Very Confused Newbie With An Existing Coop - keep, redesign, or redo?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by SnowflakeMama, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. Hi Everyone,
    I'll just start with this: First real post and I've read so much in the last few days that now I'm having trouble making sense of it all. I'm probably going to ask a couple of ridiculous questions - please bear with me. And if you are kind enough to offer advice I beg you - please talk to me as if I were a very slow toddler, I am really overwhelmed! [​IMG]

    My DH and I bought a home with a larger yard a couple of years ago, and despite being very excited to own a chicken coop/yard, we have yet to actually put birds in it. I'm hoping that this is the year we get our stuff together and get some chickens but first I have to figure out if what we have existing is okay.

    The coop itself I think is fine, aside from needing a really good disinfection (or maybe a few rounds with disinfectant, it was left pretty gross). It is insulated but only the bottom half of the walls had the insulation covered by plywood so you can see that birds and probably many other animals have picked at the insulation the last few years. So my next job after cleaning will be to finish covering the insulation. First potentially stupid question: Do I use vapor barrier just as if I was finishing a wall in my home? Obviously I'm not drywalling, but I am wondering if insulation, vapor barrier, panelling/plywood is the right idea? The existing insulation has vapor barrier, if that's wrong I want to know now so I can redo it all at once, but I'm thinking it can be a good thing to help prevent drafts?

    My next questions have to do with climate and cold temperatures. I live in Northern BC, and it's common for us to have temperatures anywhere from -15 to -25 Celsius (5 to -13F) throughout winter. Usually in January we will have at least one cold spell that dips down to -36 C or so (-33F). This doesn't include wind chill, but if I know that if my coop is draft-free and ventilated properly then wind-chill shouldn't be a factor. See? I have been reading, I do know something. [​IMG]

    So on to my cold weather questions:
    1. I need to add more ventilation, which I plan to do by cutting holes that will be covered by hardware cloth. I was thinking of building a "channel" on the outside of the coop that would allow air to circulate freely but also prevent wind from blowing directly in. I thought if I build it from opaque coroplast this might also help generate some heat on the sunny days we do get. If the ends of the channel are open does that provide enough ventilation? And am I over-thinking this? I just can't see another way to have good ventilation without drafts...

    2. I have no way of getting electricity to the existing coop, and it's too far from the house to even consider wiring it (probably $500 or more just for the cable if I do it to code, and that's assuming I can get it at cost, not retail). From what I've read it's better not to heat the coop anyway, but of course I will be schlepping warm water out there A LOT. And it's not just the carrying of water, we get a lot of snow so I estimate another 30-45 minutes of snow blowing and shovelling to keep a path clear every time we get a dump of snow. There is a small part of me (okay, maybe a really big part of me) wondering if it would be better to relocate and build a new coop closer to the house, even if it's just a winter coop so that I can snow blow less and occasionally plug in a heated water container when the weather's really bad.

    I have more questions, but I'm going to stop now and try to figure this stuff out first. Any help is appreciated! I am making my way through the articles for a second time, so I'm sure I will have more questions soon... [​IMG]
  2. spotsplus

    spotsplus Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 29, 2008
    Franklin, MA
    Definately go with a vapor barrier over the insulation. I'm in Massachusetts so it can get to 0F a time or two in the winter. My coop is not heated either with no electricity. The chickens do fine in the winter. I do have a heat lamp that I can plug in with an extention cord to the house but I haven't felt I needed to use it. My horses have a heated water bucket outside in thier paddock which runs next to the coop and I get the water for the chickens from that. I don't know what "opaque coroplast " is but plenty of ventilation is important. How about windows you can open? :)

  3. The windows that are currently there are small and don't open - not very useful and even if they did work I can't reach them! [​IMG] The coroplast is made exactly like corrugated cardboard, but it's opaque plastic (looks like frosted glass) so light and heat can travel through. We have a greenhouse made of it, and it gets very warm, we have to have plenty of ventilation in there too. We've had -10C this week but sunny, and the sun was enough to heat the greenhouse and melt a lot of snow off! The only thing with the coroplast is that it would definitely have to be removable for summer so that we don't then have heat problems, but should be doable since the coroplast is light and easy to work with. I was thinking in winter the coroplast might even help to warm the air a bit before it goes into the coop. My only concern with that is ensuring that the coroplast itself has enough holes to allow good air movement, otherwise it's just causing the same problem I already have.
    So happy to hear from other people whose chickens do well in the cold without an extra heat source. The more I read the more I am convinced they will be fine, but I'll admit that I'm afraid to be wrong about that - there's nowhere for them to go but the garage if I am wrong! [​IMG] My poor husband would just die if I filled his garage with chickens, and I suspect they would be just as unhappy.
    Anyway, thanks for your response, I feel a bit more like I might on the right track! [​IMG]
  4. CMYates

