Not sure if I have this winterizing thing right or not. First winter with chickens... Suggestions?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Tioram, Nov 19, 2014.

  1. Tioram

    Tioram Out Of The Brooder

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    We built a new coop and run this year. We have 8 large birds (4 Black Australorps, 2 RIR's and 2 Buff's) with room to add 8 more in the Spring (at least). I get confused with regards to how much air movement is too much versus keeping a coop warm. I'm NOT heating my coop and it is a decent size walk in. Along the north wall, at the top, I have vents that can be opened and closed. On the East and West end of the coop are louvered vents at the top that are like what you see in small sheds. The roosting bars (2x4's on their side) are just above the pop door and are all on the same level.

    The pop door was kept open all summer. A couple of weeks ago, we actually put up plywood on the north wall of the run, that is directly beside the pop door. My goal was to attempt to keep the wind out from blowing directly in the pop door without having to worry with opening and closing it all the time since our run is pretty secure.

    Question is, it got down to 12 degrees F in the coop last night and I had the North wall vents closed. I also closed the pop door and opened it this morning. Is the air movement from the louvers enough to keep the moisture down? My coop is actually very dry and I use the deep litter method. The waterers are outside in the covered half of the run, sitting on heated bases. Their pellet food is in the run on the wall in a big feed dispenser and stays off the floor, surprisingly.

    Lots of questions and I'm probably not making any sense. I know the birds themselves put off heat but I also know their coop is very large and they can't keep it warm. My main concern is preventing any frostbite or having too much or not enough air movement.

    While I do not heat the coop, I do have rope lights on a timer above their roosting bars that come on around 2:30am.

    Thanks for any help or guidance you can give! This site has been a Godsend.

    Jen

    This nipple waterer is no longer in here. They didn't like it. But you can see the nesting boxes on the north side and the "vents" that I can open and close along the roof line. Above the roosting bars is one of the louvered vents that is open (with a matching one on the opposite wall). Right outside the pop door (under the closed window) is the covered half of the run and right now you would see plywood on that wall of the run. Run is 8x20 (half covered with roof, half covered with hardware cloth) and the coop is 6x10 or 6x12 and is 6'high on the South sloping to 4' high on the North.
    [​IMG]


    Before painting the coop and attached shed in Barn Red. This is the side that has the plywood covering it. We also now have a solar electric fence system around the top, middle, and bottom (we have a lot of predators in my area - Central Pennsylvania).
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Air movement is a good thing as long as it's not strong enough to be ruffling feathers(literally) while on the roost.

    Having a walk in you should be able to 'test' the airflow by being in there when it's windy.

    Having operable vents is a plus as you can change things with the current wind directions.

    You can always add baffles (just piece of wood set 6-8 inches away from vent will cut and draft without losing ventilation area) in front of vents on the inside to redirect any air flow that's too strong

    If you find condensation on the walls then you don't have enough ventilation. I have a temp/humidity monitor in my coop for just informational purposes.

    I don't think you're going to have a problem with that size coop and the number of birds in there....the first winter is the hardest, you'll learn how it's all working by observation and experience.

    That is one heck of a nice building!!

    Couple things I see, the nests appear to be kind of high:
    -for gathering from outside, but maybe you gather from back of nests rather than top tho.
    -for having roosts higher than nests(so they don't sleep in nests and poop them up) while keeping roosts as far below venting as possible.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2014
  3. mtngirl35

    mtngirl35 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I simply cover the windows that would allow drafts to blow on or under them when roosting and leave the vents under the eaves open to let moist air escape. I put plywood on the north side of my run too for blocking wind. I usually close the coop door at night when it gets below freezing. The breeds you have are pretty cold hardy. They will just huddle up and keep each other warm.
     
  4. Tioram

    Tioram Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 11, 2014
    I've never had any sort of moisture in my coop at all. Not even on the floor, walls, anything. The nesting boxes are opened to gather eggs from outside and I do have a lid on the top. I also have a drop down panel at the bottom for cleaning. They are a bit high even though they do sit lower than the roosting bars (it doesn't appear they sit too much lower though) and we at first did have a couple of birds that wanted to roost in them so we built a sort of door that swings up from the bottom to lock them up in the evening. We only had to use it 3 days and now the girls exclusively roost on the roosting bars. I haven't removed the door though because I figure I might need it when adding more to our flock.

    I think I will be closing the door only below freezing too which so far, means probably every day this winter! :) I have the windows closed and they aren't drafty (maybe I should double check after work today though, since it has been blustery!)

    Thank you for the comments, they are greatly appreciated. I spent a lot of time designing the coop and helping my husband build it. Even purchasing the 1/4" hardware cloth and run roofing and all, it was still cheaper than buying a much smaller coop pre-built. Amazing.

    Oh, and yes, I was trying to go with heritage breeds that could handle winter better and be good winter layers. With 8 birds the last 2 weeks I've only gotten 2 dozen eggs/week and I'm set to only get about 1 to 1 1/2 dozen this week. I don't know if it's normal to drop off so hard even with the additional lighting but I guess it's normal. Our temps have really been swinging between 50 for a high one day to 24 for a high the next day.
     
  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    The coop staying warm is not the issue. Don’t even think about the coop staying warm. It is not important. The chickens staying warm is the issue. That’s totally different. The chickens stay warm in really cold temperatures by trapping tiny pockets of air in their feathers and down. Their body heat warms that trapped air and they stay warm.

    When I think of drafts, I think of that little gentle flow of air that comes in around windows when it is cold outside and the windows are not sealed well. That is not the issue. Aart got it right that it is a breeze ruffling their feathers that causes the problem. A gentle breeze does not ruffle their feathers enough to cause a problem. The problem comes from a wind ruffling their feathers enough to let those tiny pockets of warmed air escape.

    What you need is air flow in your coop that gets rid of the bad air but does not blow directly in the chickens. There are people way up north that achieve this by leaving one wall open, just covered with hardware cloth, but the roosts are positioned in a part of the coop where they are protected form that wind. Think of a cul-de-sac maybe. To me the easiest way is to have openings well over their heads when they are on the roosts and close off anything lower. Any breezes from that are going to be over their heads.

    Moist air can contribute to frostbite, evaporational cooling and all that, the same reason bridges freeze before roadways. You will never get it drier inside the coop than outside, but you can come close if you have adequate ventilation. Openings at the top of the coop are a real good way to achieve that. I don’t think you can have too much ventilation as long as you can achieve it without the wind hitting the birds directly. I’d open all the vents over their heads and close any their level or lower at night when they are on the roosts. During the day, they can find a way to get out of the wind.
     
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  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Glad you understand and are managing the roost height thing.<thumbsup>

    Not sure when you started the lights, or if you ramped them up slowly or went to 16 hours all at once(which can cause stress), but they can take a while to work.

    Here's my notes on winter lighting, HTH:

    Older layers need 14-16 hours of light to lay regularly thru winter. Last winter I used a 40 watt incandescent light(this year I am using a CFL) that comes on early in the morning to provide 14-15 hours of light and they go to roost with the natural sundown. Last year I started the lighting increase a bit late(mid October), the light should be increased slowly, and the pullets didn't start laying until late December. Here's a pretty good article on supplemental lighting. Some folks think that using lighting shortens the years a hen will lay, I don't agree with that theory but I also plan to cull my older hens for soup at about 3 years old.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2014

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