poo doesn't get stuck too hard to it if the bedding gets shuffled away from some spots sometimes.

    Do you then cover it with "so many" inches of bedding? (and which bedding do you suggest for the best bang for the buck)

    I use 3-12" of pine shavings, the kind you buy in bales from the feedstore (NOT leetle bags from Walmart for rabbits and hamsters!). The bags cost about $5.50 right now, one bag is PLENTY for a 4x8 coop (they expand a lot when you open the bag).

    Alternatives exist, but unless you have a cheap source of something else usable or enjoy experimenting, I'd say use feedstore pine shavings.

    - If it is an enclosed run, what do you do for the ground cover? Grass wouldn't last long with their constant walking and pecking.. so to avoid a muddy mess, what ground cover is preferred?

    See my 'fix a muddy run' page, link in .sig below, which also talks about PREVENTING a muddy run [​IMG]

    - You mentioned not to use chicken wire on the run. How come? Are the holes too large.. or is it too expensive? How does hardware cloth compare?

    Nearly all the chickenwire manufactured today is just too darn weak. Heck, *I* can rip it with my hands if one end is securely fastened down, and dogs and raccoons are much stronger than me (plus they have pretty good wire-cutters in the form of teeth). They go thru chickenwire on a very regular basis, pretty much anytime they wish to try it.

    Hardwarecloth is safe. So are good quality 1x1 welded wire, or 1x2 or 2x4 welded wire with something smaller-mesh added to the lower portions.

    When do you think it would be safe to move the chickens outside. They arrive tommorrow, and I was planning they would have to be inside for 7 or 8 weeks. Hoping they could move out by June. Do you think it would be warm enough by then?

    Won't have to be 7 or 8 weeks (in fact, you will not WANT six chickens in your house for two months! Seriously [​IMG]) When you can put them out depends on what you have in the way of a coop by then, and whether you can run a lamp for them at night as supplemental/emergency warmth. It would be best if you CAN run a lamp for them at night for a little while.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  9. henney penny

    henney penny Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What breed of chickens are you gettin?I live in northren Maine.my coop is isulated and Have vents next to the roof line,Get vents that will open and close so if its windy you can close them when its really cold.Put your windows on the south side to get the sun in the winter.I have a heated water base so the water does not freeze.You can buy a heated dog water bowl at wal mart.My dh made me one with a light bulb in it and the waterer sits on top of it and it works great.I use the deep litter method so I have lots of shavings on the floor in the winter time,I also use poop boards and that cuts down on the hummity and smell . This is the water heater [​IMG]
     
  10. henney penny

    henney penny Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG] POOP BOARDS
     

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