Woods Open Air w. Greenhouse Mods

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by FarmBurl, Mar 21, 2018.

  1. FarmBurl

    FarmBurl In the Brooder

    Mar 10, 2018
    After realizing that modifying the inside of my barn would result in an equally expensive and sub standard coop, I've started designing a Woods style open air chicken house... Would love to get some feedback on my drawings!
    I'm no architect, but I made a general floor plan and elevations... Hope they're reasonably clear. IMG_20180321_000923809.jpg
    Dotted lines show windows - that will be HC covered. There are shelves in the front section- thinking of the kind where you hang strips similar to pegboard but metal that let you adjust shelf height.
    This is what I'm really hoping will work- on the South face (the big windows) and the South sloping roof, I want to add options. For the roof, a plexi greenhouse plastic will be built in for added warmth in winter. The big windows will have HC as the default but I'll build inserts of plexi to close them off in winter. The shelves are there so I can start a few seedlings in early spring and maybe even grow some greens in winter. I'm hoping that the windows on the sides of the front section will bring in air that will be warmed by the windows. That air will then travel back, across the rest of the coop and out a HC vent that runs the width of the back wall under the eve. I extended the overhang some to protect against winds. May drop it some more. For summer, I'll build an insert to cover the plexi on the roof so the chickens don't cook (before their time, lol).

    Thoughts? Concerns? Suggestions?
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  2. jthornton

    jthornton Crowing

    Aug 30, 2017
    Poplar Bluff, MO
    My Coop
    For me I would not want to crawl under a roost to get to the nests. No need to have one at 5' IMHO and in the same breath my neighbors chickens roost 20' up in the trees. You don't say how many birds you plan on having but 8' of roost will sleep 8-10 full size birds. I'd put the roost 12" from the rear wall and put a community nest box on one of the side walls.

    I would not have a dust bath inside the coop. I brought one in the garage for a bit when mine were in the brooder and in no time the entire 3 car garage was covered in dust.

    Your poop boards are too small, I'd make the at least 24" wide with a lip around to contain the PDZ. My roosts are 12" from the wall and the ones that face out the poop is up against the wall in the morning.

    I would make it another foot taller for easy access to the front part.

    Please add your location to your profile so we know what climate your in.

    JT (who's first coop was a disaster and took many modifications to fix)
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  3. FarmBurl

    FarmBurl In the Brooder

    Mar 10, 2018
    Wow! Thanks for looking and for the suggestions!!
    I'm in WI, zone 4.
    Designing for 10 birds through the winter.
    I didn't show rear elevation, but nest boxes are accessible from doors on the back wall of the coop. I could just as easily move them opposite the door, though...
    I'm only 5' tall, so the front most part should be fine for me to get to, no? I was even thinking of putting the front section, windows and all, on hinges so I can prop the wall open and shovel waste right out the front!
    Thanks again for all of your suggestions! I'm making a few adjustments right meow (when I should be getting ready for work- does chicken math work for figuring out the time it takes to get ready in the morning?) :caf:gig
    Melky and cavemanrich like this.
  4. KettermanHillCoop

    KettermanHillCoop Crowing

    Oct 23, 2017
    The big windows will have HC as the default but I'll build inserts of plexi to close them off in winter.

    If you are referring to the bottom big windows....they are designed not to be closed up in the winter.
    Melky, cavemanrich and FarmBurl like this.
  5. FarmBurl

    FarmBurl In the Brooder

    Mar 10, 2018
    Damn- I know the book is full of pictures of these buildings piled high with snow in Michigan... What if, like this year, winter is extremely cold at times where we've got almost no snow cover? Are there any circumstances where I'd want to, even temporarily, cover them?
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2018
    Melky likes this.
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    The entire purpose of the Woods coop is to leave the front windows SSE exposure open to fresh air YEAR ROUND.

    Do you intend to block their access to the front section? If so, you will be giving up some prime chicken realestate that they would really enjoy. I'd give up the idea of using that space for a "green house". Any shelves in the Woods coop will be totally trashed by the birds, unless you have them blocked off. Perhaps build a separate green house?

