Keeping the coop warm in a cold area

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ND Sue, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. ND Sue

    ND Sue Chillin' With My Peeps

    110
    1
    113
    Sep 20, 2009
    ND
    I'm in ND and since we have flat land, the wind blows hard and the winters are usually pretty cold with 8 weeks or so in the below zero F area.

    My husband is making me a chicken coop, and we're trying to make a decision about the size because of the cold.

    Just a background reminder, I'm the one that found 3 chickens that had been dropped off at my farm and am now a new chicken owner! So we don't know much about them and are learning from you.

    The coop is 10X14 with a slant roof that is 12 foot high at the highest and 8 foot at the lowest. I am planning on sectioning off 1/4 of it for feed storage and just in case I get addicted like everyone seems to,[​IMG] it can be an extra area for raising babies, etc.
    I thought we could just put the wall up and be done with it. But he thinks he should have the wall make the chicken area smaller so they stay warmer since there are only 3. Then in the spring he would put it where I want it. We have insulated and are planning on using a heat lamp if needed.

    So all of this leads to my question... Do we need to make the chicken area smaller so they stay warmer?

    I have read about the ventilation but it gets too cold in this area without some form of insulation.
    We are going to use vinyl siding on the chicken coop that was leftover from our house. Should we use house wrap or that fan fold insulation board to keep the coop warmer? Or does that make it too air tight?
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  2. Cetawin

    Cetawin Chicken Beader

    13,752
    58
    333
    Mar 20, 2008
    NW Kentucky
    Congrats on the newcomers! I would at least put in a false ceiling to keep the warmth in...remember heat rises so it will cause the heat you put in there (or their own body heat) to rise to the ceiling and out the vents.

    Also, close off all north facing ventilation in the winter also. I wold make them a temporary smaller space inside for them to winter and then remove it in Spring. Are you going to use a heat lamp? I would highly recommend a heat lamp one. They are not ubber expensive to run on a heavy duty extension cord if you need to. I ran two in my 12 x 12 coop last winter and only added a couple bucks to my electric bill.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    95
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:One thing that would help a lot is to make the coop a lot SHORTER [​IMG] Seriously. Not only would it save you a buncha money (and if it is a standalone structure, make it more windproof structurally), it will also keep it warmer (well, 'less cold') in the winter. What about making it 7 feet fading to 4 or 5? Unless you are both quite tall, that will allow you to walk around freely in "most of" the coop, and is still plenty of pitch if you're using metal roofing.

    Of course if you want the structure to be useable for something else in the future that *requires* a tall space, that's different, but otherwise it's really something to think about.

    But he thinks he should have the wall make the chicken area smaller so they stay warmer since there are only 3.

    I would suggest making the chicken area as large as possible, even with only 3 (they WILL enjoy it and make full use of it, I promise), but make a smaller area enclosing the roost, sort of a 'coop within the coop' (use clear panels or include a window or something like that, so it isn't too dark in there, remembering that chickens have lousy night vision). For three chickens you might just knock together a few half-sheets of plywood to make a little hut, with a front that opens for cleaning. That would help keep their body heat (and any heat-lamp heat you might decide to add on the coldest nights) *around* them where it will do more good than floating up to the top of an 8 or 12 foot ceiling [​IMG]

    I have read about the ventilation but it gets too cold in this area without some form of insulation.

    On the one hand, quite honestly with three (3) lil' chickens in a 10x14 coop, I think you could probably go through the winter without any ventilation at all and be fine, assuming good sanitation and no other sources of dampness (leaks etc).

    But that is only true as long as you stick with such few chickens [​IMG]

    Insulation and ventilation ARE NOT OPPOSITES AT ALL, however. THey have nothing to do with each other. By all means insulate in your climate, you could get chickens to survive without it but not nearly so well and your life and the chickens' lives will be MUCH easier and pleasanter with insulation.

    But you will STILL (in future years with a larger flock) need ventilation openings. And it would make a whole lot more sense to construct them NOW, while you are building the coop, than to try to retrofit them in the future. Build LOTS of ventilation, including (but not limited to) winter-type openings that are at the tops of walls tucked back under the eaves, and make it closeable with weatherstripped flaps. That way you will be able to do whatever circumstances require [​IMG]

    We are going to use vinyl siding on the chicken coop that was leftover from our house. Should we use house wrap or that fan fold insulation board to keep the coop warmer? Or does that make it too air tight?

