New Coop Questions

JWChickens

Chirping
Sep 20, 2020
18
45
56
I’m getting a room in my barn ready for a new coop for my chickens. It used to be an old cow milking area, and what I think will be their roost is about 6’ off the floor. I have the following questions/concerns:
1. It should be less windy/drafty than their current coop, but I’m still concerned about warmth. Would heat lamps (non-light style) be okay? They would be pointed at the roost area.
2. Do I need ramps or intermediate perches for my chickens to get to the 6’ roost?
3. I’ve heard pine and cedar chips are bad for chickens, but others recommend them. Is the smell/acid really a problem if the wood is properly dried? The chips I’ve found seem pretty odorless.
 

Weeg

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Jul 1, 2020
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1. It should be less windy/drafty than their current coop, but I’m still concerned about warmth. Would heat lamps (non-light style) be okay? They would be pointed at the roost area.
How cold does it get in your area? Chickens are extremely cold hardy, and can be just fine down to -20 degrees as long as they aren't cold sensitive breeds. Unless its gets colder than that, supplemental heat is never necessary. The problem with the supplemental heat is, 1) the high risk of fire. 2) Birds who are supplemented with heat loose that vital cold tolerance that they need to maintain body heat. With heat, they become unaccustomed to the cold. Say you get a windy, cold, snow storm one night, and you loose power. Chances are tonight is colder than other nights because of the storm, and your heat lamp goes off. Boom, the hens go from warm and cozy no need to worry about body that at all, to freezing. You could loose your whole flock in one night.
That is why it is never necessary, and I highly suggest not giving supplemental heat until it gets really cold in your climate.
2. Do I need ramps or intermediate perches for my chickens to get to the 6’ roost?
You don't "need" them, but it may be a good idea. Birds jumping from high perches become very susceptible to bumble foot due to the impact on their feet. I've also heard of chickens slapping into the other wall on the jump down, but this depends on your coop size.
3. I’ve heard pine and cedar chips are bad for chickens, but others recommend them. Is the smell/acid really a problem if the wood is properly dried? The chips I’ve found seem pretty odorless.
Cedar is toxic to poultry. I'm not entirely sure why, but I've always stayed away from it. I believe its a chemical in the wood that causes the reaction. I have heard of pine toxicity a bit a while back, but have never been to worried about it myself. Tried to do more research, but didn't come up with many sources, so decided it probably wasn't to much a concern. Its really a personal choice I guess, but I've been using pine shavings for years without any problems. I believe its a very common poultry bedding on this forum, and for chickens keeps all over.
I'm assuming your talking about bedding correct? Not wood chips you would put in the run? If you are concerned about it, you can use Flock Fresh, (depending on wether or not your able to get it) or chopped straw. Straw I find gets dirtier quicker, it doesn't absorb the ammonia as well or moisture, and I find it becomes, almost moist? If I do use straw, I prefer it in the winter for better insulation, I like Flock Fresh since it contains Zeolite, which is a naturally occurring gradual (of something) that helps absorb ammonia.

I hope I was able to answer all of your questions, congrats on your new coop setup!
 

rosemarythyme

Scarborough Fair
5 Years
Jul 3, 2016
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1) What are your temperatures (lows)?. Keep in mind that healthy chickens can easily survive below freezing and heat lamps are a major fire hazard.

2) Depends on breed/types of birds. Heavier or older birds will not be able to get up to 6' without help. Lightweight, younger birds can.

3) If the wood is fully dried/aged the aromatic oils have dissipated and it should be safe to use. It's the oils that can irritate the respiratory system. I use some aged cedar in my coop and run and my brooder is 100% cedar. Haven't seen any evidence of respiratory issues in my birds.
 

3KillerBs

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
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1. It should be less windy/drafty than their current coop, but I’m still concerned about warmth. Would heat lamps (non-light style) be okay? They would be pointed at the roost area.
2. Do I need ramps or intermediate perches for my chickens to get to the 6’ roost?
3. I’ve heard pine and cedar chips are bad for chickens, but others recommend them. Is the smell/acid really a problem if the wood is properly dried? The chips I’ve found seem pretty odorless.

Welcome to BYC.

Where, in general, are you? Climate matters, especially when it comes to housing.

