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North? South? East or West?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Howard E, Jan 31, 2017.

  1. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 18, 2016
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    To avoid any mystery.............SOUTH!!!!!

    **************

    Have seen a number of posts in recent days about coops some first timers are building. Due to lack of knowledge and/or experience I see many of them inadvertently creating a lot of problems for themselves and more importantly their birds. So with that as background, time to review some very basic rules of the road as far as where you want to put your chicken house. Think SOUTH!

    First thing to know and understand is you want your site to be high, dry and well drained. Chickens kept in houses are almost ALWAYS adversely affected by cold, wet, damp, poorly lit conditions. So unless you want them to get sick, to suffer from disease and/or die, never, ever put them there. So instead, putting your chicken house/coop up high on a south facing slope, on a light or well drained soil, and with full exposure to the winter sun is your PRIME location. Anything less than that is......well less.

    The issue is the angle of the sun and how it hits and reflects off the surface of the earth in winter months. As days get short, the sun goes low in the sky. Sunlight can only find it's way to south facing surfaces and slopes with a direct line of sight to the low hanging sun. North sides are shaded.

    To elaborate, take any house.....yours, mine, any house. It will likely have 4 sides facing north, south, east and west. The south side will always be the warmest and driest. The north side, the coldest and wettest. If it snows, the south side will be where it melts first. The north side last. The same holds true in the forest. Look around. Notice what trees grow on the north slope, and what grows on the south. In natural settings, the north slope will be populated with larger trees, not so close together. They will be mostly majestic oaks, maples and such and there will be a heavy leaf litter and very little underbrush. What there is may be ferns and such and you may see moss growing on stuff. Pull back the leaf litter and the soil, if not frozen solid, will be cool and moist. It stays that way all winter and most of the year. So cold and moist. Exactly OPPOSITE of what you want for chickens.

    By contrast, a south facing slope will have an entirely different makeup. A lot of short, brushy trees, heavy underbrush, thorns, etc. The soil will be dry from being baked by the winter sun and compared to the north side, much warmer. These are the exact conditions you what you want for chickens.

    Then there is the nature of the winter winds, which in winter blow hard and cold from the north. So put them on the north, and they will be in a cold, damp, poorly lit, location with brutal cold winds howling around them. Not good.

    Put them up high on a well drained spot facing south, and under the same conditions, a bird in that house will be having fun in the sun and be happy and doing well. And they may not be more than 100 feet away. It makes that much difference, although it can be improved even more if you put a wind break in for them to protect them from the winter wind.

    East and west make much less difference, but it is still important which direction the front of the coop faces. (also south)

    To take advantage of the winter sun, any openings such as windows and such need to be facing south so any light from the sun shines in. Sunlight for the natural light, for the cleansing affect and to generate modest amounts of free heat in the dead of winter. That also dries out what moisture might be found. But facing south also faces those openings away from the brutal north winds of winter. That hits the solid back of the house and bounces off or goes around.......but not through the house as it might if your windows and vents faced north.

    And lastly, consider drainage. Water is the enemy. Make sure water runs away from the house and run and not towards it. Gravity works! The best way to take advantage of it is to put the house up high and let water run away. Think of it being like a bowl. Turn the bowl upside down and water will run off it. Turn it right side up and water will be trapped and held within.

    So in summary.....high and dry and facing south on a well drained site with all surface water running away from it. Windows, if they exist......and they better exist....... facing south. If you have those and want more, for more light or ventilation, put those east and west but not on the north. If you put any opening on the north at all, such as vents for summer breezes, make sure you can close them up in winter.
     
    2 people like this.
  2. Leigti

    Leigti Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 22, 2015
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    I understand what you are saying. But there's one problem with it, wind doesn't always blow from the north in the winter. For example where I live the wind almost always blows from the south and west. Doesn't matter the season. So I think people need to do some research and figure out which direction the wind is blowing where they live and which season is more severe for them, summer or winter. My chickens free range in the yard whenever possible but I chose to put the coop in the spot that would get some shade during the summer. And a little wind break for the cold winters. So I have one window facing south and to facing east.
    Everybody's situation is different.
     
  3. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Excellent post!!! Never heard anyone address this on here but it's of great importance in many ways. A lot of the threads on BYC that occur each season are predictable....in the spring and fall people are wanting to know how to keep runs dry, in the summer people are trying to keep flocks cool and smells down, in the winter it's all about ventilation vs. drafts and wet, cold runs. As the OP details, how you situate your coop on your property can eliminate many of these seasonal challenges and it's a worthy study for many. Everyone's property is different, their climate is different and their coops are different....but being mindful of where you place your coop and how you build it to work WITH your particular environment, instead of against it, can help you tremendously.

    I'll post a pic of my coop and explain why it sits where it sits and how it's all relative to this topic.

