winter coop design???

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by juice, May 28, 2008.

  1. juice

    juice Out Of The Brooder

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    May 27, 2008
    hastings
    Hello, I have put the cart before the horse and bought 8 chicks and NOW am planning the coop. I know very backwards plan!
    I am looking at the tractor(A frame) design of coop but was told that that will not work in the winter(even if I have an electric source for the heat lamp). Is this true?
    Will I need to put them in the barn in the winter? My hubby is allergic to feathers and I really would like a plan B if possible. thanks for any help you can offer....juice
     
  2. McGoo

    McGoo Chillin' With My Peeps

    Yeh, I find that I tend to put the cart before the horse. You've got warm weather and plenty of time before it gets cold.

    And yes, a wind-proof coop of the correct size is important. (Take a look at my website - I have used it for 5 and up to 10 chickens. It will house all of mine this winter.)

    You don't need anything as fancy as what my dh made, but you do want it to be windproof, have a 2x2 board for the roost, so they can sit on their feet and not get frost bitten, and about 4 - 6 inches of pine shavings for the floor to really keep them warm. There is a lot of information on this forum about the 'deep litter method' - it's good to read.

    All the best. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  3. juice

    juice Out Of The Brooder

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    May 27, 2008
    hastings
    thank you for responding your reply so quickly.
    your site was great.I showed my hubby so he could see your awesome coop!
    thanks for sharing...juice
     
  4. MermanMike

    MermanMike Out Of The Brooder

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    May 20, 2008
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    McGoo...what a cute coop...I am in the planning stages now too, and cold hearty is a priority for me as well. Do you keep that plastic sheeting on your run all winter? Does it give swome kind of greenhouse effect? And the open air triangles on either end of the coop, do they stay open year round? Or get cover in plexi somehow, or plastic?

    Thanks for sharing! Did you come up with this design or did you use plans?

    [​IMG] M
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    First off, where are you located (what climate). It is a WHOLE lot more feasible to winter chickens in a tractor in, like, Virginia than in North Dakota [​IMG] If you are closer to the North Dakota end of the spectrum then honestly I would say that a tractor would be far from your best choice as winter quarters.

    The issues are:

    1) Ventilation. Chickens deal with dry cold reasonably well (esp. if you pick fairly cold-hardy breeds, i.e. those with large body size and those with rose or cushion combs as opposed to great big single combs). What they don't deal well with at all is DAMP cold. You get respiratory disease and frostbite. Thus, you have to be able to leave the vents open virtually all winter (ok to close them if needed on occasional really frigid nights, but that's relaly about all you can do without courting a problematically damp coop).

    The thing about a tractor is that it is a very very small volume of air, and thus a given amount of chicken poo and breath (which is where the dampness mostly comes from) create a lot more humidity in a 3-4' high tractor chamber than in a 6-8' high coop. So you need relatively MORE ventilation in a tractor than in a walk-in coop. But at the same time, the airflow can't be aimed at the chickens or they will get too cold in the draft and develop respiratoyr problems or frostbite. It is, at best, extremely difficult to get sufficient ventilation without draftiness in a small tractor.

    2) Heat. A tiny coop such as a tractor also loses heat faster than an equally-constructed walk-in coop, for the same reason that a cookie coming out of the oven cools off faster than a cake from the same oven. Thus, although you need more ventilation in a tractor for dampness reasons, that extra ventilation will also be carrying off needed heat and it can be tough to keep a small coop warm enough.

    3) Electricity. You can't run 'proper' electric service to a tractor, but if you live anywhere with 'real' winter you will be ever so much happier if you can plug in a heated waterer or waterer-base to keep the water from freezing. (The alternative is to carry water out there multiple times a day and expect the chickens to learn to drink while it's still liquid - you don't want to be putting out warm water, esp. not in a tractor, because of the humidity problem, so whatever you take out may freeze rather rapidly, depending on your climate). It is also AWFULLY nice during the short-day time of year to be able to flick a light switch when you have to do something out there in the dusk or dark. Some people run heavyduty extension cords, but you know that is really not the safest thing to do.

    If you DO decide to go with a tractor for winter use anyhow, I would strongly, strongly suggest not using one of the A-frame ones, which provide surprisingly little space for the birds, esp. indoor space. A box- or rectangular-shaped one is not much harder to build and will give you a much more functional multi-season product.

    The ideal solution though is probably to have a tractor for summer use and a coop for winter. BTW this also gives you somewhere to expand easily into, at least til wintertime [​IMG], in the event that you find yourself wanting to acquire more chickens, which seems to happen to most of us [​IMG]

    Good luck,

    Pat
     
  6. Oblio13

    Oblio13 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've been wrestling with the same sort of thing. I have two tractors for summer, and under our 12' x 20' deck is enclosed for year-round use. But it's still really cold, and we're constantly having to break ice and change water, and we can't go away for more than a day for that reason.

    I think I'm going to build a 10'x16 or 12'x16 year-round coop with these features:

    2"x12" pressure-treated sills on bare ground. I use dry leaves for deep litter. We have an unlimited supply of them, the chickens shred them up pretty efficiently, and then they're used for mulch in the garden and around fruit trees.

    A "second floor" two feet above, to give the birds a choice of climate and effectively double the square footage.

    Southern exposure for solar gain. I can leave it open in the summer and close it up or put clear plastic over the wire in the winter.

    Sod roof. Evaporative cooling in the summer, insulation in the winter.

    Storage for feed, grit, oyster shells and etc. elevated on shelves so that the floor space is all useable.

    My hope is that such a coop will give them plenty of space (I'm a big believer in elbow room) and stay above freezing with just chicken body heat, solar gain, and heat rising from the ground.
     
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Not that you in any way asked, but I think you have some excellent design features planned there. Go build it [​IMG]

    Have you thought of incorporating some sort of central stack of concrete (or cement-filled cinderblock) thermal mass thru the structure? It would cost a bit especially if you had to buy things retail, and you would have to make real sure to dig the foundation down below frost depth... BUT if you did, you could make a (say) 2'x4'-ish pillar going from below the frostline up thru the 'downstairs' and sticking maybe 4' up into the main coop, located sort of in the middle of the coop, 3-4 ft from the S wall.

    First, you would get some thermal buffering from ground heat, which would keep the underneath (if you insulated 3 sides and plasticked the south side) and the coop a bit warmer than otherwise; and also, with the sun shining on it most of the day thru the S wall windows you would get some thermal storage from that too. Would be cooler in summer, too.

    From my experiences with buildings that have significant ground-source heat sinks I would say it is *possible* you might have a little humidity problem in spring when warm humid air hits the cooler thermal mass structure inside the coop; but it would be a much smaller thermal mass than anything I'm directly familiar with so maybe you'd be ok, and worst case scenario you just slap some insulating panels (or just plywood!) over it for that part of the year, no biggie.

    I think I'll try it if I ever build a freestanding coop, but as I currently have a very very nice 15x40 outbuilding that has plenty of chicken room in it, I dunno whether I'll ever actually do it [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat
     

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