Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter chicken coops: the good, bad and ugly

Do you and your chickens live in a cold weather area? We do. This winter was not just cold, it was negative degrees bone chilling cold and snow up to our knees! This was our hardest winter since we've been here and since we've started keeping chickens. I've learned a lot about coops this winter....and homesteading, and hungry wildlife! It's been tough. 

Working with our coops this winter I've figured exactly why each one does and does not work well in cold weather. So, here's my list of coops: The good, the bad and the downright ugly!

Winter chickens

These 3 coops are actually our largest. They all have 3 main things in common. Windows, ventilation & space. 

Good winter chicken coops

Good winter chicken coops

1) Windows:
When the temp hits way below freezing, I don't have to prop the doors open to let in light. Two of the coops have automatic pop doors that lead to covered runs. The 'automatic' part isn't important....the enclosed covered run is. They need fresh air and these runs allow them to get outside, flap around a little and still be safe. The runs have wire on the sides, but I've wrapped the sides of the run in 9ml plastic to keep out the moisture at times.

2) Ventilation:
All 3 coops have adequate ventilation at roof level. This allows the air to circulate without chilling the chickens in winter. The doors can be left closed for longer periods when there is adequate ventilation.

3) Space: 
These coops also have enough space for feeders and water. I don't want them to have to go outside to eat or drink. Water freezes a bit faster outside too. Plus the birds can stretch their wings and move around in these coops.

These 2 coops are bad for the very reasons the others are good. Windows, ventilation & space.

Bad winter chicken coops, small

1) Windows: 
These coops lack windows. Without windows they can't see inside to do their normal birdy stuff, so the doors must stay open all day. Open doors let in light, but they let in snow, rain and cold too! 

2) Ventilation
There are air holes drilled at roof level in these coops, but it hardly matters when the doors are wide open. The drafts come right in the front doors!

3) Space
They don't have very much space to avoid drafts when the doors are open. I've used the goose coop for Banty's also and a nest box placed inside to the right of the door allows some to stay out of the wind. Also, their food bowl can fit inside, but the waterer definitely has to be outside.  

The reason here is simple: not enough protection from the weather.

Worset winter chicken coops

I have seen these hutches used as a year round coop and I just can't agree with it. There isn't enough protection from the elements. Even if you put bedding in, there's just nowhere for the birds to go to stay warm. Major disclaimer here: we only use this as a separation cage when it's outside (to settle squabbles between birds) If it's placed inside one of the larger coops, then it's sometimes a brooder but never while it's outside. 

So there you have lessons learned about building and buying chickens coops. I hope you have less snow and cold then we do! Stay warm!


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