Ventilation??? Sand??? Help!


10 Years
Mar 12, 2009
I am planning the build of our coop and am nervous about 2 things: First, Ventilation: I'm putting windows in all 4 walls which should work great for summer. But Old Man winter blows around at a chilly 15 degrees for a big chunk of the winter months, so I need to have other year-round ventilation options for when those windows are closed. What have you all tried and found to work well? One thing I read about: vent slots on the tops of all 4 walls. Has anyone tried this? And do you have pictures?

Second: the Floor. What have you all done that works well? I want to do dirt or sand, but do I still need chicken wire, and if I do that, is it difficult to clean the floor? And if you've done sand, how do you clean the floor? And do you put straw over the sand?

Do you sense my crazy, nervous predicament? I swear, I'm gonna so over-think this thing, and then one day wake up to find out it really didn't need to be that difficult after all!

Thanks much, oh wiser chicken lovers!


Overrun with Buckeyes
11 Years
May 27, 2008
Minster, Ohio
My Coop
My Coop
Coal miners used to bring canaries underground because bad air effects them much earlier than it effects humans, bad air will kill chickens, ventilation is a must. They can handle 15 degrees much easier than breathing in bad air, they will be fine, God gave them a nice and heavy coating of feathers. If you can smell an ammonia smell the birds are already being stressed by it.

Floor.... anything will be good, they're chickens don't over think them. I do highly recommend using diatomaceous earth (DE, you can buy it at almost any large feed store), the benefits are amazing and the coop is a better place to be because of it.
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Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
Ventilation - Read Pat's Ventilation Page. And note that Pat lives in Ontario so she knows cold winters.

air rises. The way to get ventilation is to have ventilation slots high and low. That way the cooler air comes in from outside through the low vents and warmer humidity and ammonia filled air escapes through the high vents.

I'll expand a bit on what BuckeyeDave said. Chicken poo gives off ammonia, especially when it is wet. Ammonia can cause respiratory probelms in chickens. Ventilation gets rid of ammonia.

Chickens can handle cold quite well on its own, but if you add high humidity, they run into problems. I've read posts where chickens got frostbite at fairly warm temperatures and am very sure it was because of inadequate ventilation. Chickens and chicken poo both give off water vapor, which raises humidity. Cold air cannot hold much water vapor before the relative humidity gets pretty high.

Another thing to watch for is drafts. Getting ventilation without drafts can be tricky because of the wind. I'd suggest ventilation openings, covered with hardware cloth, with flaps high and low on different walls so you can close the ones in line with the wind.

Another thing you might consider. If you put a low vent opening on the southeat corner, a high opening on the southwest corner, and your roosts on the north side, you would get a cross-current with them out of the worst of the draft. Choose the corners that suits your location, but maybe you catch the concept.

Second: the Floor.

Sounds like you are planning on a fairly large coop so you will have to go inside for poop management. However, I don't know your poop management plan. Some people use the deep litter method (dlm) and clean out the coop every 6 to 12 months. Others use a poop board and clean the coop daily. Many are in between. This influences your choice of floor covering. If you clean daily, (I will not) use sand. If you want more on the dlm, use search on this site or google. As your chickens will probably spend a lot of time indoors in the winter, you probably want something that will absorb the moisture but that they can scratch and mix up. Sand would work. A lot of people use pine shavings, available at feed stores in bales that do not cost that much. Straw ends to mat and is hard to remove when you clean it out. Chopped straw would be better if you want to go with straw.

Chicken wire will keep chickens in. It will not keep most predators out. A coyote or raccoon will rip right through it. Hardwire cloth or 2" x 4" welded wire will stop them. I'm thinking that is why you would consider burying wire in your coop. An option, if it suits your set-up, is to put an apron around your coop. Put 18 to 24" wide hardwire cloth or welded wire horizontal around the outside of your coop and bury it about 2". This is usually the thickness of your sod. Some people put it right on top of the ground and let the grass grow through it and hold it down, but I'm a clutz and would get the weedeater of lawn mower into it. Attach it to the bottom of your coop or run it under the edge of your coop about 6". A predator will come up to the coop wall, start digging and run into the wire.

You could bury the wire in your coop floor. Sounds like you have access to dirt and sand. If you put a couple if inches of dirt on top of the wire, then put sand, you will know to stop cleaning when you get to the dirt. This will also raise the level of your floor where outside water will not come in and, if you mound it a little, water will drain better from your coop.

I'm an engineer, so by training and nature both I tend to overthink, overplan, and overanalyze. This tends to raise the blood pressure. And this stuff does not have to be this difficult. Chickens are very adaptable. As long as you provide for their basics, they will do well. And treat everything I've said as you do everything else on this site, as general guidelines. You have to also be adaptable and make things work for your specific situation.


Flock Mistress
12 Years
Apr 20, 2007
Ontario, Canada
Note that in a cold winter climate you won't want low vents open at all during the winter (although they can come in handy for the summer, as long as they are not so low that breezes puff bedding into the air). In wintertime, plenty sufficient fresh air will come thru the self-same vents that the warm air is exiting through, if necessary, or through vents on a different wall if there is a breeze and you have 2 walls' vents open cuz of not being all that fiercely cold out.

With the wire flooring, I am htinking maybe you're talking about designs where the coop is raised with a wire floor? You don't want anything like that in Idaho and thus will not need any wire floor at all. You *could* bury wire under the whole floor in hopes of deterring predators but I don't think it's an efficient way of accomplishing that goal unless maybe rats are a serious problem (and frankly, if rats *are* a serious problem on your property, they will prolly get into the coop no matter what you do). Better to bury heavy-gauge wire mesh or run it just under the surface of the ground as a 2-4' horizontal apron. Accomplishes basically the same thing.

If you are doing a dirt floor, make REAL REAL sure that it is a local high point and will not flood, like at all, like ever, not even in spring thaw or a big August t'storm. Add firmly-packed fill if necessary.

Sand can be used as bedding, but in a cold winter climate you're better off with shavings or somethig like that -- MUCH MUCH warmer for the birds than sand (plus sand will freeze solid)

Good luck, have fun, welcome to byc,



11 Years
Jun 17, 2008
Middle Tennessee
For my third coop (all bantams), I keep thick Aspen shavings on the coop floor and sand in the run to help protect all my feather-footed breeds from too much mud. We are on a gentle slope, and there are landscape bricks along the high side of the run to prevent washout from the neighbor's yard.

We have simple 8 x 10 directional vents from Home Depot up near the ceiling peak at opposite ends of the coop. These can stay open summer and winter, as there is a heat source in the coop. They are up under the eaves so rain does not come in.

The coop also has two windows on the other walls, and a barn-style door.

This coop is working out well, and probably the only thing I will add is a small computer fan or two up near those vents for summer nights. Hope that helps. Good luck on your project!


12 Years
May 8, 2007
I never put vents in low, either. Their pop door functions as a low vent and will be open during the day, providing extra air flow. At night, when it's colder in the winter and they're more sensitive to air movement blowing on them, it's closed.

All other vents I put higher up, above the roost area. It's good to have flaps over them, so you can adjust which ones you want open or how much you want them open. This can be handy if you get a driving storm, like a blizzard. I don't have any vents or windows on the north wall.

I also have large windows that open like shutters, to give the coop a huge amount of air flow in the summer. My goal there is to get the coop cooled off, as the day cools off, before the chickens have to be locked in for the night. A plywood shutter over a hardware cloth covered opening would work just as well, to be able to close it up for winter. Most of the airflow is on the east and west sides, for the summer.

With large openings available for the summer and more moderate openings that are adjustable for the winter, I think you'll be able to have the ventilation that you need in all kinds of weather.

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