Need help with ventilation

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Chickcaan, Dec 10, 2009.

  1. Chickcaan

    Chickcaan New Egg

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    Nov 15, 2009
    I've read a lot of posts about ventilation and have an idea of what I need to do to the coop but I'd love some personal advice. I have photos of my shed I converted to half coop and half storage this summer. (HOW DO I POST THEM TO YOU ON THIS MESSAGE?)

    I've never had chickens but things were great until the cold weather started. Now, I worry about frost bite for my girls!

    The eaves are open into the main building, but the coop itself is OSB boards closed tight to it's dropped ceiling. There is a window in the coop and a hatch door right below it. I have a light over the roosts that I can put a 100W light bulb in for winter lighting to get their 12 hours a day. (I got a timer, but haven't hooked it up yet)

    Yesterday was the first day I didn't open the hatch door. It snowed and then rained most of the day. When I got home, the window had condensation on the inside and that's when I started worrying about frost bite overnight. The waterer was frozen (getting a heated base for the galvanized waterer today).

    I'm wondering if I should cut the ventilation slots (at least 4 inches wide and 8 inches long - with wire mesh to keep out the critters) in the dropped ceiling or high up on the walls and utilize the open eaves or if I need more than just passive air through the eaves. ...sorry about the run on sentence there...

    I planned on doing the deep shaving method on my wood floor for the winter, but now I worry about the poop creating more moisture. It doesn't smell like ammonia or anything. Is the food grade Diatomaceous Earth enough to control this moisture? Do you just sprinkle it on top of each layer of shavings you put down?

    Some of my Comets have small black spots on their combs but they are still bright red and happy looking. These started back when the weather was still warm and I was thinking they were scabs from someone pecking(?) I would feel horrible if they get frost bite, or already have had it.


    Thanks in advance for your thoughts. I love all the experienced people on this site! We are all lucky to have other chicken lovers around to ask these questions. I'm so happy to be a part of BYC.

    Amy
     
  2. Chickcaan

    Chickcaan New Egg

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    Nov 15, 2009
    Here they are:

    My Coop/shed
    [​IMG]

    The back
    [​IMG]

    The open eaves
    [​IMG]

    Inside the shed, looking at the enclosed coop wall
    [​IMG]

    Inside wall (no vents :-()
    [​IMG]

    Window and hatch
    [​IMG]
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Hi, welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    First, can you check that I'm correctly understanding your current ventilation situation -- the popdoor is open during the day (except yesterday), the window is cracked from the top (always, or only daytime?), and the two walls that are the walls of the big shed have small narrow vents at the eaves (what dimensions?). Is that right?

    And, just a couple other questions: how many chickens is this? what are the floor dimensions of the coop itself (not the shed as a whole)? and how cold is your outdoor weather at the moment?

    Pat
     
  4. Chickcaan

    Chickcaan New Egg

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    Nov 15, 2009
    The coop inside dimensions are 9 x 6 and 7 feet high. I have 8 chickens in there - 6 months old. I close the hatch door and the window at night. They roost about 5 feet up (preferring this roost to the 4 foot high one. I have not used any diatomaceous earth yet. The floor is wood with shavings. The building itself is up off the ground. The nest boxes are currently on the ground but only one chicken uses them! (5 are currently laying)

    To make the coop, I added a layer of OSB board on all four walls of the shed and the floor and the ceiling. So right now, the space at the eaves of the shed does not connect to the coop walls.

    Thanks for getting back to me! I hear you are the guru for ventilation and I learned a lot from your other posts.

    This is midcoast Maine - the weather has been 30s to 40s and dipping into 20s at night....so far.
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Great, thank you for the details, that way I don't make stupid mistakes guessing [​IMG]

    You've got a good amount of space per chicken (almost 7 sq ft per), which means less ventilation requirements than if you had more chickens packed in there. (Also makes the chickens happier [​IMG])

    To make the coop, I added a layer of OSB board on all four walls of the shed and the floor and the ceiling. So right now, the space at the eaves of the shed does not connect to the coop walls.

    So, the coop has *no* ventilation into the rest of the shed, its only openings are the window and door, yes?

    It would be a good idea to fix that, on general principle if nothing else. If it were me I would cut a line of openings maybe 6x18" all the way across the top of the wall that divides the coop from the back of the shed (leaving strips between them wide enough to keep the OSB intact), screen them with hardwarecloth for security, nad make adjustable flaps to cover them. You will probably mostly want to use the ones on the side opposite from the roost. This way you can vent the coop into the *shed*, rather than directly outdoors, making use of its wind- and to some extent also temperature-buffered air. Which is a good situation to have when it's cold! It is quite possible that in summertime you may want additional vent openings going directly to the outside, but my sort of gut estimate is that venting into the shed should be quite sufficient for wintertime use with your relatively low #chickens.

    I don't know if your humidity indoors is necessarily problematically now; some condensation on windows is to be expected if there is enough temperature differential between indoor and out (taping clear plastic or bubblewrap over the windows can slightly decrease that, by providing a little insulation). Since there is probably not a huge difference in your temps in vs out, it is possible you do have somewhat high humidity in there, but I'm not going to place a bet one way or the other in this circumstance. If you want to know for sure, you could buy a cheap hygrometer, CALIBRATE IT (well, that is, find out what correction factor you need to add/subtract in order to get the correct reading -- see the 'incubating and brooding eggs' section of the forum for instructions for the salt method), and put it in the coop. You care most about humidity right about 'round sunrise, so look at the hygrometer first thing in the morning for the most relevant number (alas I've never seen a max-min hygrometer outside of the laboratory).

    I don't personally like the idea of using DE to control dampness except in emergency one-off type situations. Coops are dusty enough. I'm not saying your chickens will all go toes-up if you do it, I just don't think it's the best strategy [​IMG]

    If the black spots on the combs preceded the cold weather, then yes, I would bet they are chicken-inflicted. I'd just keep an eye on it. Keep an eye on the hens' bottoms, too -- once my first notice of a hen's pecked-at prolapse was seeing dried spots of blood on *other* hens' combs from where they'd been at her.

    As far as lighting, you only need a 40w in that size space for egglaying purposes... but it may be too late this year to get much value from it anyhow. (I'm not saying don't try it if you want, just that if it doesn't make much difference it may simply be that you missed your chance). First-year pullets often lay pretty well even without extra light, though, if they are from a breed/line that lays well in the first place.

    Good luck, have fun, hope this helps some,

    Pat​
     
  6. Chickcaan

    Chickcaan New Egg

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    Nov 15, 2009
    Thank you so much Pat! I'll get right on the changes I need to make things great for our girls!
     

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