    Purpose-built ventilation openings (for instance something 6-12" high and most of the length of at least one wall) are what provide insulation -- the only thing that "air leaks" (poor carpentry <g>) will give you is drafts, and frost (=>humidity problems), both of which lead to chilled and frostbitten chickens.

    So you DO want to make sure there are not little air leaks everywhere, between boards or whatever.

    However, FWIW, I do not think a vapor barrier is a great idea in a typical chicken coop, for reasons I will not go into here unless someone really cares. You can get away with one but I do not think it is necessarily beneficial or desirable.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  4. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    Wow, what lucky chooks that they found you! Insulation is a great thing to moderate extremes summer and winter, and to keep you comfortable when visiting the coop. If you want to keep the chicken area larger for now, you could build the three girls a 'huddle box' so that they can gather together on cold days. Lots of ways to do this, just search in the box up on the right of this page.

    You will probably need more service space than you think, especially if you are planning for chicks in future- you might want 1/3 or even half that coop for utility space and a bird hospital and/or brooder. It gets out of control fast! And pat has a point about the height of the coop- probably 8' is more practical. You're started on an adventure and I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun!

    [​IMG]

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=7693-Coop_Insulation
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  5. ND Sue

    ND Sue Chillin' With My Peeps

    110
    1
    113
    Sep 20, 2009
    ND
    Thanks so much for your responses!
    We're too late on the ceiling height! The shed is already built and the roof is finished with metal roofing and he put the little ventilation panels in the overhang. Forgive me for not being very carpenter savvy in my descriptions!

    We're at the finishing the inside and siding it point in building. So my husband was thinking he could drop the ceiling or move the walls in temporarily just for the winter, and I didn't like that idea....
    But I love the idea of making a little huddle box in the coop! That we can do! And then I won't have to worry about him not getting around to making the smaller area larger in the spring! haha!

    I'm also glad we can insulate and do a good job of it. I'll feel better about that!
    I'll let him know about the ventilation flaps up on the tops of the walls. Do we just do 2 ventilation windows that can be closed on opposite walls? Or all 4 walls? From what I've seen, they are like drop down doors that can be put in place again during cold weather.

    One other question!!! Now my husband just came home and said he has talked to an area guy who has chickens and that guy says we need more chickens or they'll freeze. He says in the size coop we have, we need at least 20 chickens?! That seems way too crowded isn't it? I was thinking this didn't look big enough for 3! Keep in mind, they may be cooped up in there for a few weeks at a time when Jan and Feb roll around. Brr! I hate to even think of it!
    Does that sound right?

    Thanks again for all of your help!
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    95
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:It depends partly on what sort of ventilation openings (or openable windows) ya got for the warmer part of the year. But in general I'd say at LEAST two walls, and (considering only winter usefulness here) you want them to be the two most-usually-downwind walls, probably S and E. You do NOT need them to be on opposite walls, although that can be a help in warm weather.

    Now my husband just came home and said he has talked to an area guy who has chickens and that guy says we need more chickens or they'll freeze. He says in the size coop we have, we need at least 20 chickens?!

    Yeah, people say that, but it's totally not true. Especially in nasty northern climates you are always best off giving them the MOST indoor area you possibly can. It is quite easy to make some of it more chicken-warmable if desired, and then you get the best of both worlds. That is partly the *point* of knocking together a smaller (and lower-ceilinged) area for them to roost in, a 'coop within the coop' or roost box or huddle box or whatever you want to call it.

    So, you will be FINE [​IMG]

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  7. CityChook

    CityChook Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,719
    12
    171
    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    You've gotten some excellent advice here. I don't think there's really anything I can add that would make it any better. I just wanted to let you know that I am also in the extreme cold with only 4 chickens. My coop is smaller than yours - my girls have about 12 sq/ft per bird indoors. I was sooooo thankful last winter for the extra square footage when it got nasty outside and they refused to leave the coop. They could run around and play and most importantly, get out of each other's way. True, having 20 chickens will create substantially more body heat, but it also creates more poo and moisture and everything that goes along with that.

