Windows & Vents

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Rivers, Oct 20, 2010.

  1. Rivers

    Rivers Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 3, 2010
    Hi,

    I am currently building a coop (coop means chicken house right?) for my backyard in England. Winter is just starting, the last two years got very cold with extended periods of snow.

    I have never kept chickens before. The coop is 3' x 4' x 3' (Depth x Width x Height) minimum internal dimensions. I have two birds waiting to be adopted, and will probably get a third in the spring.

    So two birds will have to manage to stay warm in this thing over winter. And I was wondering what sorts of vents & windows I should be providing without causing it to get too cold. I reading about people using electric lights in their coops over winter to keep their birds laying. But is this only a concern for birds restricted to the coop?

    I plan to only put them in for sleeping at night, do I still need to make a window/provide a good amount of light in the coop? Also is there a recommended minimum vent size to allow enough air in? A large vent or wire mesh panel could easily double as a window to let light through but I fear this will kill and warmth in the coop.
     
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    The recommended amount of space is 4 sq ft per bird. The threats to chickens are not cold but humidity and drafts. Light is used to extend the amount of daylight artificially, to 14 hours per day, so it does not involve whether they go outside or not. Chickens often prefer to stay in the coop all day when there is snow on the ground, in which case the 4 sq ft per chicken is often too little to prevent their attacking and injuring each other. And that is too little space to give them enough ventilation, even if you include something like a 6" vent all the way across the top. In addition, 3' does not give you any room to allow for raised perch or nest boxes below perch level. Nest box space does not count toward the 4 sq ft unless the coop is designed so they can easily walk under the nest boxes.

    I would reconsider what you are planning and do some reading here.
     
  3. Rivers

    Rivers Out Of The Brooder

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    They have the recommended space for 3 birds. 4sqft each. But I'll be trialling 2 birds only to see if they seem cramped.

    I had read previously here that the 4sqft rule was generous and generally for birds which are not free ranging.

    I have already built the frame and floor. Just the walls and roof to go on now. The whole thing is considerably larger than store bought coops. I did do a little reading last night recommending vents across the top to allow humidity to escape, so I will find a way to incorporate that. I also read that windows are used to increase temperature by letting light in, which I will try to incorporate also.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2010
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    I do not recommend trying to minimize coop size in order to "help the chickens keep themselves warm". What you end up with is they keep themselves HUMID and get frostbite ANYhow. You need ventilation open even when it's cold out. Really really.

    A larger coop is also much easier TO make well-ventilated, because in a tiny coop like you're describing there just IS nowhere to PUT the vents that doesn't cause a draft on the chickens. Also a larger coop causes less social stress (=> cannibalism) when you get a few days of weather that they just don't want to go out in. *Also* also, a larger coop is easier to keep clean and if you should for some reason find yourself wanting/needing to add electric heat such as a lightbulb you will not have ROOM to really put it in a tiny coop like 3x4x3.

    So all things considered, if it is POSSIBLE to build your coop larger, I'd certainly suggest it.

    If you are stuck with 3x4x3, then the plan should be to put the roost at one end and the vents at the other end. There is no such thing as having too much ventilation available -- if it is cold and windy weather you can always shut some of it partly down. Best to have ample vent opening area available, that way you will be able to gracefully manage *any* conditions.

    Check out my ventilation and cold-coop pages (links in .sig below) for more suggestions about where and how much vents, building a coop suitable for winter weather, etc.

    As far as a window, even if they will genuinely never be in there during daytime you still wanna have some kind of natural light i.e. windowpane in the coop. If nothing else, chickens have crummy night vision and tend not to want to go INTO the coop in the evening if it is already pitch-black in there. Also without ample natural light in the coop, they will effectively be experiencing even shorter daylengths than your 'real' outdoor daylength (and wake up later), meaning that you will suffer reduced or zero egg production for an even LONGEr part of the winter than your latitude dictates.

    (Certainly you can put an electric light on a timer if you want to artificially keep laying stimulated when the days are less than 12-14 hrs long, but that is hard to do safely in a small coop, so would get back to making a larger coop more advantageous [​IMG])

    I had read previously here that the 4sqft rule was generous and generally for birds which are not free ranging.

    Of course everyone has their own opinion. It is generous and probably overkill if you live in Hawaii and the birds will GENUINELY only EVER be in the coop whilst asleep. Anywhere else, IMO it is only generous compared to like commercial chicken-farm conditions.

    I can tell you that I have kept chickens at 4 sq ft per chicken (indoors, plus run) AND at up to 15 sq ft per chicken (indoors, plus run), and even in the summertime, the chickens really do BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY with the larger coop. The only reason I know this though is because I've *seen* the difference. It is not like they were slaughtering each other wholesale at 4 sq ft apiece. It is a personal decision how much you care about how the chickens "feel" or behave, of course, and adjusting your coop and chicken-population plans accordingly. I'm just letting you know what I've seen, and I tell you what, I am firmly convinced to stick with more space and fewer chickens. (While 15 sq ft per chicken indoors plus roofed/windblocked run is NOT overkill here, btw, because of our winters, I *do* think it would be overkill for you in England so please don't think I'm advocating that you must do THAT [​IMG])

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  5. Ladyhawke1

    Ladyhawke1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May I also recommend that you get all of your chickens at the same time, and to make sure they are approximately the same age. Everyone will get along better. Getting two and then another one much later is asking for trouble. You must pay attention to flock dynamics. [​IMG]
     
  6. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Amen to that! Avoid if all possible adding a single bird to an established flock (even a flock of two).
     
  7. Rivers

    Rivers Out Of The Brooder

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    Thanks for your replies everyone.

    I am rather surprised as I have seen ready-made coops which are literally a fraction of the size. Im looking at one now on a UK webstore, 4.6 square feet of housing area. Recommended for 2-4 large birds.

    Mine is at the very minimum 12 square feet of internal floor space. I found a way to add a couple extra inches of depth and a lot more height which I hope will be enough to deal with some of the issues you are warning me about.

    Im shocked that the store bought ones are so small if size matters this much.
     
  8. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    My conjecture about the substandard sizes of pre-built coops is that the builders are comparing the space to the factory farm cages, and thinking, Hey, this is bigger than THAT - it's a lot of room!

    The prototype is constructed, then the mass production is done in China, perhaps, and the put--er-together-ers aren't chicken people. Just workers. Slapping things together. Who cares what it's for? these are the plans we use.
     
  9. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Yeah but recommended by *whom*. By the people trying to convince you it's a good thing to buy for your needs, is whom [​IMG]

    When you actually have chickens and see how they behave in different amounts of space, you see it makes a HUGE difference.

    Pat
     
  10. Rivers

    Rivers Out Of The Brooder

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    The Birds im getting are ex-battery by the way. Perhaps they are used to confined spaces?

    Theyve been living with my sisters work colleague since last winter and they have been doing very well outdoors, foraging and such. The space in my coop is much more than she is providing (one reason she wants to get rid of some), but they apparently seem fairly happy as they are.
     

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