Use of Desiccant in Chicken Coops - Is it safe?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by RainForestBird, Nov 10, 2016.

  1. RainForestBird

    RainForestBird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I found a cheap moisture eliminator / desiccant at the dollar store and was wondering if it would be safe to use in my small enclosed chicken coop for absorbing moisture. I live in a very rainy part of the Pacific Northwest and buildings, especially wooden ones don't last very long, even when you weather proof them with Thompson Water Sealer and use all cedar framing. The desiccant contains Charcoal and Calcium Chloride Dehydrate and is in a plastic container that is sealed with a moisture-permeable white sheath that is covered by a plastic top that has 1/2" holes. I thought that I could fashion a holder that I would attach to the top 3/4 of the coop near the roof about 6" down. I read on Wikipedia that the ingredients are used in food and medicines but it can dessicate moist skin and can cause burns in the esophagus and mouth, and can cause hypercalicemia which is a high level of calcium in the blood stream. If the chickens cannot reach the desiccant it does not seem all that dangerous, considering we feed extra calcium to chickens via ground oyster shells to improve the porosity of their egg shells. Still it does make me worry about the possibilities should the young chicks come in contact with it - or if the chickens walk on it. The only way I would do this is if I could build a very secure holder for it. But I wonder if it could be dangerous just being in the air. I'm just desperate to have this coop last longer than one season, I spent a long time building another coop that is already starting to swell with moisture.
     
  2. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    You might knock down slightly, and a for short period of time, a bit of the additional "humidity" created by the chooks' breath but, overall, even if kept up in a corner of the coop where they can't get into it, knock over, it seems an expensive means to produce salt substitute rather than impact humidity levels. Good ventilation will keep the chooks happy - humidity of coop at that of background.

    Now, how big is coop and of what materials did you construct it?
     
  3. RainForestBird

    RainForestBird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The coop is approximately 6 wide x 6 long x 4 tall square with a run underneath that is reached by a ramp. The parts that touch the ground and the outside frame are cedar. The rest is Douglas Fir I believe, generic wood you get at lumberyards in Washington State. It has an asphalt coated roof, which is actually where the ventilation comes in, it is tiered. The front door is a coated metal wire with 1/2" openings. There is a door in the floor of the coop that leads to the ramp and the run underneath. I believe it is well ventilated, but I had to insulate it with aluminum coated styrofoam, otherwise it would be too cold for the dwarf olandsk and eventually the bantam and seramas I plan to keep there-I believe they are more fragile than standard size birds. I have two feathered birds in there now-I'm not sure of the age as I got them from someone who keeps a lot of poultry. NPIP though.
     
  4. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    Is the wood going bad where the aluminum covered insulation is fastened to wood framing at bottom, i.e., moisture condensing on and running down aluminum?

    I'd suggest determining just what is going on. Cheap, fairly accurate sensors are available (temp/hygrometer combo). One to be placed on outside wall of coop, and one just above roost ht. in least well ventilated area of coop. Check in morning/evening at roost and then 2-3 hrs after roosting. Should give you a recorded baseline x1wk, to work from. THEN hang a box of the desiccant up and, again, repeat the wk. of data collection. If you see a marked drop inside WITH the desiccant, then keeping track of the length of time (by daily tracking of temps/humidity) before Xoz/lb becomes ineffective will give you an idea of how much standard Calcium Chloride. to buy for six months/yr, etc., Home depot - 50 lb. bag ~$34 for instance. This entails cobbling together a permanent, easy to remove/replace CC container. The quick and dirty in me would reach for a quart ball jar, a strand of heavy gauge, insulated wire to wrap and tie tightly around lower ridge of lid grooving, a nail for the wall. Loop of the wire around nail, suspend the "dosed" bottle from it, well above girls, and one would be able to get a visual read on just how "slopped out" the desiccant is becoming over time.

    However, graph out what is actually going on, first.
     
  5. RainForestBird

    RainForestBird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The insulation is bone dry. The problem is with the sides of the coop that get hit by the rain that falls at an angle when the wind blows here, which is often because we have some pretty severe wind storms. I have a hygrometer/thermometer in there now so I can keep track of how low the temp dips at night. I will check the humidity which doesn't seem outlandish right now when I check it. I get the dessicant in nice containers from the Dollar Store, so I don't think I'll need a 50 lb bag. I have enough trouble moving and storing all the 50 lb bags of feed and diatomaceous earth, and straw I use like its going out of style. It might be a good idea to put the dessicant where I keep the feed though. I was thinking of making a wooden box-like holder for the containers of dessicant. I could cover the top with hardware cloth to make extra sure none spills out :)
     
  6. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    Wasn't suggesting 50 lb. :) Just cheaper to buy bulk if the stuff does have some utility. Again, without comparing in/out temp./humidity indoor/out, over time - stuff might well be a waste of money.

    Thanks for the information about where the soaking is taking place. We've had good luck with Thompson's &, for wood that simply has to stay dry, I keep spar varnish handy.

    Good luck!
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    With proper ventilation, using desiccant is rather moot..... as the inside and outside humidity will be the same.

    Thompsens water seal is junk.

    Large roof overhangs can work well to keep rain off and out of buildings in such climates.
     
  8. ivan3

    ivan3 spurredon Premium Member

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    Thompson's has prevented the rotting of the hard board (at ground level) we used to build a movable turkey nesting enclosure, a decade ago.(Thompson's stain).

    Having no idea just how "ventilated" the member's set-up is, providing information on how to make a determination of utility seemed prudent. Prettty "sealed-up"? Sure, just keep increasing surface area of desiccant available (a series of suspended cookie sheets spread with desiccant) could result in a slight decrease, briefly.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016

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