    If it's possible to build a little hover in which you can put their roost, it will make a world of difference. It is extremely difficult to heat up a 10x14 outbuilding space without doing a real number on your electricity bill. But a smaller space for sleeping would be more efficient at holding warmth both from a heat source (should you choose to use it) and their own body heat. They can always utilize the rest of the space for hanging out during the day when it's too cold to go outside.

    I use heat in my coop. I keep a 250 watt ceramic bulb over the roost so that they can sleep under it and it doesn't interrupt their natural day/night cycles. It warms the air very little, but I feel like it gives them some relief from the cold when they want it. I found the best prices are on ebay but these bulbs can also be found at pet stores in the reptile section. When temps stay below 0 (like as the high for the day), I usually add another 250 infrared bulb. It does a better job at heating up the coop air and taking the edge off. Last year, my coop averaged around 10F for most of the winter, so it's not the Bahamas by any means. I found that the red bulb tended to keep the girls up late into the night and made them more aggressive with each other, which is why I only use it when I absolutely have to. I know that many folks feel that adding heat is dangerous in case your power goes out, but I figured that if that happens I'll just bring them inside in a dog crate until the problem is solved. It's much harder for folks with larger numbers of birds.

    One recommendation I can add is to install some varied height roosting bars. Chances are that they'll all sleep together to stay warm at night, but they might enjoy something to jump around on during the day. And if you don't already have a southern window, I'd recommend that too. I think all living things deserve a little sunlight in their lives and some southern sun can help you heat up your space at least a little bit.

    Anyways, you're on the right track. It sounds like you're a really great chicken mom.

    I have a winter page on my BYC page if you feel like checking it out.
     
  8. Klorinth

    Klorinth Chillin' With My Peeps

    146
    1
    119
    Mar 3, 2008
    Winnipeg, Manitoba
    As much as I like doing it I don't think there is anything for me to add here.

    Lynne, Pat, and Citychook have covered it quite well. Add the suggestions from the others and you have it. Insulate, ventilate, feed well, and give then a cozy hover and they will do well. I also agree with the do not crowd them. Too many is not good.

    There was a post a couple days ago where he had an insulation ceiling inside the coop that could be put in for the winter and taken out for the summer. Do a little searching back and you should find it. It would be very easy to add.
     
  9. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    I agree, I'm emphatically against overcrowding. Too much ammonia and the birds can get quite hostile to one another. My birds have about 15 sq ft indoors and more than that each, outdoors. Makes for a pleasant flock and less cleaning. A hover box or a huddle box will make things more then comfortable. [​IMG]
     
  10. ND Sue

    ND Sue Chillin' With My Peeps

    110
    1
    113
    Sep 20, 2009
    ND
    Sorry I couldn't reply. I spilled my glass or water on my keyboard and most of the keys didn't work anymore. So had to wait until I got a new one.

    I'm embarrassed to say that I made a mistake in reporting the coop size. Like I said, I am not good at construction at all, or have any idea of measurements, etc... so when my husband was telling me the coop size, I got the height mixed up with the building size in general. So it isn't as tall as I reported! He laughed when I said I thought it was 12 feet at the tallest point. I guess it would have looked like a rocket or something! So it is 8 feet at the highest point. Cripes! I am such an idiot! haha! It is 12X14 and 8 ft tall slanting down to 6 ft. He will be adding a divider wall so I have a little 4X12 feed room and it will be made with the possibility of maybe using it for isolation or babies or something, so it will also have the little chicken door too.

    So should I still make a huddle box? Right now, I still have the little dog house in there, that they were in when I had them in the chain link kennel. They do go in there and sleep. Would that work as a huddle box? It's uninsulated plastic.
    The 2 hens go in first and then the rooster goes in and sits on the 2 of them! Is that normal? lol!

    I also have those electric pads you use for dogs and cats to keep warm. They don't get real warm, but I could put that in the dog house and plug in if needed, unless there is any danger to that.

    Citychook! I read your page and you totally sold me on Buff Orpingtons! I want to get some for spring! I'll keep my eyes open and if I see there is an adult or 2 for sale I could take them now. Sounds like a breed perfect for me! Are there many breeders in MN?

    Thanks everyone for your encouragement and help! What a great forum this is!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by