    [​IMG]

    I live on top of a ridge in WV, but as you can see here, the property slopes gradually back to a higher point on that ridge. I situated this coop at the foot of that steeper slope for the good drainage, protection from the higher winds, the shade and airflow in the summer. The aerodynamics of the hoop coop is used to advantage here as most of our winds, particularly in the winter, come from west to east....no matter how high those winds get here on this ridge, the coop is tucked at the foot of this slope and the smooth shape and covering of the coop allows them to just slip on by. That tarp doesn't budge...it doesn't flap or ruffle, due to the direction of the wind in relation to how the tarp is situated against the structure and the shape of the coop. Since ventilation is arranged on the north and south ends of the coop, most of it on the south end, then no direct winds blow into my large ventilation.

    The front of this coop is situated towards the south-southwest...it gets a little sun in the morning in the winter but by noon that coop is getting sun from there on and the sun finally finishes up right into the west side of that coop...the clear tarp makes full use of that sunlight each winter. The nest boxes are located at the front of the coop, so eggs never freeze in these nests, even in subzero weather unless I've left them overnight in those temps. The dark color of the paint on this south facing coop absorbs any and all heat from that winter sun and makes good use of it.

    When it rains a lot, most of the runoff bypasses this coop...any that does come into the soil on the north side of that coop(the side facing that steeper slope)is welcomed, as this is where I have my roosts and my composting tank/deep litter. That moisture is soaked up by that deeper mass of materials there and never makes it to the rest of the coop floor and that's exactly how I wanted it...the front and middle of the coop stay very dry and the area that needs moisture gets it, there I trap it under dry bedding where it can help me compost my manure.

    In the warmer months, the large shade trees by the coop provide shade both morning and evening...a short time in the middle of the day it gets full sun. The flaps of the tarp are raised on both sides and the west to east breezes flow right through the whole coop. A shade tarp is applied over the clear tarp, giving the coop double shade from the tarp and the trees. The overhang I've created on the front and back of the coop provides more shade in these areas...particularly the front of the coop where the nest boxes are located. With the sun riding higher in the sky, there is no time that it shines onto the front of the coop due to that "porch". This provides nesting boxes that are not hot boxes...they too have been built with ventilation on the east and west sides so that the air flowing through the coop is also flowing through them.

    Where you place your coop can make a HUGE difference for you and for your flock, in how comfortable they are, how easy it is to manage your coop, bedding and ventilation, and in how you take advantage of seasonal changes in the sun, the trees and the moisture you receive. All these little things add up to big benefits. Excellent topic of discussion!!!!
     
  4. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Agreed. You do need to take local conditions into consideration. In general, in temperate climates where many of us live, the passage of a weather front usually begins with warmer winds from the southeast or southwest, and ends with winds filling in from the direction of the poles after the front passes. For those of us in the North, that means cold winds from the north. That is for many of us, but not all. So, yes, that is a bit too general. So yes we should take into account the direction of the prevailing wind, but that doesn't change the direction of the sun, which in the colder months is always from the direction of the equator. The high and dry factor rules!

    Then there is summer and the summer heat, which for some is a bigger problem than the winter cold. So shade is a must and the same winds that cause so much trouble in winter are now a blessing to help cool the birds.

    If you look at poultry husbandry stuff from 100 years ago, this was all well known and routinely adhered to. They deemed it so important as to say if you only had cold, wet north slope to work with, don't even bother. They knew that raising chickens there was a near certain failure. That was for the site. The design and construction of chicken houses to put on a suitable site had been studied for years and were carefully engineered structures vs. something cobbled together. BTW, cobbled together is not bad in and of itself..........kinda neat actually.........as long as you understand what the birds need and take it into consideration.

    But we have now skipped at least one or two generations from the time when all this was known and now, when a lot of us are back to raising chickens. Unfortunately, our current generation doesn't know any of this, so is going through the process of reinventing the wheel. So hopefully, by getting this out there we can flatten the learning curve.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. bald Rooster

    bald Rooster Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Orlando area
    Hello
    Your location is a very important issue.
    I live in Orlando area and our summer days can be really hot [​IMG]and a south facing coop would need some sort of shade.
    I agree the light with the shorter days of winter would be a good thing, but here the heat is far more important. my coop and run is shaded and open to the north.
    It is well ventilated from three sides lots of light gets in from all but the west side. The location of my coop on my property the bad storm winds blow from the west.
    We have severe thunder storms almost daily in the summer and some hurricanes, The wind and the rain blows sideways![​IMG]
    My chicken are very Happy Chickens. because my coop is airy clean and dry.
    Water or constant dampness is the enemy.
    Cool dry chickens are Happy [​IMG]
     
