New coop, venting issue causing frostbite?

mbodamer

Chirping
Apr 27, 2018
32
29
74
Lehigh Valley PA
Hi,
I tried to research a lot before building my coop and knew that adequate ventilation was key. So I made my coop with I thought TONS of ventilation. My coop (the actual roosting section) measures 4'x8'. I have 4 2x4 roosting bars going across the 4' span giving my chicks 16' of roosting space for 12 chicks. they seem happy with that and spread themselves out over the roosts fine.

The only lower ventilation is the entry door for them. Since the coop is built into an existing building I put mesh on the eave of the building and top of the coop for top ventilation. I also made a large 4'x2' vent across the entire top of the coop that simply goes up into the rafters of the building. I also have a large window on the access door of the coop (which I leave closed its more for show and for light). finally i have two 1'x3' vents along the side of the coop. hopefully the pictures are logical enough and fit with my descriptions.

I live in eastern PA and we had a few cold days this week. I noticed that the combs have black spots on them and I want to make sure my chicks are OK. I know its frostbite but I cant imagine why there would be a ventilation problem.

We have had unbelievable rain here for weeks. Everything is muddy and swampy int he yard. Could it just be the humidity in the air and nothing i can do about it? Are my vents not adequate or misplaced? After seeing the frostbite I did CLOSE the two side vents that are 1'x3' each because they are right above the roosting bars, so i placed clear plastic over them hoping that it might be too much air was coming in there right above them.

Would really appreciate some feedback on the coop in general and specifically the moisture issue. I dont want my chickies getting frostbite!

Thanks
 

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azygous

Enabler
11 Years
Dec 11, 2009
23,381
33,518
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Colorado Rockies
Your setup with the vent placement is very similar to mine. I have always heard how heating a coop is more conducive to frostbite than no heat, and that frostbite shouldn't occur as long as there is good ventilation. So two years ago, I experimented. Let me say, or rather admit, that my experiments on my chickens can result in the chicken paying for the failure of said experiment. It's happened much more than just once, sadly.

So one night the forecast was for a dive in temperature to below zero, and I decided not to turn the coop heater on to see what would happen. In the morning, my poor rooster Strawberry had severe frostbite on all his glorious comb points. He was miserable with all the painful blistering. Eventually, his comb points all turned black and fell off, resulting in a partial comb dubbing.

Last night the forecast was for 0F. I monkeyed with the vents to tilt them to a half-closed position and I turned on the electric oil-filled heater to the lowest setting to assure the coop temperature remained above freezing. I didn't even take the precaution as I always have in the past of greasing up his and his son's combs. This morning neither of my roosters had frostbite.

The bottom line that I'm trying to stress is that climate and relative humidity are as variable as the weather is from hour to hour. Here, the temperature can drop forty degrees in just two hours. Your weather is going to differ from your neighbors even a mere five miles away. I once observed it snowing on one side of my road and sun on the other side.

Therefore, what common wisdom recommends isn't necessarily what's right for you and your flock. For me, heating my coops to around 35F is the best solution to prevent frostbite.
But it may not be what is best for you and your flock. You need to figure out what works for you.
 

RoosterML

Make Ameraucanas Great Again
Premium Feather Member
Nov 5, 2018
5,187
40,526
972
Tolland County Connecticut, USA
Hi,
I tried to research a lot before building my coop and knew that adequate ventilation was key. So I made my coop with I thought TONS of ventilation. My coop (the actual roosting section) measures 4'x8'. I have 4 2x4 roosting bars going across the 4' span giving my chicks 16' of roosting space for 12 chicks. they seem happy with that and spread themselves out over the roosts fine.

The only lower ventilation is the entry door for them. Since the coop is built into an existing building I put mesh on the eave of the building and top of the coop for top ventilation. I also made a large 4'x2' vent across the entire top of the coop that simply goes up into the rafters of the building. I also have a large window on the access door of the coop (which I leave closed its more for show and for light). finally i have two 1'x3' vents along the side of the coop. hopefully the pictures are logical enough and fit with my descriptions.

I live in eastern PA and we had a few cold days this week. I noticed that the combs have black spots on them and I want to make sure my chicks are OK. I know its frostbite but I cant imagine why there would be a ventilation problem.

We have had unbelievable rain here for weeks. Everything is muddy and swampy int he yard. Could it just be the humidity in the air and nothing i can do about it? Are my vents not adequate or misplaced? After seeing the frostbite I did CLOSE the two side vents that are 1'x3' each because they are right above the roosting bars, so i placed clear plastic over them hoping that it might be too much air was coming in there right above them.