    You could put shade cloth over the polycarbonate roofing during the warm months.

    I would ditch the poop trays and convert the entire coop, front AND back section to deep litter management. I would move the nest boxes out from under the roosts. Do you intend to shovel a lot of snow? Put those nest boxes on a gable end side, near the human entrance door. Otherwise, you will have to shovel all the snow that slides off the roof to get to your nest box outside doors.

    I like to have my perch 15" from the back wall. it helps to keep the poop from making skid marks on the wall, and it does not build up against the wall where it lands on the floor.
    Melky, clovepink, puffypoo and 2 others like this.
  7. Howard E

    Howard E Songster

    Feb 18, 2016
    I assume you have the book? If so, you should know what is coming. ;) If not, get the book and study it in detail. Also, not sure which size you are proposing so some allowances should be made for that.

    What you appear to be proposing to do is what Woods said numerous times not to do and that was to freelance the design of this thing. Every aspect of it had been studied and worked out in detail, up to and including situating the thing a few degrees east of due south. It was that specific.

    Your idea of using clear or translucent poly on the scratch deck roof may work. I used translucent white, which lets in 80% of the light, but not the heat. But in the winter, when you want the solar gain, you will get it from the south facing lower and upper windows as designed. As designed, the sunlight will flood all the way to the back. Not sure about your greenhouse ledge. It may work......if the birds will stay off it.

    Only Woods house with nest boxes on the back wall was the 6' x 10'. Those were placed under the roosts, and separated by a droppings board. Done so to get max use of the sidewalls. And BTW, roosts are always level......NEVER uneven ladders.

    Also, NO back wall vents. Ventilation in winter is the wide open front screened windows, and ONLY those windows. Vent the back wall and you WILL get drafts all the way to the back. As designed, it is dead calm back there no matter what is going on outside. Amazing thing to see.

    On closing off the front windows, Woods original idea was to cover them with some type of cloth.....muslin or burlap, but he eventually quit that idea entirely, as he found it worked better open than closed. The wide open ventilation seems to work in your favor. Side windows are closed in winter and do not vent and because they are closed, they do not need to be covered either.

    To give you an idea why the need for open ventilation, a big danger to the birds in cold weather is frostbitten combs and waddles, which are most often caused by a cold, yet high moisture environment. So the wide open ventilation works the same as your bathroom does. Close the bathroom door, crank open the hot water only in the shower and fill the room with hot, steamy air. Mirrors, windows and just about all else will fog up from the condensation. If it were cold enough, it would also freeze in place (some bathroom windows are cold enough to get frost on them anyway). But open the door or turn on the exterior venting exhaust vent and all that goes away. In fact, if you leave the door open or vent on, you may never fog up in the first place.

    So the birds can handle a lot, and even in your climate, they can do so in the open Woods house provided you leave it open. And if you still have problems, switch to a different breed of cold hardy birds. Those with pea combs, etc.
  8. FarmBurl

    FarmBurl In the Brooder

    Mar 10, 2018
    Thanks for taking the time to go into all that detail! I found a google link to the book in another thread - haven't read all of it- working on it! If I read it correctly, the emphasis of orientation was to have prevailing winds come at an angle rather than across a side. East of south was what happened to work for the model but could be slightly different depending on the location. I guess I'm just having a really hard time with the idea that the chickens will be ok on a -20 degree night. I want to believe it!! Seems like I'll just have to build the darn thing and see...

    Thinking of using deer netting across the ceiling under the shelves to keep the chickens off the seedlings. I'd love to just build a greenhouse, but neither the time nor dollars budget will allow it atm.. I mean, I could build both but not well. Thanks, again to folks who looked at it with me! I'm finishing up my drawings tonight and making a lumber run tomorrow! :woot
    Updated drawings also have a compass Rose and scale added:rolleyes:
    Melky likes this.
  9. squadleader

    squadleader Chirping

    Dec 23, 2017
    Richmond, VA
    Woods design really boils down to two issues. Creating an air container sealed on three sides during winter, which creates the still cushion of air at the north end of the coop, where your birds should roost, and harnessing the power of the sun for warmth in winter, through the use of the passive solar technique of leaving the south end of the coop open, to the low winter sun in the southern sky.

