Help me winterize my coop - video included

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Millezille, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. Millezille

    Millezille Just Hatched

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    Hi everyone!

    I have three hens who just started laying about 6 weeks ago. I've had them since the end of May (as pullets) and am a new chicken owner. We inherited the hens before we had a proper coop so we quickly bought a prefabricated coop from Summerhawk. As the ladies grew, we built on to the coop by creating an extended run. We are currently building a permanent slanted roof using clear polycarbonate roof panels. The hens free range whenever we are home and in the backyard with them (we've had a few daring hawks swoop in our fenced yard so we won't allow the girls to free range alone) but this will be less and less often as winter nears.

    I want to make sure that I have the best living arrangements that I can immediately and realistically provide for my hens and would really appreciate input from you. I did a quick video of the current state of the coop and am hoping that you can take a look and provide some thoughts.

    To note:
    • I use pine shavings in the run and coop (although I had just cleaned out the coop for this video).
    • A permanent slanted roof on the extended run will be added this weekend.
    • More pine shavings will be added to the run since I practice DLM.
    • I clean the poop out daily in the coop.
    • I will be adding a heated waterer so their water does not freeze.
    • We live outside of Chicago, IL and have extremely cold wind chills for days on end in the winter.

    My concerns:
    • We plan to protect the coop with heavy plastic (tarp? shower curtains?) to block out the wind and excess snow. Is there anything I should avoid?
    • Is my coop too small for my three hens? They are buddies and like to huddle together on their roosts. I don't see much competition except when it's time to exit the coop each morning. I know they will be in there more often this winter though. I'm conflicted between it being too small for them and being just perfect to keep them warm.
    • No food and water in coop. There is no room. So that means they don't eat/drink anything from dusk to dawn. That's a span of 14 hours. Should I figure out another option or would they not eat/drink anyway?
    • Coop ventilation. In the video, you will see a ventilation window. Is that enough? Would there ever be a time I'd need to close it? (I remove their poop daily so I don't think ammonia buildup would be an issue).
    • Heating the coop. I know it's really not recommended. But is my coop adequate to keep them warm (as long as I have the open run areas protected by plastic)?
    • Is the run too small for the hens if they no longer free range? I plan to add some bars and a tree stump so they have varying heights to play on. But does the space look large enough for them?
    Thanks for all your input. We love our girls and want to treat them well.

    Here's the video of my coop/run:
     
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  2. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich True BYC Addict

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    Apr 6, 2014
    Melrose Park Illinois
    Looks very good..:thumbsup
    Let me answer some of your questions...
    • We plan to protect the coop with heavy plastic (tarp? shower curtains?) to block out the wind and excess snow. Is there anything I should avoid?
    • Do not cover all of run sides. Focus on where the wind will be coming from and do those.
      • No food and water in coop. There is no room. So that means they don't eat/drink anything from dusk to dawn. That's a span of 14 hours. Should I figure out another option or would they not eat/drink anyway?
      • Chickens do not need to eat at night while sleeping.
      • Coop ventilation. In the video, you will see a ventilation window. Is that enough? Would there ever be a time I'd need to close it? (I remove their poop daily so I don't think ammonia buildup would be an issue).
      • Do not close it , but in extreme wind it would be OK to shield it. That way there is still opening but no wind blasts. Besides, it is high up ideally, so not likely to cause your chickens feathers to ruffle from draft.
      • Heating the coop. I know it's really not recommended. But is my coop adequate to keep them warm (as long as I have the open run areas protected by plastic)?
      • Heating the coop is not recommended. We are here in Chitown, not Alaska. You have chickens that look like cold hardy variety.
      • Is the run too small for the hens if they no longer free range? I plan to add some bars and a tree stump so they have varying heights to play on. But does the space look large enough for them?
      • Your run looks adequate for your 3 chickens. If you get caught up in chicken math in the near future, you will be expanding everything.:wee
      Join our Illinois thread. Reading the posts there will inform you how all of us around you are dealing with things.

    • https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/illinois.37/page-860#post-19188686
    WISHING YOU BEST......and:welcome
     
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  3. pilch

    pilch Just Hatched

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    Reno, NV
    • Block out only the sides of your run that are most exposed to the elements, i.e. where the wind comes from (keep in mind that your yard looks like it has some nice trees in it which will significantly reduce wind impact on coop, take mental notes on this during winter), you can use any ol' scraps or recyclable materials if you're on a budget, or staple some poly plastic (4-6 mil is plenty) if you don't mind buying.
    • Coop size is plenty for three hens, if they were in there permanently then that would be an issue, but 1 sqft per hen is plenty if it's just their hotel and outside space is generous.
    • Also, no need to remove poop daily if you add a generous amount of carbon material. I understand you don't have much vertical space to really do the DLM inside but add a generous amount of straw/hay/wood chips/shavings initially, then add a few handfuls every few days or so over the poop until it there is too much to manage, then remove into run and repeat. You can even mix it around every few days with a rake. I personally would add a wood barrier (I used an old fence board in mine) in front of the entrance (a piece approx 4" tall and 12" wide looks like it'd do the trick for yours) to increase your vertical height of carbon material by a few inches. Pack that coop floor full of carbon material, I'd actually use same material as nest boxes and let the coop floor and nest box material 'merge'. Don't worry about keeping the nest boxes and coop floor areas separated by a visible border if that makes sense. *This will also help clean up your eggs.
    • Leave water/food in run, put behind a side that has plastic protection so the hens don't have to engage the elements to eat/drink. Hens don't eat/drink at night, they poop and sleep, and poop.
    • Ventilation is very important during the cold months. I would personally cut out the entire red "house" shaped section of the coop wall that your green dust pan is hanging on and make a matching cut on the opposite wall that currently has the tiny vent on it and put some type of wire mesh/chicken wire over the cuts. If this is too much for you, do what you can to increase ventilation in that coop.
    • To add to this topic --- I live at the base of the Eastern Sierras ~5k', lows during winter average low 20s but every now and again a single digit comes around. My coop has an open bottom (16 sqft) and just over 1/3 of all side area is open.
    • No supplemental heat. Chickens are very hardy. Only in extreme cold climates would chickens need supplemental heat or to be moved into some sort of poly tunnel.
    • Run size looks fine for your three hens, I wouldn't add a fourth, three max.
    Hope this helps. Good luck!

    Steve
     
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  4. Millezille

    Millezille Just Hatched

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    May 31, 2017
    Hi everyone. Thank you SOOOOO much for all of your help. I can not stress enough just how much I appreciate your input. We added the roof this weekend and my hens are so happy to have better shelter. We are going to add plastic to the run on two sides so that they are protected from wind. I feel much more confident going into our first winter with the girls. Thank you again!
     
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