Question about chicken arks and insulation in cold New England climate

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by MountHolyoke, Jul 12, 2011.

  1. MountHolyoke

    MountHolyoke New Egg

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    Jul 12, 2011
    Hi,

    I am incredibly new to the idea of raising chickens and have just begun researching/reading and checking out the hundreds of coop designs on this website. I will be living in a city for the next four years minimum, most likely with quite small backyards. I am hoping to own two to three bantams max, and no rooster. I very much like the look of the A-frame chicken ark/tractor (example image here: http://handcraftedcoops.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/chickencoopnewfrontpage.png), but after scouring the web for free plans (hard to come by), ads for pre-built arks, personal blogs, and youtube videos of arks, I have found a total of zero A-frame chicken arks that have insulation. Though opinions differ about the ethics of letting chickens be quite cold in the winters, with some saying that it is cruel and some maintaining that chickens can "tolerate" the temp, I am wondering:

    1) If insulation will be necessary in Central MA, with an average temp of 22 degrees Farenheit during January, the coldest month, and lows down to about 10 degrees Farenheit.

    2) If insulation will be necessary in Maine, where I plan to return to live full-time at the end of my schooling but still in an urban setting. Maine's average low is 11 degrees but, having grown up there, I know that it can still drop well below zero on the coldest days.

    3) If this is necessary, if anyone knows of a plan for an A-frame tractor that does indeed include insulation or some way to do this? Or even without plans - perhaps a good way to insulate an A-frame tractor, or what type of insulation to use...? I'll admit that I'm an academic by trade and have never really done construction work, even on the smallest bird house, and so while this question may be quite simple to a jack-of-all-trades/carpenter/woodsman/someone who already owns chickens, etc, I just do not know these things!

    Thank you so much.

    Avery
     
  2. MountHolyoke

    MountHolyoke New Egg

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    Jul 12, 2011
    Also - maybe even a general consensus on if these arks/tractors are reasonable for winter climates where there is substantial snowfall? I just read one blogger's frustration with the design after moving north from a southern state and the issues associated with digging the ark out from under mountainous piles of snow (we did have over two feet accumulate in MA last winter within a four or five day period)...many Northern states do have elevated coops, I have noticed this...so perhaps the insulation question is redundant, when the question should be about whether these coops are at all suitable for a combination of low temperatures and considerable snowfall?
     
  3. bryan99705

    bryan99705 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Your temps are not a real issue for the chickens as long as they are a cold hardy breed and you provide them a shelter that is draft free but ventilated. When the temps start going below zero, just flip on a heatlamp and they will be fine. As to using a tractor in your deep snow enviroment, That's beyond my scope but I would suggest a tall coop with a partially enclosed run that is mobile.

    How many birds are you planning on?

    Any chance you have a garden tractor or 4wheeler?

    What is your enviroment like?

    Maybe we can give you a few ideas and you may consider building your own set up based on your needs and not what a coop builder thinks you need
     
  4. swmalone

    swmalone Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm in Northern Utah and we typically end up with at least a couple feet of snow accumulation that sticks around for a month or two. I also live in town on a small lot so I went with a tractor for now. I have three chickens in the ark and went with a design that kept the coop portion up off the ground because of the snow. I am also going to try to position the tractor somewhere that will work for a couple of months in the winter and put up something that will keep some of the wind and snow out of the run. This may be as simple as attaching a tarp or using some old wood.

    It gets pretty cold here, but virtually no humidity so that might help. This will be my first winter with chickens but I am planning on having a light in the ark to stimulate egg laying, heat tape or something similar to make sure the water doesn't freeze, and some sort of heat lamp that I can swap out with the regular light at times.

    Here is a picture of the ark I built.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. bryan99705

    bryan99705 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Look at KristenAM's set up. If you could use that concept with some removable panels for the summer ventilation and add wheels or skids (thus the tractor or wheeler question) maybe it woud work well for you.
     
  6. MountHolyoke

    MountHolyoke New Egg

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    Jul 12, 2011
    @bryan99705 - I was planning on two to three smaller hens, though I am unfamiliar with the different breeds and would be doing much more research before buying them (I made this mistake once with a fish tank...never again will I purchase anything live without making sure that I have done enough research to be at least partially knowledgeable and have a game plan).

    I do not have a four wheeler or a garden tractor and do not have the money to invest in either, but would be still hoping to cook something up with wheels (I will always have a second person to help me move it). My backyard is quite small, probably fifteen feet deep and twenty feet across, but has several flat surfaces - it slopes at the bottom, so only the top half of the yard is really "useable". Any ideas would be welcome!
     
  7. MountHolyoke

    MountHolyoke New Egg

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    @swmalone Your ark is beautiful! And this news is heartening! What kind of hens do you have? I am just learning about breeds now but would certainly want ones that don't mind the colder weather. I would love to know what you decide to do to winterize the run when the time comes, as I may or may not actually have anything finalized by then - I would love to hear about how whatever setup you used worked for now, etc.

    Secondly - do you have a photograph of the interior of your ark?

    Also - will the heat lamp be a problem in an ark this size? I am certainly not experienced in any way but was cautious of putting a heat lamp too close to either the nest boxes or any perches, as I have heard heat lamps may be a bit of a squeeze with this set up...have you figured out a setup that will avoid this problem?
     
  8. kinsey228

    kinsey228 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I insulated my coop. I'll have 15 chickens, 2 roosters, and 3 guineas in their to help keep each other warm, too. There is a Maine thread on here that might help. Good luck !
     
  9. MountHolyoke

    MountHolyoke New Egg

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    Thanks for the tip on the Maine thread!
     
  10. nuchickontheblock

    nuchickontheblock Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have 3 bantam ameraucanas in southern Maine and used a tractor similar to the one pictured by swmalone last year. It was our first winter with chickens. The coop was uninsulated , but we had a heated waterer and put in extra bedding for them and essentially the birds were fine all winter. We did not use a heat lamp, but had a 40 watt bulb on a timer so that we had 14 hours of light for egg laying and because the interior was dark without any windows or natural light coming into the coop beyond what was visible from the pen underneath. We did put some heavy clear poly sheeting around the bottom so that there was an area that was snow free so they could get out of the coop a bit. They hated walking in the snow, so spent most of the wintertime in the coop and that small enclosed pen. With our tractor interior, the ramp was in the middle and with nest boxes, waterer and feeder taking up floor space in the 5x6 coop, they just didn't have much space to move around in there -- only about 4 square feet total. So, this year, we built a bigger coop (uninsulated) with an attached covered enclosed run which they will use primarily for the winter. During the snow free months they just free range around our fenced in backyard. One of the hassles of the tractor style was having to dig it out and then stand outside while tending to the birds in the inclement weather. Also, our top side opened up to get into the interior which also meant that snow, rain, etc got into the coop when we opened it to clean, add shavings, water, food, etc.

    I would try to set the tractor in one place for the winter, as near to your house as possible and somewhat out of the wind if you can. If there is a way to provide some type of wind/snow protection (tarp or whatever) over it, that would probably help also. I know we will enjoy being able to walk into our new coop and hang out and visit with our girls indoors when the weather is lousy.

    Chickens are great pets -- enjoy!
     

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