Winter Coop Construction - Draft Free vs. Ventilation

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ZRider10, Feb 26, 2009.

  1. ZRider10

    ZRider10 Out Of The Brooder

    22
    0
    22
    Feb 19, 2009
    Missoula, MT
    I'm about to build my first chicken coop, and I'm having trouble figuring out to balance chickens' needs for no drafts but plenty of ventilation. I live in Montana, so the cold is a serious concern. We hit negative 30 this winter with wind chill. I'm getting white rocks, which I hear are decently cold hardy and am planning to build a basic lean to coop that would attach to my run.

    Should I insulate it? It's a lot more work and summers here can get hot (90+).

    Do chickens require ventilation overnight, or would a few windows I could open during the day be enough?

    If they require continuous ventilation, where on the coop would be a good location? I can't put it on the south side, because that's one of the directions we get wind from but I could do the east side. Should the ventilation holes be high or low?

    Should I build the coop on the small side, so they can better take advantage of each other's warmth?

    I really appreciate any suggestions. Thanks!
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    12,521
    95
    341
    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Hi, welcome to BYC [​IMG]

    You might take a look at the page in my .sig below, it talks about the subject in more depth, but in terms of your specific questions:

    Should I insulate it? It's a lot more work and summers here can get hot (90+).

    Insulation would be a real good idea in your climate, but is not absolutely necessary. If you don't insulate, at least leave the inside walls open so you can insulate in the future. It's not really all *that* much work, and if you can scrounge insulation material (used batts, or styrofoam from packing stuff that stores get, or etc) and something thin to cover it (e.g. tacky panelling out of someone's 70s rec room <g>) then it isn't much expense either.

    The advantage would be that you will be able to keep your chickens warmer (trap more of their body heat, and preserve more of the heat you get from daytime) while still having good ventilation and thus good air quality.

    Do chickens require ventilation overnight, or would a few windows I could open during the day be enough?

    Generally yes you still need ventilation overnight. That's not to say that if you are having a -20F screaming blizzard you mightn't close things up for one or two nights a year; but generally that leads to air quality problems so it is best to have some ventilation open all the time, even when it's real cold.

    I wouldn't use windows for ventilation in the window (with the *possible* exception of if they can be opened from the very, very top). It is probably better to have purpose-made ventilation openings, with good covers that allow you to adjust how much ventilation you've got going at any given time.

    If they require continuous ventilation, where on the coop would be a good location? I can't put it on the south side, because that's one of the directions we get wind from but I could do the east side. Should the ventilation holes be high or low?

    For wintertime, you want them high at the top of the walls, and not right next to the roost. Ideally you'd have ventilation openings on all 4 walls and can decide which ones to use based on the weather. Sometimes you may need to have only the downwind ones open, which for that weather is fine.

    Should I build the coop on the small side, so they can better take advantage of each other's warmth?

    No, I really really would advise the opposite -- build it as big as feasible. Then if you should decide you need to concentrate their warmth more you can easily knock together a hover over or around the roost, or partition off part of the space as a 'coop within a coop' for the worst part of winter. That way you get the best of both worlds. I promise you, with that sort of winter your chickens will be spending a *bunch* of time indoors, and the more room they have, the better for avoiding problems!

    One other thing to think about would be whether you can shelter at least part of the run during wintertime, with windbreaks or some such thing. Some people have a roof (must be strong enoguh for snow load) on all or part of the run; some people put plastic or tarps around part of the run (have to be arranged so wind does not remove them); strawbales can be stacked as a 'wall'; etc. The less unpleasant the outdoors is, the more time your chickens will spend out there and the less likely they are to get to pickin' at each other.

    Have fun,

    Pat​
     
  3. Wynette

    Wynette Moderator Staff Member

    25,568
    70
    421
    Sep 25, 2007
    Michigan
    Zrider, I think Pat is BYC's resident expert on ventilation, so most definitely, read her page on it. Take what she says to heart! Good luck!
     
  4. scandog

    scandog Out Of The Brooder

    12
    0
    22
    Jun 24, 2008
    I agree with going bigger. My coop is 6x8 and I have 16 hens in it. They have a 12x32 run that they will not set foot in if the snow is not scraped back.

    If you can set your run to go off any direction but south, you can keep your windows in the sun and still have a covered or partially covered run. Another mistake I made.

    What to they say about hind sight?
     
  5. ZRider10

    ZRider10 Out Of The Brooder

    22
    0
    22
    Feb 19, 2009
    Missoula, MT
    Thanks guys! As of midnight last night, I now have a 4' x 4' x 6' coop for five hens with plenty of ventilation! Now to cover the run to keep those pesky neighborhood dogs and hawks away!
     
  6. Montana-Hens

    Montana-Hens Chillin' With My Peeps

    320
    5
    143
    Feb 20, 2008
    Buxton, Montana
    Welcome....

    I live south of Butte, MT and know exactly what you mean about cold and hot extremes.

    I live on a hillside where the wind can blow for days on end, and in a bit of a hollow where cold weather can settle in the winter and take those 30 below down another 5 or 10 degress.

    My ladies live in a coop with no supplemental heat or light. They do have a drop cord from the house to run the heated dog dish for free access to water.

    My ladies suffered NO frostbite in the winter, and two of them laid all winter 4 out of 5 days. One was even so silly as to molt in Dec/January.

    I think you take everything that the folks whose location they come from temperate climates and what you plan to have and you will come up with a great design.

    Here is what went into my decision making.
    *I was planning on 4 standard more winter hearty assorted hens.
    *There would likely be no electricity to my coop.

    I ended up with the following:

    a 16 x 48 run that hooked up to a 3 sided shed, that would keep them out of the wind if they wanted to be out of the coop since we have no trees.

    my coop is 4x8 and sets on the south side of my 3 sided shed.
    It is up off the ground about 3 feet, and is only about 4 feet tall. Easy access and easy cleaning.

    I insulated the sides with foam boards, and covered the foam boards and the floor with vinyl sheet flooring for easy of cleaning and to prevent picking. I covered the top with reflextix .
    I put two windows a small on the south and a large one on the west sides that can be opened in the summer season, but closed just letting light in for the winter, but not so much that the ladies loose the heat they generate.

    Ventilation. I use those little hole vents that have screens and direction things on them. they are the very top of my coop and the direction is such that they "blow up" a couple of times over the winter I put a little duck tape on a couple of them thinking the cold spell was long enough that maybe I should do that. I think in most conditions I would be under ventilated, but b/c the wind blows here so much I think it forces air exchange. I never all winter ended up with frost on the walls or the ceiling of my coop.

    This coop was designed to be small enough to allow their body temp to keep them appropriately warm and large enough for them to have space and not start pecking when I said subzero days meant they had to stay in all day. Then that day translated in to multiple days.

    Good luck with your coop.

    Here is mine:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2009

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by