Ventilation vs Drafts

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by veganloraine, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. veganloraine

    veganloraine Out Of The Brooder

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    In May I rescued 6 ex-battery hens (one since passed away). My dh built them a really nice coop (approx 5wx8lx4h). It's an insulated, draft-free coop with glass pane windows, perches, three nesting boxes and some floor space covered in shavings to walk around on. It has no ventilation holes, but the small coop door is open all day. My husband has not added any ventilation holes due to fear of drafts. Today I noticed black spots on two of the hen's combs. The hens are severely claustrophic. They do not go into the coop unless to lay (if they don't find a "better" place to lay) or to nest at dusk. They spend most of their time in our shed where we store their grain and straw. They lay their eggs on the bales. As it's dark so very early they're in their proper coop about 14 hours with no ventilation and a frozen water bowl. It's -15 C today. What kind of ventilation holes do we (I) need to add to the coop? I was thinking about drilling some holes in the side of the coop that faces the shed to minimize drafts. How many holes should I drill? Should I cover the holes with mesh? Should I drill holes on more than just the one side of the coop? With the holes affect the birds perched high in the coop. (Two have recently discovered perching and I would hate to chill them). Thanks!! PS I love these birds.
     
  2. chfite

    chfite Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Chickens need drinkable water all the time. 14 hours is quite a long time to have no water because the source is frozen.

    The black spots might be frostbite, which can be a problem from cold and too much moisture.

    Ventilation allows the free flow of air through the coop. Moist, warm air rises and escapes through vents. Cool, dry exterior air comes in from low vents. This avoids the accumulation of ammonia fumes in the coop.

    The attics of most houses have vents down low, such as in the soffits, to allow make-up air to replace the heated air that flows out through gable-end or ridge vents. The removes the accumulating moisture from the attic to prevent mold and mildew.

    A draft is air blowing over the body causing it to cool or be chilled. Ventilation is simply the movement of air. If you stand outside in winter when it is calm, there is a lot of ventilation. When the breeze kicks up, the chill results from the draft of the air moving across your skin.

    If there were two windows across from each other in the coop, and both were open, there would be a draft. If there were a vent at floor level and one across from it at ceiling level, the air would move. It would not move quickly since it is rising, hence no draft.

    My 4x4x8 coop has 30 square feet of screening for ventilation. About 10 square feet is the mesh opening along the upper wall where the roost is. The chickens will sit there and look out the screen in the late afternoon when they prepare to roost for the night.

    If it is dark and smelly in your coop, I can understand the reluctance of the chickens to go in there idly.

    If you open a vent up in the wall and another down in the opposite wall a foot square or so apiece, the chickens will be much better off.

    Chris
     
  3. veganloraine

    veganloraine Out Of The Brooder

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    May 13, 2012
    The coop is not dark nor smelly. It has two large windows and we change the straw and shavings daily. It's lovely and a billion times better than the tiny cage they shared in a windowless barn with 50,000 other chickens. They're just claustrophobic from intensive confinement. The water freezes over during the night. It's replaced with fresh warm water in the mornings. I know the coop needs more ventilation. I needed advice on where and how much, which you provided very well. Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  4. debid

    debid Overrun With Chickens

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    My 4x8 coop has a slant roof and the high and low walls have a 6" space at the top that is hardware cloth. That adds up to 8 sq ft of full-time ventilation without any draft because the air moves across the ceiling above their heads. There are functional windows on the other sides providing air movement at roost level in the summer. We put a window fan in one when it's really hot. There have been as many as 10 chickens living there in the winter and temps into the single digits with single-combed hens and a single-pea cross rooster. No frostbite, no condensation on the single-pane windows, no mold (our summers are HUMID). I change litter monthly.

    So, I'd say that you need to add a whole lot of ventilation and ought to go after this with a saw rather than a drill. I know it seems weird to add big holes to an insulated building but chickens are moisture generators and that wet environment causes many more issues than cold air.

    Oh, and 14 hours without water while sleeping is not a problem but if you get tired of knocking out ice, deicers work brilliantly. I added one this year and LOVE it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  5. veganloraine

    veganloraine Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you. I know the coop needs ventilation, but wasn't sure how to go about it. My husband seems really opposed to adding any ventilation at all and I needed some proof to show him. Although, the best/worst proof now seems to be the frostbite on the combs. I think he's conflicted with no to drafts, yes to ventillation, not realizing that winds won't be blowing on them and the insulated walls (and windows) will help to keep it warm in there. We do live in Ontario and it's (generally) very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. We have a heated water bowl for them, but we keep it in the shed. They like the shed. It's spacious and we've recently replaced the bulb with a heat lamp to give them some more warmth during the day. We keep the door slighty ajar so they can leave whenever they want. This morning after they left their coop and went into the shed I locked them in there. They really are claustrophobic and I feel bad, but the black dots on the combs have me worried. Stopped at the store and picked up some vaseline. They're still very timid and are not going to like this at all! Thank you again for the great advice.
     

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