Winterizing our coop


8 Years
May 24, 2011
Greetings all,

New member here, just completed a coop for our 5 girls. New to chickens, and coop building, for that matter. Found a tractor design I liked on the internet, relatively low maintenance and looked suitable. Here is the finished coop:



This is an example of me putting the cart slightly before the horse. Having completed this project, I am now convinced that some modifications will be needed for our chickens to sustain the winter in central Maryland. Being an open-air design in the bottom run and middle perch sections, while nice for maintenance reasons, it will not provide enough shelter from the bitter cold wind we get occasionally. Adding a shelf or floor near perch level, though it might help seal the upper portion, would be my least desired option for the aforementioned maintenance reasons (though I'll do whatever it takes). I am thinking about adding some removeable panels (framed plexiglas?) around the bottom screening as an alternative.

Any ideas? Thanks!
What kind of hens are you getting? Some are more cold hardy than others.

My coop sits about 2 feet off the ground and has a wire floor. The coop is not heated. While it can get very cold in there, I've never had a problem. I have RSL and Plymouth Rocks. I'm a little farther north than you in Lancaster County, PA. I would wait and see if you have a problem before trying to fix it. Good luck!
vstoltzfus, good point about not fixing what ain't broke. We have 3 New Hampshires and 2 Australorps. I'm only guessing that the NH's would be fairly cold resistant because of the region incorporated in their name. The coop design was from a Better Homes and Garden website, the Australia version, btw. Serves to show what I know about chickens. These two varieties were the only ones available at our local feed and supply store. We are located in the rolling hills of Westminster.

Looking from the side of the coop, the perch sits about 2" lower than the bottom of the side panels, so you can see the chickens' feet when they are standing on it. The perch is currently 1x3". I may change that to 1x4" to get their entire foot flat on the perch for cold weather.
Yeap, that's not the ideal situation for wintering chickens in (actually I loathe A-frame tractors in general, but, you'll survive with it
) BUT you have the major advantage of being in a relatively not-so-cold climate.

Your plan of putting plastic on part of the 'downstairs' is a good one -- you can make plexiglass or corrugated-plastic-roofing panels to do it all nice, or you can just take some 6 mil translucent vapor-barrier plastic and a staplegun and call it good, depending on how you feel about aesthetics. But do NOT close ALL the downstairs in, or you will create serious humidity->frostbite problems. I'd suggest leaving 1/3-1/2 of one long wall uncovered.

Normally I'd say "and also add some ventilation upstairs" but because your particular design is pretty completely open-air between the upstairs and the downstairs, I do not think you need that and it'd just make things draftier for the chickens. So I think just cover most but not all of the downstairs, and call it good.

(First, though, and NOW, you might ought to replace the chickenwire with hardware cloth, perhaps also adding a flip-up apron that you peg into place when the tractor is in place, because what you've got there is very very NON-predatorproof and IMO there is a pretty significant chance that if you leave it that way you may not have to worry about wintering-over on account of no longer having any chickens by then)

Good luck, have fun,

Pat, thanks for the suggestions. I was thinking of closing in all of the bottom except for the door on the corner, which is just about what you were saying. I like the idea of heavy plastic sheeting from a cost perspective.

The chickenwire is attached to the pressure treated wood frame by U-nails every couple links, and covers the bottom as well. Are you saying that the wire could become unattached, or actually tear in the middle? Our local predators are primarily fox, skunk, possum and raccoon (hawks, too). No large dogs currently running around, which I think would be the greatest strength test of the wire, should one pounce on it. Or perhaps the mesh is too large for raccoon snatching?
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You could buy some sheet foam insulation and cut it out and tape it all around the top area, then take it out during summmer. Then maybe some of the nice plastic they sell by the fabric area around the chicken wire area, leaving some ventilation.
Thanks, I was thinking about adding foam insulation to supplement the covering of the run area, if necessary. I imagine the insulation should be covered with a thin hard panel to ensure it doesn't get pecked-at.
Truthfully I see NO point in bothering with insulation in this particular situation (and remember I'm usually the one to say 'sure, insulate if you want/can, it doesn't hurt and often helps). Unless you are going to run an electric heat source in there in which case maybe it would be mildly worthwhile. (But I don't think you're likely to need to heat.)

The reason is that this is going to be a pretty humid situation requiring a lot of ventilation. Even with plastic sheeting keeping the worst of the snow/rain out, a fair bit will get in thru the unavoidably-open part, and even if it didn't, the amount of rising moisture from being directly on the ground (outdoor ground, not a large enclosed coop that just happens to have a well-bedded floor that's dirt underneath) tends to put a lot of water vapor into the air... moreso since you will have a bit of solar heating on sunny days with all that plastic covering. Thus the amount of ventilation opening you need, relative to the total coop size/volume, is so large that there is just not going to be any question of keeping in heat without ALSo keeping in problematic amounts of humid air.

Really truly, I think translucent plastic over most-but-not-all of the downstairs is all you want *or need*, other than good predatorproofing.

JMHO, good luck, have fun,


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