Would really appreciate some feedback on the coop in general and specifically the moisture issue. I dont want my chickies getting frostbite!

Thanks
While it looks like you have many openings to allow for air movement to me that is part of the problem. What it looks like to me is you have your roost bars spread from front to back. You also have vents in the same manner that appear to be at the same height as the birds. It looks like your birds are in the path of air currents causing the problem. One idea would be to have your birds roost over the nesting boxes or just in front of them. Yes you'll need to build a poop board. Now at the other end use your window in your main door (intake air) open that alittle and allow that air to go up into your rafter area (exiting air). Close off the two side vents as i think those are not helping. Open those side ones in the summer only. Now if you understand what i am saying your air exchanges will occur in the front of the coop while your birds will be roosting in the back in dead air. Hope this helps
 

EggWalrus

Free Ranging
Aug 14, 2017
2,241
5,430
577
Southeast Alabama
That's quite a nice looking chicken house you built.
Looks like you have enough vents up high, but it might be advisable to put a couple more closable/adjustable vents down low. Just a couple of 1 foot square sliding doors (with HC on the inside),
Heat rises (their breath), but won't nessasarily go out the high vent if there isn't enough vent area down low. it's like if you have a good wind blowing. When you open the window on the windward side of the house, it blows in for a second, then quits because the wind had no where to go, the house is pressurized.
But go open a window on the opposite side of the house also and it allows the wind to flow thru the house.
It is the same theory for coop ventilation, but as their warm breath rises, it pulls dryer air in thru the bottom vents, allowing their humid breath to actually exit the coop and not just linger at chicken level.
The oil filled electric heaters are the way to go of you must have heat. I believe they are nearly fireproof.
You'll get it all figured out just fine. :thumbsup
 

EggWalrus

Free Ranging
Aug 14, 2017
2,241
5,430
577
Southeast Alabama
That's quite a nice looking chicken house you built.
Looks like you have enough vents up high, but it might be advisable to put a couple more closable/adjustable vents down low. Just a couple of 1 foot square sliding doors (with HC on the inside),
Heat rises (their breath), but won't nessasarily go out the high vent if there isn't enough vent area down low. it's like if you have a good wind blowing. When you open the window on the windward side of the house, it blows in for a second, then quits because the wind had no where to go, the house is pressurized.
But go open a window on the opposite side of the house also and it allows the wind to flow thru the house.
It is the same theory for coop ventilation, but as their warm breath rises, it pulls dryer air in thru the bottom vents, allowing their humid breath to actually exit the coop and not just linger at chicken level.
The oil filled electric heaters are the way to go of you must have heat. I believe they are nearly fireproof.
You'll get it all figured out just fine. :thumbsup
I forgot to tell you to close the middle height vents and when you make the low vents, put them on the opposite side of the house that the high vents are on. That way your birds are not in a breeze like @RoosterML above stated.
 
Last edited:

ChickenCanoe

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Nov 23, 2010
32,966
27,458
1,077
St. Louis, MO
I agree that we all have different climates and building designs which make what we say marginally helpful. Frostbite is a combination of temperature and humidity, but also air flow.
It is usually very humid here which almost none of us have much control over.
It has rained or snowed here 8 of the last 12 days.
My birds are Mediterranean with huge combs and wattles. While the roosters do get hit with frostbite, I've never had a hen with frostbite in decades, even to -20F.
I don't subscribe to the "no drafts" philosophy. My buildings are wide open with openings on both east and west walls that are nearly 1/3 of the entire wall. The breeze blows right through at roost height. I currently have a rooster that has decided to sleep high in a tree and with nights into the mid teens (with rain and snow), he has no sign of frostbite.

The OP's building is inside another building (from what I read). That means there is little air flow (no matter how much ventilation) so the humidity from respiration and feces added to the ambient humidity has no opportunity to escape.

I vote for bigger open windows and maybe even a fan. My tightest building that doesn't have the huge windows had a big box fan on the windowsill blowing right on the roost
the last 2 winters - no problems.
 

mbodamer

Chirping
Apr 27, 2018
32
29
74
Lehigh Valley PA
thanks for the feedback. I am thinking i will take a roost out that is closest to the window forcing them to roost closer to the back of the coop. i will keep monitoring them.

i cant get a decent picture of them but its black spots on the comb. not major. when i google chicken frostbite i see these horrible blackened tips of the comb. this is not severe like that... it is more like speckles. i looked up fowl pox and it doesnt look anything like that thankfully.
 

MANNA-PRO

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