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Not another question about winterizing! Just some findings from the past two years.

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by iananderson, Oct 22, 2015.

  1. iananderson

    iananderson Out Of The Brooder

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    I mean I've read just about everything here about winterizing and am familiar with the concepts and indeed of keeping chickens (18 years this year) BUT...

    After moving to my first properly cold climate I'm finding that......

    • My well insulated coop has the same temps inside as outside.
    • My deep litter just builds up. I see no sign of composting and/or heat being produced. Sure the 'poo' kind of disappears into it but that's about it (I'm using wood shavings).
    • Coop humidity is the same inside and out. Too high sometimes. I measure around 50% in my house, but it can be high 80% outdoors and inside the coop. I have lots of ventilation grills low down and high up to promote crossflow.

    AND reasons for asking? I am building coop 2.0 and want to learn from my 'mistakes'. Having said that the chickens seemed happy enough last winter but I'd like to do the best for them if I can.

    I'd love to hear if others have experienced the same, or if anyone has any pointers as to why some of these tried and tested techniques are not working too well in my coop 1.0.........

    Have a great day :)
    Ian
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    I pretty well agree with all you said. If the ventilation isn't huge, humidity will be higher inside - sometimes significantly higher. I usually put a hygrometer in one or 2 buildings to check it.
    I don't experience any warmth from the deep litter either. I really don't think one should. Compost has to be moist for bacteria to grow and heat up. Litter should be bone dry.
    I've never bothered with insulation. As you noted it will be the same temp inside as out if one has sufficient ventilation.
    The only way insulation would make much difference is if one were to heat the coop.

    That's another reason not to put a coop in the sun. Regardless of one's climate, it should be in the shade.
    A coop in the sun will still be cold at 4 AM in the middle of January. But a coop in the sun will be boiling at 4 PM in the middle of August. (or vice versa if one lives in the southern hemisphere)
    On a similar topic, no windows on the south side. Every building has windows to the east and some on both the east and west. An east window lets the morning light in. A south window serves little purpose since the chickens are already outside by the time the sun comes in that way.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Without a heat source I expect it would be the same inside as outside. The main benefit of an insulated coop IMO is to keep drafts off the birds so they can maintain their own body temp, and also to slow the drop in temp at night.


    The winters aren't real bad here but when it drops into the low thirties I do use a ceramic heat bulb (less of a fire risk than a red bulb plus it doesn't emit any light) to prevent frost bite on the bantam rooster combs. I don't want too much heat just enough to keep the temps above freezing. One thing I plan to try this year is a space blanket/mylar on the ceiling of the coop above the heat lamp to reflect the heat back down (and not have it all escape through the tin roof).
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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    Ditto Dat^^^ ....especially about the litter.

    Except if the shade is deciduous, that would be the best situation.
    I put up roof insulation on the southern exposure this year, as the maple only shades the coop in the morning, didn't help a ton just slowed the 'heating up' a bit.

    The floor of the raised building my coop is in is insulated, the rest of it is not, and I think it might help especially when they snuggle down in the deep dry shavings to lounge during frigid days.
     
  5. iananderson

    iananderson Out Of The Brooder

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    Yes, I think roof insulation is good a good idea too, otherwise there might be dripping condensation. I guess the floor will be reasonably insulated with full boarding and the deep litter.

    I think I'm not going to insulate the walls of this one, but I will wrap the framework with some old roofing membrane (Tyvek/DuPont type stuff) before cladding to keep draughts out. Might need to board the first couple of feet in between the studs on the inside if the chooks peck at it though...

    I was planning on a large ish window on the East side to catch the plentiful winter sun we get here.

    Thanks for all the comments!
    Ian
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    A lot of that depends on the coop. If you have good ventilation you are often not going to have a huge difference inside versus outside, especially with the ventilation up high. Warm air rises. Cooler air sinks. Heavier cooler air will push warm air out the top. In the summer this is great. In winter it still is good.

    Your goal in this is not to keep the area where the chickens are warm. Your goal is to allow the chickens to keep themselves warm. With just a tiny bit of help, they can do as good a job of that as the wild birds that overwinter where you are. Birds like chickens trap tiny particles of air in their feathers and down. These bits of trapped air warm up and act as body insulation. If a breeze ruffles those feathers they can lose those air pockets and get cold. What chickens need is a place out of breezes that can ruffle their feathers. The wild birds can find sheltered places when a strong cold wind is blowing. Chickens are trapped in our coops so they have fewer options to find sheltered places. That’s where we need to help them. I’ve seen chickens sleep in trees in below zero weather. Others on this forum have seen chickens go feral in Upper Michigan and sleep outside all winter without problems. Like the wild birds they find sheltered places to sleep if a wind is blowing. They still have great ventilation.

    There are two reasons you need good ventilation. When poop decomposes it creates ammonia. Ammonia is hard on a chicken’s respiratory system but is lighter than air. As long as you have an opening, even a fairly small one, higher than the chickens the heavier air will force the ammonia out and not let it build up to dangerous levels.

    The other potential problem is frostbite. While frostbite is possible any time the air temperature is below freezing, we go outside all the time in winter without getting frostbite. Even below freezing conditions have to be right for frostbite to be an issue. Wind chill can be a factor but you are keeping the breezes down inside anyway. High humidity where moisture condenses out of the air can be a problem. You will never get the humidity below outside conditions, there is just no place for the humidity to go, but with good ventilation you can keep it pretty close. High humidity isn’t the real issue, it’s moisture condensing out of the air. A lot of people in northern climates have solved frostbite issues by providing more ventilation, not closing them up tighter.

    If you have a heat source in the coop, insulation will help keep the coop warmer. If the coop is built on the ground and you get a cold snap (a cold is probably what you are worried about), the ground acts as a thermal mass and releases heat into the coop. Warm air holds more moisture than cold air. That warm air from the thermal mass will absorb more moisture and rise out of the top of the coop. Insulation can help some in winter but to me the big use for it is to help keep the coop, especially under the roof or on the sunny south or west side, cooler in summer. Summer heat is much more of a danger than winter cold as long as you provide minimal winter help (keep direct breezes off of them and give them good ventilation).

    A lot of people think they are using the deep litter method but they really are not. For the litter to compost it needs damp as Canoe said. The bugs that eat the poop and litter have to have moisture to live. Too much moisture and you have a stinky coop that can promote disease. Too little moisture and it just sits there. The chickens’ scratching will turn dried poop to powder but it really doesn’t break down. It still needs to be composted. To get the poop and litter damp enough to compost without getting it too wet is a pretty fine line. I don’t try, I keep my coop dry. I still just empty my coop litter on the garden in the fall once every three or four years. Not that I need to but I want that stuff on the garden. It will break down over winter. Many people do that annually but I try to not work too hard.

    I don’t see that you’ve made any real mistakes. Since you are building new, just make the coop plenty big enough and provide a lot of ventilation up high in winter and high and low in summer.

    Good luck!
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

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