    CMYates Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 29, 2012
    The chickens can deal with the cold so long as they're not in a draft. What they can't deal with is poor ventilation.
  5. Kaitie09

    Kaitie09 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 28, 2009
    South Central, PA
    If you're already thinking that it is going to be a pain to water them in the winter and all the snow, you might as well move it now while you are replacing things inside of it and it will be lighter. Come next winter you'll probably be regretting it. My coop is fairly far away and I can't tell you how many times I have kicked myself for doing it. I don't have temps like you, but my hose freezes in December and thaws in March. During that time, I have to carry a 5gallon bucket filled with water over there, and by the time I get there, I have most likely splashed myself and am now freezing, or I slipped and dropped the whole thing, and am again freezing. I have a ton of extension cords running out there right now and have plugged in a heated dog bowl. I have 20 chickens in one coop an that water bowl only lasts a day. The other coop have 5 in it and that water will last a couple more, but they get it really dirty, so I normally have to replace that one every day too. As for removing the plastic in the spring and summer, I don't think you'll need to as long as you have windows you can open and get a breeze in. You can most likely pick up some old barn windows for a pretty cheap price, break out the glass, and replace with hardware cloth. Make some sort of insert you can put in there during the winter, and you should be good to go.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  6. SD Bird Lady

    SD Bird Lady Chillin' With My Peeps

    I dont know how far away your coop is but I run 2 100ft extension cords out to a heated dog dish for my water. It is a code violation but once it snows you dont even know they are there. People do more dangerous things for Christmas lights lights so I figured we will be fine [​IMG]

    How large is your coop? If your water is inside an insulated coop with a fair number of birds you may be surprised how little you will have to haul water. My water is outside the coop because we have duck who would make a mess indoors. However we were gone over the weekend so shut my 6 chooks and 1 duck in my 8x12 uninsulated coop it was low -5F high 16F and they still had a drinking hole in their ice cream pail of water when we returned.
  7. We would be running at least the same amount of extension cord, possibly three. I worry that my husband would forget and accidentally snow blow them or something. It's a fairly big coop but I can't remember the dimensions. I'm going to go tromp a path out there this week and check conditions and measure. If the cost of bringing it up to par is more than 1/2 the cost of replacing it I'm going to try to talk to my husband about starting fresh in a better spot. Otherwise, maybe we'll just make it "good enough" for the first year and then decide what and where we want the new one next year. I really don't want to haul water that far in winter, but I could definitely suck it up for one year. [​IMG]

    So much to think about, but I think I better get my budget in order first! [​IMG]
  8. PeepsAreForMe

    PeepsAreForMe Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 10, 2012
    Pemberton Borough, NJ
    Budget? That is so cute. Good luck sticking to it! [​IMG] We stopped tallying after we passed $1000. I would definitley move it closer to your house first. Maybe you could knock it down and resalvage the wood? There are many benefits to having it closer - peace of mind, being able to see them from your house, shorter extension cords.
  9. DianaMallory

    DianaMallory Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 20, 2012
    Lancaster Ohio
    Well it sounds like to me your first issue is getting electricity to the coop. That would solve all your worries. I have an extension cord going to mine right now. I built on a budget too. I added enough heat to keep the water from freezing. I got tired of worrying about their water. I put an electric heater out there that looks like a radiator but is filled with oil so there is no open flame. My girls have been toasty warm and it has been very cold here in Ohio with wind chills below 0 Fahrenheit. When the night temperatures are above freezing I turn the heater off. So my girls are pampered but it saves me extra trips to the coop carrying water.
    I built my coop, and have done several redo's to it. So before you get your birds make sure you do your chicken math well. Make sure you have so many square feet for each bird in the coop and in the run. Decide how many birds you want and the best advise I can give you is make sure you get the amount of birds you want all at the same time! I didn't and was it a lot of work putting the flocks together! They are still having issues and it has been, 3 months now since they have all been put together. They are still going through the pecking order. And this spring I am going to do another redo on the run. Making it bigger! I don't know what kind of predators you have in your area that is something else to keep in mind. I didn't predator proof my coop and run the first 2 times and it ended ugly! This time I went over board. But my girls will be a year old in April and still going strong! I can't free range because I live in the woods. Hawks, coyotes, Ferrel cats, minks and weasels. And many others

    1 electricity
    2 Chicken Math
    3 predator proof.
    4 decide how many birds you want and their breed
    5 build your brooder!
    6 get your babies!
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2013
  10. donnavee

    donnavee Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 7, 2009
    Central NC
    All I can say is electricty & water at the coop sure are nice! [​IMG]

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