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  6. AllynTal

    AllynTal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I agree that the post generates thought as to the coop's position on the property, but you can't state absolutes when people have different situations. I live in the Deep South and the summer sun isn't just hot, it is hateful-hot and very intense. (I never knew how hot hot could be until I moved down here.) Facing my coop south would turn it into an oven without some aggressive shading. My coop faces east so the roof-over on the shed roof shields the coop from the south and west -- the two directions of the most intense sun in the summer. (Here, summer runs from May through October, fall is November and December, and winter is about two weeks in January when the temps might actually get down to the freezing mark and stay there for a whole hour overnight.) I have Bermuda shutters (with lexan inserts that can be put in ahead of hurricanes) that cover two 3' x 6' windows on the front. During some of our severe thunderstorms, which are nearly a daily event in the summer, and during hurricanes, the rain blows horizontally and the really severe weather moves from west to east here. If all I had to be concerned with was light, facing south would be a good idea; but intense sun and heat, and extreme weather are far bigger concerns for me.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
    1 person likes this.
  7. Leigti

    Leigti Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I like this thread because it points out that A little planning can make your life and your chickens lives a lot easier.
     
  8. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That plus the fact that there are some basic things to know and understand about poultry husbandry that the vast majority of new growers are not even aware of, so never consider and never plan for. Then, when the inevitable problems arise, they show up here screaming for HELP! My purpose for starting this thread was to put some basic stuff out there to make them aware so as to head off some of those problems so they never get that far.

    As for those dealing with the heat of the south, you are also correct. That is the danger of any of us coming here with absolutes, as there probably are none. Each of us are also biased by our own experiences as that is all we have to draw upon. Just as right now, we remember our most recent experiences dealing with frozen water, frostbite and the cold, forgetting for the moment heat is by far a bigger issue.

    For you folks in the south, your environmental issues are different. You are not in a temperate climate with wild fluctuations in seasonal temps. You are in a sub-tropical zone where temps remain in mostly the upper half of the range we experience. It is almost funny to see someone from south ask about the pending cold weather, when their version of cold will be the upper +30's or so. Will their birds survive? Seems funny anyway to someone dealing with -30's or so.

    So for someone in the south, when they hear questions about sunlight, windows, ventilation, and insulation in the walls, their response might be "what walls"? Those folks really might be better off with no walls at all. Just wide open covered runs with a dark corner somewhere to place a nest box to hide eggs in. But even they would be better off putting it someplace "high and dry" vs. "low, poorly drained and wet".

    But back to the point, all of us need to be aware of what environmental threats exist for our birds and take precautions accordingly. BTW, they do make a good point that excessive heat is every bit as much of a threat as cold is. Maybe more. I have one source that suggests the ideal comfort zone temps for the birds is somewhere in the mid 50's. That is colder than you might think. The ideal range being from the 30's to upper 80's and low 90's. Go beyond that in either direction and they have to go into adaption mode to cope with it. So if you encounter those extremes, you also need to be aware of those and take steps to help them. Cooling being one thing they really need help with. Anything pushing 100 and high humidity and they are right on the verge of dying. No joke.

    BTW, heat is not just a factor affecting those of the south. For a lot of us facing sub-zero weather now, in only a few short months, a lot of those same birds will be dealing with the heat as well.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2017
    2 people like this.
  9. AllynTal

    AllynTal Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just an aside note talking about climate....I moved south from the greater Boston area. Heat indexes in the 100+ range were rare and having that kind of heat for two or more consecutive days qualified as a 'heat wave.' Events were cancelled, people were advised to check on pets as well as elderly neighbors and relatives, and there was a great influx of people to the beaches. Down here, heat indexes of 100+ are the norm and the humidity is oppressive. It's what we live with just about every day from June through September. Northerners laugh at what Southerners call "cold" and Southerners laugh at what Northerners call "hot." It's almost comical when a new person from, say, southern Texas asks a question about taking care of her chickens through the winter and a person from North Dakota replies with all the subfreezing-for-days-at-a-time advice they have to offer. Most of it isn't applicable. Likewise when a person in Minnesota, for example, asks a question about helping his chickens survive the summer and a Southerner replies with all the heat-indexes-100+-for weeks-at-a-time advice -- all of it good, but most isn't applicable to that chicken owner up north.

    My husband (a Gulf Coast native), bless his heart, was in a tizzy the first winter we had chickens. He wanted to batten down the hatches and put a heater in the coop the first night it was forecast to get below 40 degrees F. I convinced him we didn't need heat in the coop and it was fine to leave the windows open. He wasn't convinced until the next morning when he opened the coop expecting to find chicken-cicles on the roosts, but instead the birds all piled out of the coop like normal. He was a wreck all the night before, and as it turns out, the chickens were fine.
     
  10. Leigti

    Leigti Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In order to get information that works for a certain climate posters need to say where they live. Then people from that area can give them the right information.
     

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