Venting questions:

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In the Brooder
5 Years
Apr 12, 2014
Johnstown New York
Being at the planning stages of our coop, we are currently considering an 8x8 or 6x8 for upto15 chickens with something like an 8 x20 run.
We live in Mid New York, still have snow, and had temps of minus 20 with wind chill factor this year - Yikes, and I usually love the cold :(
Also, as planning is concerned, I am planning smaller windows mid level which can be opened in warmer climate and two gable vents (which would probably stay open year round I would guess.

That said, I have several questions about venting related issues:

1: in the coop, where roof/ rafters meet the walls, should this be closed off air tight or closed with Hardware cloth to give additional upper level venting (that of course could not be closed in winter time.

2.: Chicken entry hole: This of course would have to stay closed in cold weather except for short periods? Do the chickens go crazy during that period of time or can the whole be left open during the day?

3.: Automatic door openers: Does it open by IR (infra red) or some pressure type mechanism, or does the chicken say: "Command: Open door"?

4: I see some pictures with winter time food and water outside, most inside. Would imagine inside is a must during the winter. No issues with dripping/ moisture? And, is the NIPPLE apparatus good for inside as well (would imagine malfunction would be a bit of a wet disaster).

5: Only slightly vent related (not really): I have a bunch of Vinyl glue on tile I could put on the coop floor and sides: would that make sense or is it too slippery with chips (if I do not go sand) and, does it hinder evaporation of moisture (which I would not think as evaporation rises)

Sooo many questions!

On the eves of my coop I put hardware cloth for more ventilation, the chickens door can stay open my run is covered and I wrap it with canvas on 3 sides and a clear shower curtain on the other to let sunshine in and keeps it dry all winter long, my auto door opener is the "D20 add a motor" plugged into a digital timer it works great and is a 1/4 of the price of others, my waterer is horizontal nipples because they don't leak and have less tendency to freeze had vertical nipples and they froze solid, for flooring I used the stick down vinyl tiles with about 5 inches of shavings on top and it cleans very easy if it's deep enough they won't slipon the vinyl. Hope this helps.
The ventilation should never be closed off; they need to have the humidity and ammonia they put out vented to the outside at all times. I'm concerned whether those openings are large enough (see below.) They may not want to go out if there is a lot of snow and no bare ground to walk on, buy they should be allowed to make this choice. I keep food and water inside year round. there is no water spillage. Just make sure the waterer is heavy or full so it won't knock over -- if you don't go with nipples, which I have no experience with, but there are lots of threads here about them.

Here are a couple of excellent articles about ventilation and cold weather chicken keeping, written by a Canadian some years ago:
In my experience you will need to close the vents in winter. Keeping them open can cause frostbite which can cause stress on their immune system. Open them during the day and close them at night during winter. During summer, you can leave them open.
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In my experience you will need to close the vents in winter. Keeping them open can cause frostbite which can cause stress on their immune system. Open them during the day and close them at night during winter. During summer, you can leave them open.
Wrong, never shut off your ventilation in the winter. As already posted, the humidity and ammonia need to be vented. Not allowing for fresh air exchange in winter will cause stress and frostbite. As seen below, 100yr old design, proper winter ventilation.

My experience is based upon several generations of poultry farms in the family in the Rocky Mountains where it gets very very cold. If you live in a mild climate like on the East Coast, you be ok to leave the vents open. But in subzero temps, you need to do the opposite. In a subzero environment, open vents will cause frostbite as the incoming cold air will rapidly drop the temp of their exposed flesh. In that low of temps, you have to worry more about the cold air than any accumulation of ammonia.

If you are really worried, you can install a fresh air exchange system that will exchange the air and warm the replacement air. But I would just shut the vents during really cold (subzero) weather. All other times you can leave them open.
I would imagine there is a Happy medium so to speak - of course, I am still totally green, but judging on what I read, especially from some of the Alaskan threads, the Absolute sub-zero cold coops have vents closed with occ. opening of doors to circulate air, then close again. Does this sound about right? We have had easily Minus 30 wind chill here 3 times this winter!

JackE - I love that 100 yo design - do you have a link to your Coops details somewhere? If not, would you mind a pic or two from the inside as well?
Also, I was initially planning for a large window on our coop, desided not to as I do not see it on any other coops. But, I do have an old French door which I could use sideways. Are there any pro's and con's to a large window? Certainly would allow sun entering (good in winter). Would it allow too much heat in summer (yup, we get to 100 in summer, but then the girls would probably hang out in the run, I would imagine?
Also, in your above picture, are the front windows the vents? i.e.: you have them usually open?
You can help birds stay warm by proving some like straw to stand on during the day. My experience with frostbite is that it is a mostly a daytime occurrence when birds expose themselves to wind and cold ground while foraging. At night they have feet and often much of flesh on head covered once they go into deep sleep.
Well I'm on the east coast(ish) and we get -30F. I have a coop that has proven not to be vented enough. Wintering roosters in two coops this year one only lost his points and some of his wattles. This is completely normal and why it was standard for those in cold climates to dub roosters before winter. I just let winter do it's thing naturally. The other coop with minimal ventilation almost killed the rooster. He looks like a rose comb now, that's how much comb he lost! Was a single comb. Good ventilation no matter how cold is the correct way to go. If you keep it at the top of coop no draft gets on the chickens.

As for food and water I keep both outside of coop. Without additional heat in coop chickens will go outside in winter. We use straw to cover the ice for them to walk on and obviously shovel out the snow. The key to winterizing a run is to use a tarp to cover your prevailing wind sides. For me that's North and West, I cover the outside NW corner of a 10X10 run with a 15ft tarp for a wind break.
You might look at the woods design to get a better fieel for requirement-- JackE posted a pic of his wood house above. The front is wide open. Windows help gather solar heat like a greenhouse, and as the windows can be opened tha amt of heating can be adjusted. I'm adding more windows to my design as my coop is in the woods and will have some shade when the trees leave out. I also picked a high area that drains well.

Year round ventilation is extremely important. I allow for extra ventilation in the summer on one coop where we cut a 2ft x 6ft hole in the wall and puton rat wire. Off in summer, on in winter as the north winds blow in. THey love it in the summer to sit and look out on a breezy evening.

Location is important too as well as chicken traits like single combed or not. I have started looking at which chickens do better in our Northern climate as well. All these peices work to gether to be successful.
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