Warre (beehive) type attic/roof for a chicken coop?

JoshfromMN

Hatching
Apr 1, 2018
2
3
4
Hello everyone,

I'm looking at getting my first chickens and building a coop right now and had an idea regarding the construction of the roof that I might steal from a dead french beekeeper. In a beehive during winter you want to have adequate ventilation to allow moisture to escape while at the same time allowing the bees to stay warm - just like chickens. The bees vibrate their wing muscles to maintain a cluster temperature of 50-95 degrees no matter what it is outside. Their respiration builds up moisture which can kill them if it builds up. It seems like the same principle applies to chickens in the winter, so I'm thinking of copying the warre hive's attic design.

For those not familiar with it, the warre hive has just a cloth covering over the top hive body with something insulating yet breathable covering the top. This could be wood shavings, sawdust, etc. The roof fits over this with an attic area with ventilation on the sides so air circulates through the attic carrying the moisture away without blowing into the living area. In relation to a chicken coop, I'm thinking leaving the top of the coop living area open, covering with an old sheet or something similar, then adding a layer of sawdust or wood shavings over the sheet with a well ventilated attic and roof above that.

I thought it would be best to throw the idea out there to you all before I start construction. I don't see any chicken coops with this design so there could be something I'm overlooking. This is the northern midwest where it gets very cold in the winter and I haven't done this before. Planning on getting some icelandic chickens which do well in winter but are still susceptible to frostbite.

Thanks for any opinions
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
Premium Feather Member
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Jul 26, 2008
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two thoughts..

1. that would be NO WHERE near enough ventilation. Have you looked at the design of the Woods Coop? It is an excellent design for cold weather.

2. Not sure why people get excited about the Icelandics when they are looking for a cold weather breed. Iceland is actually a pretty warm place compared to some and anyway I bet people kept those chickens inside a huge barn all winter. Icelandics have all kinds of combs of course, but many are pretty big! I prefer tiny combs!

Easter Eggers and Ameraucana are excellent choices. I also really like my Appenzeller Spitzhauben, Dominique, and rose comb Leghorns (though the boys do have big wattles).
 

Acre4Me

Crossing the Road
Nov 12, 2017
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Common thought on chicken ventilation is approx 1 sq ft per bird. So, if you modified a shed kit, you’d be modifying the walls for more ventilation, while making sure to keep drafts away from roosts.

The Woods style coop was designed about 100+ years ago for cold winter places like Maine, upper Midwest, etc. there is a book written around 1920 all about this style - it has been reprinted, so you can purchase it. However, there are several discussions on here about them too. It is an open air concept where coop is longer than wide, with 2roof heights. Roosts at back in an airtight area, but front is open year round (usually facing S or SE). A human sized door and a couple of windows specifically placed round out this coop style.

Other styles, like hoop coops, have been successfully modified to cold temps too.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
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Hello everyone,
Welcome to BYC!
Cloth covered vents can be helpful to dampen strong drafts in very windy sites,
but caution should be taken not to reduce air flow too much.
Yeah, chickens need way more ventilation than bees,
but I understand your thought process.
 

lcwmt

Songster
Jun 16, 2017
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N Central MT
Hello everyone,

"I'm looking at getting my first chickens and building a coop right now and had an idea regarding the construction of the roof that I might steal from a dead french beekeeper. In a beehive during winter you want to have adequate ventilation to allow moisture to escape while at the same time allowing the bees to stay warm - just like chickens. The bees vibrate their wing muscles to maintain a cluster temperature of 50-95 degrees no matter what it is outside. Their respiration builds up moisture which can kill them if it builds up. It seems like the same principle applies to chickens in the winter, so I'm thinking of copying the warre hive's attic design.

For those not familiar with it, the warre hive has just a cloth covering over the top hive body with something insulating yet breathable covering the top. "
*****
If you are building an insulated coop, using the Warre approach for insulating the roof is not a bad idea but may be overkill. It will NOT provide the ventilation the coop requires.

One difference between the bees and the chickens is that in addition to moisture from respiration (same issue with both species) chicken coops build up moisture from excrement. (bees do not excrete inside the hive). Chicken excrement is high in moisture and ammonia - that also requires ventilation even if you keep the coop pristine.
Ventilation is more than moisture absorption for chickens.

Another key difference is that the bees must keep the entire cluster warm. They disengage their wings in order to condense the bulk of the cluster. This reduces metabolic investment in keeping everyone warm. Chickens only need to keep themselves warm - they do not need to heat their space.

We have horizontal hives for our bees. We use wool blanket for the insulation above the frames and below the roof. 100% wool, breathes but wicks moisture. I would not use anything that was comprised of a synthetic fiber.

In our main (and uninsulated) chicken coop the ventilation runs the full length of the long sides, just under the eaves. We do not offer supplemental heat or light. The coop sits on bare ground floor with deep bedding of shavings and straw.
Our birds did well this year, with sustained sub zero temps. Since our prevailing nasty wind comes from the North, we put a wool blanket baffle over that ventilation opening to keep drafts off the roosting area. I monitor the humidity in the coop - It was consistently 10 to 20 percent lower than outside.

As for breeds: it's a mixed flock, all selected for both heat tolerance and cold hardiness: Orpingtons, EEs and the little White Banty. Of these, I think the EEs are most adaptive. This year's chicks will be EEs and Barred Rocks.
 

JoshfromMN

Hatching
Apr 1, 2018
2
3
4
After looking into the philosophy of the woods coop, I see I might be making things more complicated than they need to be. Thanks for the input everyone, I won't be trying to smother my chickens now. As to why I'm picking icelandic chickens, I just find them interesting and would like to let them free range and forage when possible. I also have a family connection to someone that breeds them (which attracted me to chickens to begin with).
 

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