    In the summer, opening the windows on the east and west sides of coop, breaks the seal of the container and creates cross ventilation, which is cooling, and in Woods design, even goes one step further by allowing the opening of the roof top windows, which creates an upward circulation of air in the coop.

    As the cooler air enters from the lower level windows, it's exhausted through the upper windows as the air warms and rises.

    These two factors are the genius of his system, he's harnessing the power of natural forces with his design.

    Chickens have three requirements from their environment if they are to thrive. They must be kept dry, they must have lots of ventilation, and they must be kept out of the wind.

    You'll notice being kept warm is not on this list. A chickens normal body temperature is 107 degrees, they are designed to live in cold weather. They can handle the cold weather, just like all the other birds we see around us living in the wild, even in the coldest temperatures we experience at our homes.

    The natural forces Woods utilizes are predictable and before the advent of central air and heat systems, these principles also drove human architecture.

    As Howard points out, Woods was well aware of all these methods in his design. He's done the work for us.

    It's a law of physics that creating a sealed structure on three sides prevents air from moving, once you're a few feet into the structure the air is locked in place preventing drafts, but still providing great ventilation because one side is completely open with just wire. That's one of the basic requirements of the birds, great ventilation.

    Leaving the open side facing south is a function of two important facts.

    First the sun in winter hangs very low in the southern sky, in fact the sun is so low, the sunlight doesn't even come from overhead, it comes in sideways from the south side. The power of the radiant energy from sunlight is much more than most of us realize, and gives your birds a huge benefit in warming.

    Second, the vast majority of cold wind comes from the north, northwest, or northeast. Placing the open end of the coop south, turns the coops back on those cold winter winds, and leaves it open to any warm southern winds.

    You'll also notice Woods preferred long rectangles for his buildings, with one of the short sides facing south. A rectangular shape creates a larger cushion of still air on the north end of the coop, as opposed to a square, because rectangles present less wall length to the wind.

    Woods did a lot of experimenting, and determined even in the worst blowing rain from the south, the rain never penetrated more than three feet into the building, with the wind itself, not penetrating much further than that either.

    That's why we're seeing Woods proposing dimensions like 6'x10', 8'x12', 8'x16', 10'x20'.

    He mentioned he wouldn't recommend a single chicken house larger than 20'x20', and even then, he mentioned it would be wise to divide that coop down the center, creating two 10'x20' bays, that only connect to each other a few feet back from the open southern window, allowing the chickens the use of both bays.

    He always recommended placing the roosting bars at the north end of the coop, deep in the cushion of still air at the back of the coop, which is an area guaranteed to be draft free.

    After all this background you can understand how and why he harnessed all these natural forces to meet his goals of a dry, draft free, well ventilated house for the chickens.

    If you follow his recommendations, you're going to create an excellent environment for your chickens to thrive.

    Coming back to the crux of your question though, is this design compatible with your goal of simultaneously using this structure for birds and as a greenhouse?

    Unfortunately the answer is no. The problem is the chickens and the plants have opposite ventilation requirements, which can't be met unless they are physically separate from each other.

    Greenhouses create a warm environment for growing plants in winter by cutting off ventilation, and using solar gain to heat up the trapped air.

    This is opposite to the good ventilation chickens require.

    On the other hand, providing the good ventilation chickens require, will allow the trapped warm air to escape, making it too cold for the plants, with the cold not being a problem for the chickens as we know.

    The Woods is a top notch coop, the best in my opinion, but I think you're going to need a separate greenhouse.

    The idea of ever cutting off the ventilation of a Woods House by blocking its southern open face, is the equivalent of removing your cars engine, and expecting to be able to drive it to work the next day, it doesn't work anymore, the engine is gone, the car is broken.

    Good luck with your project, you're doing the smart thing, researching before building. You're going to be building a great house for your birds and avoiding all the mistakes we've made at the same time.

    I've had great luck with my flock of 13 birds, only because of the help and knowledge others have shared with me here over the last year. I started with zero knowledge about chickens and have avoided a ton of mistakes because the help offered here.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2018
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