"The Cold Coop" page (designing/managing coop for cold winter weather)


Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
Ontario, Canada
I've been working on this for a while but the 5 yr old is in school and the 2 yr old is asleep on the sofa so FINALLY it is sort of done. Well maybe not "done" but at least readable

Here ya go, if anyone is interested - the page discusses how to design your coop to not get colder than necessary, and how to manage it for maximum warmth and chicken health (which are not necessarily synonymous):


Hope someone finds it useful,

that was awsome! ty pat all this help has made me realize you don't need a breeze to have moisture escape.. so i am making more vents on the west and east and closing the north one for the winter. the south will be open but i will make the air flow up instead of straight out since it is over their heads and roost..
Thats a great bit of info on that page! So, our winter coop is an old grainary...which means that back in the 50's ot was built with double layerd tongue-in-groove walls of like oak or something hard like that. The room is about 12 ft by 12 ft. we will have 30 chickens in there. The builsing is on about a 10 inch thick slab of concrete. there are 3 small (8x12) windows on the east and one on the southern walls. there is another 12x12 room attached by a narrow doorway, but there is a wall between the two pens and we intend to block that doorway with a plastic tarp (that is the access to the pop door so the ducks can get in and out, hence the tarp) so will 30 chickens and 7 ducks keep that space warm enough for -35 degrees?
LOL, that sounds kind of like one of those word problems from 7th grade math class, "one train leaves Chicago at 3:17 a.m. and another leaves New York at 8:32 travelling 45 mph..."

Maybe. The biggest factor, to me, would be whether arrangements for the ducks cause the space to be problematically damp (humid air -> frostbit chickens)

I'd guess that if you can keep humidity under control, you probably have a reasonable shot at keeping the space liveable for chickens, especially if you were to replace the tarp with an insulated wall (does not need to be fancy). OTOH maybe not, especially if you get a real cold spell in mid February when the heat has gone out of the slab. If it were me, I think I'd try to have arrangements set up in advance for a lightbulb in the roost area (preferably in conjunction with something to hold the heat there, so that you can use a lower wattage), so all you have to do if it's needed at some point is flip a switch.

Good luck, have fun,

I do use a heat lamp when it's below zero but I fasten it twice to the structure
This year were going with the electric heated dog bowl thing to set our metal waterer on as well so we cut back on heat lamp usage.
Pat: That is GREAT!! information. Thanks for all your work. I do have a question for you. I came acrossthis book not too long ago (or rather reference to it ~ I haven't yet purchased or read the book, although I'm considering it). What do you think about this for our climate (Ontario?). Does it change any of what you've said in your writeup??? I'm not trying to be difficult here, just truly searching for what will be the simplest and healthiest for my birds.
Last edited:
Well, I was not trying to cover *every possible* coop design (notice lack of discussion of small coops and tractors, for one thing)

The thing about that sort of coop in Northern climates, IMHO, is that it works well if you have a large building and a lot of chickens, like old-timey commercial flocks of a hundred or more hens in a house that's like twenty feet deep (from the open side to the 'back'). However it does not necessarily scale down so well with smaller flocks, and *especially* it does not necessarily scale down well to smaller *buildings*. If your coop is only like 8' deep from open side to 'back', a whoooole big lot of wind and weather is going to be coming in much of the time.

For smaller coops and smaller flocks, more typical backyard size, IMO a reasonable compromise is a mesh-fronted coop with plastic stapled over the front of the coop during the winter. The first person I knew with chickens when I moved to Canada (this was before I had chickens myself) kept them in a older-style small coop, totally open front and maybe 6-10' deep; she put plastic over the south-facing mesh side during winter but did not do anything else, no heatlamp or such, and they did *fine*.

Alternatively, for a small flock in a open-air-type coop, you can knock together an enclosed area towards the back (or at the side of) the coop, so that effectively you have a fully enclosed coop portion and a "roofed run with 3 solid walls" portion, that can work well too.

Not to say you *can't* keep small flocks in small coops with an open side, at least some ways north and at least in a fairly sheltered site -- but I am not sure it is the smartest way of doing it. Just cuz something works on a large scale doesn't mean it necessarily works as well on a small scale.

JMHO, partly from non-chicken livestock,

Last edited:

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom