open air coop in cold climates?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by chica-z, Dec 26, 2008.

  1. chica-z

    chica-z Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 23, 2008
    Northern WI
    Alrighty, winter here is getting mighty long, I'm already dreaming of the improvements I'm going to make to my coop [​IMG]

    Ok, so I just got done reading an article by Robert Plamondon (?) about open faced chicken coops and the benefits of fresh air in the coop. I believe the link was on a thread written by Davaroo? Very interesting. From what I understand (and someone please correct me if I'm wrong) it's basically a 3 sided shed facing away from prevailing winds with the opening covered with hardware cloth or wire mesh to keep out predators.

    Has anyone tried this in a cold climate (cold being below zero for days or weeks at a time)? It seems a bit...drafty, but how many birds get sick because they are closed up in a tight building?

    Any thoughts or comments? Do drafts really kill birds that are acclimated to the cold and who have a place to get out of the direct wind? It seems that birds in the wild make it through the winter, and they don't always have free choice layer feed available to fuel their internal body temps...I'm sure your egg production would go down, but would the birds get sick?
  2. nochickensyet

    nochickensyet Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 13, 2008
    Bonneau, South Carolina
    I don't have my coop built yet...but I am looking for designs. I wondered about this too. Maybe they have a large side of wood set aside for winter and they attatch the board to the coop when it gets cold. And just take the board back off when the weather gets warmer. That sounds almost do-able. It sure would airy in the summer.
  3. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    Chickens are pretty cold hardy, but I'm not sure if they would be WI cold hardy. Never been there but i am imagining lots of snow for some reason. "Cold" in WA is in the 30''s and "freezing" is in the 20's, and record breakers are in the teens. They'd do ok on the rare freezing days and almost un heard of record breakers in this area, but not sure how much lower they could get without a fully enclosed shelter.
  4. ChanceRider

    ChanceRider Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 19, 2008
    Somerset, CA
    While I DO have an open air (3 sided, roofed) coop, I don't exactly qualify to answer your question as I live in an area where it doesn't sustain sub-freezing temps for weeks at a time. We do have snow on the ground right now, and it's been about 30 or so at night for a week +/-.

    My coop is 4' x 8' x 6' tall, with 2 doors that fill the entire front of the coop. The doors are wood framed, but consist mostly of hardware cloth. We do get some pretty good winds, and along with the snow/hail/rain I was worried about drafts. So, I added hinged shutters that completely cover the wire opening of each door. When it's sunny, like today, I can unlatch one side of the shutter and expose the coop to fresh warm air. If I'm ever lucky enough to build a coop from scratch (this was a converted shed) I'll likely include the same doors/shutters.
  5. FrontPorchIndiana

    FrontPorchIndiana Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 8, 2008
    Quote:Keep in mind chickens are NOT birds in the wild. Chickens are animals that we humans have genetically altered to suit our fancy. During that process, most survival instincts, cold tolerance, etc. have gone by the wayside. Unless of course the breeder was aiming for cold tolerance, such as the Chantecler. Most breeding done over the past 100 years has been done by either the commercial trade or by showmen, both whom typically house their birds indoors.

    I've been reading the same old school theories about open housing. This concept came about the same time frame that humans were building "sleeping porches" on their homes. It was all the rage at the turn of the century to assume fresh air was all you needed to stay healthy. While there's some truth that fresh air is a good thing, chickens can also get sick and die from frostbite, just like humans can die from exposure. I think you'd be taking a huge risk to have a three sided coop in anything but the most tropical climate. The more up-to-date research tends to lean towards insulated buildings with good ventilation in colder climates.
  6. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    If I didn't put up plastic over the windows in my coop, I would basically be housing in a 3-sided coop. One whole wall of my coop is large windows and the other wall has a large window as well. I cover these with plastic in the winter to keep the winds and rains from blowing in. This coop is very old and has at least 1/2 in. to 1 in. gaps between some of the boards in the walls and floors. The windows are only covered with wire normally. This doesn't exactly get that open air affect like described in the OP, but its more airy than most folks' setup. I keep the pop door open at all times also.

    I will tell you that my birds never show signs of hypothermia or frostbite, though the coop is totally uninsulated and some of my roos and hens have large combs and wattles. We have had temps down to 4 degrees lately and no evidence of discomfort in my birds. I have 33 full grown birds and they are roosting on round roosts. They free range every day and don't hang out much in the coop during winter. I have one chicken who likes to roost in my 3-sided shed next door to the coop, on my lawn tractor! I have found her out there on the coldest nights of the year...she is a big, fluffy White Rock.

    I think the more cold hardy breeds will do well with just about any shelter. My niece has much colder temps than do we and she has 3 birds in her flock who "went wild" and are roosting in a tall pine tree next door. She has had a lot of snow and subzero temps consistently this winter...her "wild" birds are fat and sassy! No frostbite present!
  7. chica-z

    chica-z Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 23, 2008
    Northern WI
    Yup, lots of snow here [​IMG] the drifts are past my knees. The girls don't go out of their covered run area this time of year-wussies. As far as temps, I meant sub-ZERO, not sub-freezing. As in -0...

    Bee kissed, HI! I did end up checking out the sister site- more stuff to get addicted to!! Thanks [​IMG] I think you kind of answered my question...but how cold does it get in West Virginny? Would the same be true at -20?

    Just so folks know, this is a theoretical situation, I am NOT trying this with my birds this year!! I just got to wondering if this would work in our next hen house/barn- shhh, don't tell hubby [​IMG] Poor guy just got done building this one!

    Chanteclers, I'll have to check them out...Right now I have mostly RIR's, they should be pretty cold hardy, from what I understand.
  8. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

    That open design would not work for us because of intense wind, deep snow and because the prevailing wind is only one of various storms we can get. Here, we need strong coops especially for snow loads, and a way of keeping water liquid and birds 2 cents.[​IMG]
  9. Beekissed

    Beekissed Flock Master

    Hey, Chica-z! Not -20 here, not in my neck of the woods. Sometimes we get single digits, a few times up to -10 but not often. My niece lives a little higher in the mountains than do I and she gets consistently colder temps. Her chickens are ornamentals, for the most part, as she hasn't really gotten into the chicken biz seriously yet...just testing the waters. So, her ornamentals are doing fine with her thigh level snows and zero weather. Go figure! Guess its all in what you are acclimated to...just like humans.

    Where we live we will be out in shorts and t-shirts in 50 degree weather and folks from warmer climes are shivering in cold weather gear when it reaches 60!

    Just like anything else in the animal kingdom...the strong survive and adapt to their climate.
  10. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

    May 8, 2007
    It's A LOT warmer where that writer lives and where the information he refers to, comes from. I often wish he'd give a little more thought to the different climates in this country, when he writes. I've had temperates as low as -30 here in the winter, although most years, it doesn't get below -20. That's bad enough, without adding in windchill on exposed combs and wattles, from an open coop. We don't have wind here that only blows from one direction, even in winter.

    If you read up on it, you'll find that plenty of wild birds, that evolved in cold weather climates, die in the harsh temperatures of winter. More of them die at night, than during the day. It's the worst time for them.

    There's a huge difference between freezing temperatures in the 20s, at 0 and at -30.

    I have huge amounts of air flow in the summer and an adequate amount in the winter. In severely cold climates, there is plenty of middle ground on ventilation in coops. The choices don't have to be between a hermetically sealed coop with high humidity and no air exchange and a building that's missing one wall. Although, the coops with one wall open are a fantastic design for warmer climates and I'd build that way, if I lived some place else. Just not here.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by