Inside the Coop
Today I would like to talk about building your chicken’s home specifically the inside climate (from now on they will be called my “girls”). I am not going to go into specific designs because there are unlimited choices to pick from. You may want to purchase a prefab, renovate an old storage shed, or build from the ground up.
Photo of Coop and Run before the girls moved in
Prices can range from next to nothing if you have materials on hand, to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on what you want. Bottom line, one is not necessarily better than the other as long you provide certain basic needs. The following ideas are based on chickens, and not chicks. They are my opinions based on research I have done.
Q. Do my girls need extra heat during the cold winters?
A. Unless your temperatures are extremely cold (below 0 degrees for an extended period of time) you shouldn’t provide supplemental heat because the girls huddle together and provide their own body heat. That being said there some things you will need to provide them to maximize their own comfort.
1. The coop should be ventilated.
The girls will exhale a great deal on moisture and if there isn’t a good air exchange they can develop respiratory infections.
2. The coop should be draft free.
In many ways the girls are similar to us. We can lower the temperature on our homes walk around in a sweater and be reasonably comfortable. If we allow a door to be left open and a cold draft blows through the home we are miserable. The girls are no different, they can be in a cold environment and huddled together and be fine, but allow a draft to blow on them and they will have a difficult time maintaining their own warmth.
I purchased my small coop because I ran out time to build one, plus I got a very good deal on it so it didn’t make sense at the time to build from scratch. Side Story: I lost Red, one of my original girls, to some eye infection. I ended up getting two more girls named Havoc and Chaos aptly named by my son (also another story) last fall. I noticed that Chaos and Havoc were sleeping outside in the run while the other three were in the coop. Since the coop was really designed for 4 animals, I decided that it was probably too crowded for them and it was time to build an addition for them. I knocked out the back wall and built a two foot by two foot addition for them with a top lid to make it easier to clean it out. To insure that they were getting adequate ventilation I put an inexpensive vent on the back side. I have not permanently solved all of my draft situations like the crack between the lid and box so I draped a towel over the lid and down the sides to keep the wind form blowing on them.
I have noticed that when the temperature is down in the 20’s and below they huddle in the old section to keep warm but when it gets to be in the 50’s or higher (crazy weather isn’t it) they will sleep throughout the whole coop. I know this because their compost pile contributions tend to be much more concentrated in the old section during very cold spells.
3. The coop should be insulated in extreme temperature.
In areas of extreme temperatures you may want to consider insulating the coop just make sure that the girls can’t peck at it.
I believe for my first winter with them that they are happy with their living conditions. They still wake up at 7:30 and let me know it is time to get out of their coop and begin their morning activities. If it very cold and windy they dig craters in their run where it is protected and lay in there but if there isn’t any wind and the temperatures are in the 40’s and above they will lay out in the sun.
The one thing I do is allow, is for them to freely roam the yard all day. They seem to know what the environment needs to be to be comfortable for themselves. Yes, I have seen them run around outside in light rain but high tail it back to the run when it started to rain heavily. Just like kids. Go figure.