ventilation requirements and methods

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by muircheartaigh, Jan 20, 2015.

  1. muircheartaigh

    muircheartaigh Chirping

    I'm too busy and pressed for time to search the threads so I thought I'd kindly ask for some information from chicken gurus out there in backyard poultry land. I have a closed flock of heritage breeds that have as of 3 days ago started to drop due to a fungal growth. I'm deeply bothered and upset with myself for any improper management. I have a 12' X 24' chicken barn with gable vents on either end, a roof vent and a 2 X 2 screened plexiglass window for extra air movement on mild days in winter. How much vent space should I have per square foot of living space. Are wind activated roof vents preferable? If I'm using the deep litter method. How often should I turn and add new bedding/compost?

    I am open to all cost effective solutions for my flock of nearly 80 birds. Thank you to all problem solvers out there who can take the time to lend some words of wisdom. Prevention is the best medicine.
  2. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I believe the "rule of thumb" is 1 sq ft of ventilation per bird -- but I could be all wet on that. The best article on ventilation I know is the one linked in my sig line. It was written by a Canadian.

    Every building's dynamic is different, and in the end, we're each on our own in our situation.

    As for fungus, let me give you another link, to how a well knwn member here tackled fungus in her coops:
  3. muircheartaigh

    muircheartaigh Chirping

    How do I access your sig line?
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I don’t know what type of device you are using but I just scroll over it and left-click the mouse.

    By saying three birds dropped I assume three birds died and not that they are sick? Is the fungus in your coop or do your birds have a fungal infection? Or both? Are you sure it is a fungus?

    I’m not a huge fan of the deep litter method, not when you keep it damp to try to get it to compost in place. There is a very fine line between enough moisture to get it to compost and enough moisture to cause health problems. I just keep my 8x12 coop as dry as I reasonably can and clean it out in the fall when I want that stuff on my garden. That’s usually about once every four years. The wood shavings I use get shredded to tiny pieces with their scratching and I just add more shavings as I feel it needs it.

    One thing that can cause a problem is that the poop builds up so thick that it doesn’t dry out, especially under the roosts. I use a droppings board under the roost to collect that at night and put it directly on my compost pile. That greatly reduces the problem of poop build-up.

    It helps to rake it to dry it out on a regular basis. How regular? That depends on your unique coop and your unique situation. One trick is to scatter a little corn on the floor and let the chickens rake it for you with their scratching. That will help break up the small piles of poop too and let them dry.

    Is your floor getting wet because of spilled water from the waterer? Is water coming in from outside? If so, fix that. Are you heating that coop? Warmth can really help a fungus or mold to grow. If the poop and bedding is frozen it will not release any ammonia and fungus is not going to grow. When it thaws in the spring it can really cause problems.

    I’m not sure how wet your climate is, especially this time of year, though I’d guess it is fairly cold. With ventilation alone you can never get the inside humidity lower than the ambient humidity, but you can come real close. Are you blocking off the ventilation on cold days? You don’t need to as long as any breeze coming through them remains above the chicken’s heads when they are roosting. I’d think at least the roof vent is open so any ammonia can escape and not poison them. Ammonia is lighter than air and is produced when their poop decomposes. Especially with a damp coop you need an opening over their heads to allow that ammonia to escape.

    I don’t know how big your roof vent or gable vents are. That “square feet per bird” thing ignores what type of venting you are using and how they are set up. I just don’t believe in magic numbers for much of anything chickens because magic don’t take into consideration the variables involved. Gable vents and a roof vent can move a lot of air under the right conditions but anything you can do to help that will improve the situation.
    But I think poop management is probably your biggest problem. 80 birds in that large coop are going to create a lot of poop. I know the magic number of 4 square feet per bird says you are OK, though that normally goes along with some extra space in the run. In your climate right now they may not be spending much time outside, which means they are doing all their pooping inside. But one of the consequences of that kind of population density is that you need to work harder. You can add more ventilation and it might help, but I think you are going to get more bang for your buck if you can come up with a way to get more poop out of that system, such as a droppings board. That’s going to be labor intensive.

    Good luck with it. I know that is frustrating.

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