Winterizing converted horse stall coop; ideas for the ignorant??

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by wateboe, Sep 12, 2008.

  1. wateboe

    wateboe Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Our chickens are in a (aprox.) 12'x12' horse stall in a six stall barn. Two of the four sides are solid (one with a barred (for horses) window that we leave cracked open in warm weather. The other two sides are solid from floor to about half-way up, where they become rebar-slatted. One of those walls also has a sliding stall door of the same construction. The stall is topped with solid wood "ceiling" (hay loft above). We added hardware cloth to the semi-open parts of the walls before the chickens moved in.

    The chickens get to pasture daily within electric netting that is connected to the barn, so they can move freely from the stall, to barn, to pasture at will. They exit the stall through the sliding door, so it is a big opening.

    Does anyone have a similar situation? It works well for us, but I am unsure of how to winterize it. I am guessing that I should wrap the open sides with something, but still leave some space at the top for ventilation. Someone suggested that we add a smaller enclosed "house" inside the stall wher they can all (16 currently) snuggle up to share body heat and avoid drafts.

    I would welcome any suggestions, especially if you have materials or techniques that you have used successfully in similar situations.
     
  2. newchickmom

    newchickmom Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Lafayette, Indiana
    I have a similar set-up. This spring I had a heat light over the roosts. I am thinking I may add bisqueen to the outside of the chicken wire to keep out drafts just for the winter. I would leave about 4 inches open at the top for ventilation.
     
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Is the barn open or closed during the day? If it is always closed except when the horses are physically being brought in or put out, then you don't need to do nearly as much winterizing as if there are barn doors open all the time.

    The 'less winterizing' plan might be something like "just leave it be and see what happens - if you need to make a 'hover' over the roost or even add a lamp over the roost, ok, but you may not need that"

    The 'more winterizing' plan, if the barn often gets to ambient temperature and is breezy, would involve finding something to cover the stall grilles (are there horses in the barn? If not, just plain plastic would work reasonably well, or a junky thrift-store blanket strung up as if it were a tarp) and probably *also* making a smaller 'hut' around their roost. Sort of subdividing the stall, as it were, so that there is a smaller roost area for them to heat -- less square footage and also lower ceiling. This could be knocked together with a frame and some bubblewrap, or use strawbales, or whatever seems handy.

    If you are wanting to leave the chickens outdoor access on some winter days without having the whole horse-stall door hanging open, make a wooden insert, full height of opening and maybe 2' wide, that the sliding door closes against. With a chicken pophole cut in the lower part of the insert. (You may not be able to use your electronet for much of the winter, though -- more than just a dusting of snow will ground it out, plus it is likely to lose 'zap' as the ground freezes so unless it is VERY well electrified now you may have charge problems, unless you are just using it as a visual nonelectric barrier for chickens not for predators)

    Good luck and ahve fun,

    Pat
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2008
  4. wateboe

    wateboe Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 8, 2008
    Lebanon, Ohio
    Thanks for advice all!

    Pat, I have been admiring many of your posts as I have lurked behind the scenes. I was secretly hoping that I might get some feedback from you. I get the feeling that we may be of a similar mind about most things chicken-related! All of your ideas about this issue fit right into my current thought process. The barn is vacant except for the chickens, hay storage, and some big hay equipment, so constant in-and-out traffic or plastic-hungry horses are not an issue this winter.

    I really like the idea of subdividing the space with hay bales... we are just lousy with bales of hay and straw around here! Considering the cash I just handed over for the electric netting, I was wondering where I was going to dig up the funds for more building materials.

    One never knows what to expect from the winters here. I ususally think of them as wet and cold with little, if any, snow, but we sometimes (last winter) get some very heavy snows that accumulate quickly, although they don't usually stay around long. I intend to let the chickens out every day that is even remotely agreeable weather-wise! I am almost, no, completely ignorant about the performance of the electro-netting. I HATE feeling this in-the-dark about something that I will be using to protect my companions.... is there a good source for more information about day-to-day use and potential problems with this type of fencing? I will be using a plug-in style energizer (bought everything from Premier) if that makes any difference when it comes to performance.

    I am delighted with the idea of the pophole insert for the stall door. I had already thought of that, but showing my husband that it was YOUR idea will make it easier for him to accept! (Do all spouses develop this habit of immediately thinking that your ideas are nutty at first introduction? Or, perhaps it is that I do have some nutty ideas.) If he buys into that, then maybe he will also accept the same sort of insert for our laundry room pocket door, to keep the big dogs from getting into the cats' litter box!

    I will happily absorb any more advice or comments on this topic so please share!

    Amy
     
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Just don't plan on using the hay for horses or other stock afterwards. Compost or non-food garden mulch, no problem [​IMG]

    One never knows what to expect from the winters here. I ususally think of them as wet and cold with little, if any, snow, but we sometimes (last winter) get some very heavy snows that accumulate quickly, although they don't usually stay around long.

    I lived in Oxford OH for several years, some while ago, are your winters similar?

    I am almost, no, completely ignorant about the performance of the electro-netting. I HATE feeling this in-the-dark about something that I will be using to protect my companions.... is there a good source for more information about day-to-day use and potential problems with this type of fencing? I will be using a plug-in style energizer (bought everything from Premier) if that makes any difference when it comes to performance.

    Well in winter you don't need to worry about moving the fence and mowing to keep weeds from grounding it out [​IMG] but wet/damp/icy snow will ground it out too. Same as horse fence. Basically an electric strand becomes useless once the snowdrifts start to cover it (in more than just a teensy place here and there)... and since the lowest energized strand of the electronet is just like 4" from the ground, that does not let you have much snow at all...

    Also, again the same as with electric fence for any other stock, when the ground freezes, it does not transmit current nearly as well, and thus an animal (chicken or predator) touching the fence does not make as good a ground and does not get as good a zap. It is not a fault of the fence, it is just the way it goes when the ground freezes and you may want to be cautious about how much you trust the chargedness of the fence in very frozen weather.

    Frankly for winter it would make more sense to build some sort of Actual Run, although if funds are tight obviously that may not be possible. But you may end up with the chickens' 'free ranging the barn' during the winter more than going outside, if all you have is electronet.

    If he buys into that, then maybe he will also accept the same sort of insert for our laundry room pocket door, to keep the big dogs from getting into the cats' litter box!

    Ha, I would think that the prospect of NOT having the dogs eating cat poo and strewing litter all over would be enough incentive for him to accept the idea [​IMG]

    Have fun,

    Pat, whose horse barn has WAY WAY too many raccoons and weasels and suchlike to ever be winter quarters for chickens [​IMG]
     

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