Here are the Usual Guidelines as a starting reference:

For each adult, standard-sized hen you need:
  • 4 square feet in the coop (.37 square meters)
  • 10 square feet in the run (.93 square meters),
  • 1 linear foot of roost (.3 meters),
  • 1/4 of a nest box,
  • And 1 square foot (.09) of permanent, 24/7/365 ventilation, preferably located over the birds' heads when they're sitting on the roost.
Yes, you want to avoid drafts, but that doesn't mean closing the coop up because generous ventilation is one of the keys to keeping chickens healthy. Take a look at my brooder, which is 4x8, has 16 square feet of permanent ventilation with 10 square feet of supplemental ventilation, and still needs shade to prevent temperatures from exceeding 100F on days over 93F.

cover-image


After 4-6 weeks depending on breeds and conditions, chickens do not need supplemental heat except in the most extreme winter conditions. They wear built-in down parkas and don't even notice the cold until it gets down around 0F. If you do live in an extreme climate, you'll want to read this article: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/cold-weather-poultry-housing-and-care.72010/

What they need is to be protected from roost-level drafts that are strong enough to ruffle their feathers and thus disturb their natural ventilation. :)

6 feet is very high for the roosts. Is there a particular reason that you've chosen that?

In my new coop I specifically set my roosts no higher than my own shoulders so that I can easily tend to them at night and so that when I'm in there working no chicken will be sitting with it's eyes above my eyes -- because dominant bird perches highest and I learned from keeping cockatiels about the importance of respecting this.

Most of my birds easily fly up and down from those roosts but some take it in stages, hopping from the 18" juvenile roosts, and the Brahma can't fly at all so I had to make her a ramp to get to both the roosts and the nests.

It's possible for a heavy bird to injure it's feet/legs jumping down from a high roost. Additionally, chickens tend to fly at a 45-degree angle and most of them fly more like C-130s than like F-16's, so if the roost is closer to the wall on the dismount side than it is high they may crash into the wall or wire and injure themselves.

Pine shavings are fine for chickens. Fresh, GREEN wood with the sap still in it can support the growth of some toxic molds, but the dried shavings that are sold in the farm store have been proven safe over many years and millions of users. People claiming that pine shavings are dangerous are usually trying to sell you something else.

Cedar, however, is a different matter. Western Cedar, such as @rosemarythyme uses, has much less of the aromatic oils that make Eastern Red Cedar valuable for protection from insects. Those oils, however, are irritating or even toxic to birds -- who have extremely delicate respiratory systems (remember the canary in the coal mine thing?).
 

JWChickens

Chirping
Sep 20, 2020
18
45
56
Welcome to BYC.

Where, in general, are you? Climate matters, especially when it comes to housing.

Here are the Usual Guidelines as a starting reference:

For each adult, standard-sized hen you need:
  • 4 square feet in the coop (.37 square meters)
  • 10 square feet in the run (.93 square meters),
  • 1 linear foot of roost (.3 meters),
  • 1/4 of a nest box,
  • And 1 square foot (.09) of permanent, 24/7/365 ventilation, preferably located over the birds' heads when they're sitting on the roost.
Yes, you want to avoid drafts, but that doesn't mean closing the coop up because generous ventilation is one of the keys to keeping chickens healthy. Take a look at my brooder, which is 4x8, has 16 square feet of permanent ventilation with 10 square feet of supplemental ventilation, and still needs shade to prevent temperatures from exceeding 100F on days over 93F.

cover-image


After 4-6 weeks depending on breeds and conditions, chickens do not need supplemental heat except in the most extreme winter conditions. They wear built-in down parkas and don't even notice the cold until it gets down around 0F. If you do live in an extreme climate, you'll want to read this article: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/cold-weather-poultry-housing-and-care.72010/

What they need is to be protected from roost-level drafts that are strong enough to ruffle their feathers and thus disturb their natural ventilation. :)

6 feet is very high for the roosts. Is there a particular reason that you've chosen that?

In my new coop I specifically set my roosts no higher than my own shoulders so that I can easily tend to them at night and so that when I'm in there working no chicken will be sitting with it's eyes above my eyes -- because dominant bird perches highest and I learned from keeping cockatiels about the importance of respecting this.

Most of my birds easily fly up and down from those roosts but some take it in stages, hopping from the 18" juvenile roosts, and the Brahma can't fly at all so I had to make her a ramp to get to both the roosts and the nests.

It's possible for a heavy bird to injure it's feet/legs jumping down from a high roost. Additionally, chickens tend to fly at a 45-degree angle and most of them fly more like C-130s than like F-16's, so if the roost is closer to the wall on the dismount side than it is high they may crash into the wall or wire and injure themselves.

Pine shavings are fine for chickens. Fresh, GREEN wood with the sap still in it can support the growth of some toxic molds, but the dried shavings that are sold in the farm store have been proven safe over many years and millions of users. People claiming that pine shavings are dangerous are usually trying to sell you something else.

Cedar, however, is a different matter. Western Cedar, such as @rosemarythyme uses, has much less of the aromatic oils that make Eastern Red Cedar valuable for protection from insects. Those oils, however, are irritating or even toxic to birds -- who have extremely delicate respiratory systems (remember the canary in the coal mine thing?).
I live in southern Indiana right near the Kentucky border. It gets around 10 F or maybe a little colder in winter.
My roosts are at 6 feet because the previous owner put in heavy wood stanchions for two milk cows and it would have taken a lot of work to pull all the wood out and put in new roosts. The overhead wood on the stanchions is either a 4 x 6 or 4 x 8. I figured the chickens would like that.
I’m attaching pictures of the new coop. It can still use work, but I finished it to habitable status just today.
 

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3KillerBs

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Jul 10, 2009
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I live in southern Indiana right near the Kentucky border. It gets around 10 F or maybe a little colder in winter.
My roosts are at 6 feet because the previous owner put in heavy wood stanchions for two milk cows and it would have taken a lot of work to pull all the wood out and put in new roosts. The overhead wood on the stanchions is either a 4 x 6 or 4 x 8. I figured the chickens would like that.
I’m attaching pictures of the new coop. It can still use work, but I finished it to habitable status just today.

That makes sense about the stanchions.

You've got a great, roomy space for your birds! I don't see the ventilation though?

10F is well within chickens' comfort zone as long as they've got overhead ventilation to let the moisture and ammonia out.
 

JWChickens

Chirping
Sep 20, 2020
18
45
56
How cold does it get in your area? Chickens are extremely cold hardy, and can be just fine down to -20 degrees as long as they aren't cold sensitive breeds. Unless its gets colder than that, supplemental heat is never necessary. The problem with the supplemental heat is, 1) the high risk of fire. 2) Birds who are supplemented with heat loose that vital cold tolerance that they need to maintain body heat. With heat, they become unaccustomed to the cold. Say you get a windy, cold, snow storm one night, and you loose power. Chances are tonight is colder than other nights because of the storm, and your heat lamp goes off. Boom, the hens go from warm and cozy no need to worry about body that at all, to freezing. You could loose your whole flock in one night.
That is why it is never necessary, and I highly suggest not giving supplemental heat until it gets really cold in your climate.

You don't "need" them, but it may be a good idea. Birds jumping from high perches become very susceptible to bumble foot due to the impact on their feet. I've also heard of chickens slapping into the other wall on the jump down, but this depends on your coop size.

Cedar is toxic to poultry. I'm not entirely sure why, but I've always stayed away from it. I believe its a chemical in the wood that causes the reaction. I have heard of pine toxicity a bit a while back, but have never been to worried about it myself. Tried to do more research, but didn't come up with many sources, so decided it probably wasn't to much a concern. Its really a personal choice I guess, but I've been using pine shavings for years without any problems. I believe its a very common poultry bedding on this forum, and for chickens keeps all over.
I'm assuming your talking about bedding correct? Not wood chips you would put in the run? If you are concerned about it, you can use Flock Fresh, (depending on wether or not your able to get it) or chopped straw. Straw I find gets dirtier quicker, it doesn't absorb the ammonia as well or moisture, and I find it becomes, almost moist? If I do use straw, I prefer it in the winter for better insulation, I like Flock Fresh since it contains Zeolite, which is a naturally occurring gradual (of something) that helps absorb ammonia.

I hope I was able to answer all of your questions, congrats on your new coop setup!
Thank you! If you are interested, I just finished my coop to habitable standards today. I posted pictures in the thread as a reply to someone else. I have timed lights AND a timed chicken door, so the chickens will have a steady schedule no matter what Mother Nature does.
 

JWChickens

Chirping
Sep 20, 2020
18
45
56
That makes sense about the stanchions.

You've got a great, roomy space for your birds! I don't see the ventilation though?

10F is well within chickens' comfort zone as long as they've got overhead ventilation to let the moisture and ammonia out.
We’ve left two 2’ x 2’ windows open but screened off between the coop and the rest of the barn. The ceiling is beams and there are 3” x 12” spaces between each beam and the next (I have garden cloth closing them off.
Do I need spaces for air to move or forced ventilation?
 

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