Any advice on how to handle this in a new coop?
It is maddening how somebody can ask a simple question and my answer could fill a book or two.
So ... trying to keep it short ....
First, most chickens will be fine without any insulation.
Second, the chickens will require less feed and be generally healthier if they can stay warm (and some insulation could help with that).
Now for some obnoxious opinions ...
I am at odds with myself.
On the one hand, I really like the idea of a portable coop. Something really small that I can drag around. That way, the chickens do not destroy one area, and I never have to clean the coop. Each time I spend 45 seconds dragging it, the coop is at a fresh spot. The old spot has a whole lot of chicken poop and will thrive over the following year.
On the other hand, Sepp's shelters are quick, easy and on really cold days are quite warm to the animals inside them.
I think that for chickens, I would stick with portable shelters. And I would seal and insulate three sides rather completely and one side would have an open door, and an opposite side would have a small hole for ventilation. I think I would want to size the roosting area to hold just the right number of birds - they can keep each other warm better if there isn't a lot of extra space.
One thing that will help is to choose breeds that are better-suited to cold weather, such as Wyandottes, Rose-comb Rhode Island Reds, Chanteclers, and so on. You want small combs (pea combs are best, rose combs next best, then small single combs -- avoid birds like Leghorns with their large combs even on the hens). You also want fluffy feathers and large body size, as the larger body size retains heat better. (For someone in a hot climate, the opposite is recommended -- smaller animals have more surface area to dissipate heat for the amount of mass.) When we got our chickens in Alaska, I got some Light Brahmas, thinking they would be really good in that climate -- they meet all the criteria; pea comb, large body size, fluffy feathering for good insulation. But they have feathered feet. At that time, I mistakenly thought that the feathering on the feet would help keep them warm. Instead it collected droppings which froze to the feet -- they suffered more foot damage than the clean-legged breeds I had.
As long as your chickens are well-fed, and you make sure they have water rather than ice to drink at least two or three times a day (use a heated waterer if you can run electricity to their pen), they should do just fine for you.
However, if you want poultry that are really well adapted to cold weather, choose ducks and geese. They are much more cold-hardy than chickens are, and some ducks lay better than chickens, too. They are messier in the winter -- when we had geese in that little shed in Alaska, we had stalactites and stalagmites of ice all around the rubber water dish where the geese dipped their heads in the water and then shook their heads!
I've been keeping my chickens in all-wire chicken tractors for the last few years, and they work well. I can put the chicken manure where I want it without having to hurt my back, LOL! We have to keep the birds contained here, as we have close neighbors, and the tractors seem to work best for us. I keep them mostly covered with a tarp; in summer I just lift the edges so they have shade and good ventilation. Even the three White Leghorn hens haven't suffered any comb damage, and it got down to ten below last winter. The only serious danger here is stray dogs, who could get into the tractors if they were determined enough (don't use chicken wire to keep predators out, as both dogs and raccoons can tear holes in that stuff).
What temperatures they can survive and what temperatures they will be moderately comfortable in, can be two different things.
Excess cold and excess heat are forms of stress, as are low-quality feed, lack of water, fear, etc.
Insulating the coop and carefully calculating the size of the coop with the correct number of chickens, and you probably wouldn't have to have added heat. Never insulate with styrofoam that isn't completely covered, as they will eat it.
Ventilation is one thing, drafts are another.
Choice of breed would be important... a heavy breed would be better than a smaller, light one; an heirloom, good-forager type would be better than a factory-farmed/highly domesticated show breed.
I learned the expensive way that you can have a light, portable tractor, or you can have a strong, tight, predator-proof coop, but you can't have both in one. If it's strong enough to keep out dogs and raccoons, it's too heavy to move, even with wheels. And when it's too heavy to move, it doesn't get moved. After four years, I finally broke down and built my girls a coop. In four years, this is the first winter that they have laid eggs between September and May. That alone told me a lot. Stress is stress.
Your feed will have to be high-quality and possibly have a higher protein level. I'm sure there are books containing this information.
Regarding the floor, I am leaning away from cement. I think the contenders are wood or dirt. One concern is making it predator proof. We do have coyotes in the area. We were hoping to not put up a bunch of fencing and letting the hens roam, so I don't think fencing is a solution. Wouldn't it be difficult to secure a dirt floor?
If we went with a wood floor, is there benefit in elevating the coop so the hens could use it for shade during the summer?
In fact, without a great pyr, I think of any chicken setup as a predator feeder.
With a great pyr around, many aspects of farming become much easier. Most farms fail, and I think this aspect is probably the #1 reason.
I have a small coop that is elevated about 3 ft off the ground. The girls stay in it at night and when the snow covers the grass. I have a fairly light ramp that is lifted up and propped against the coop at night. Since the area underneath tends to stay quite dry, the girls often use it for their dust baths.
If I had to keep birds in a smallish pen, I would cover the floor with several inches of straw or hay. If you scatter scratch over the straw every day, the girls will kick and fluff up the straw looking for it, and keep it quite dry. You'll have to design so you can easily rake it out every week or ten days, depending on how many birds you have. While my coop floor is 3/4" plywood, it is covered with vinyl flooring for easier cleaning. Poop sticks to it, but not like it sticks to wood.
If you're putting a window in it, put it on the south side for some solar gain in winter.
Note: most birds produce between 40 and 55 BTUs per bird per hour, if that is worth anything to you. Standard Leghorns are at the 40 end, and heavy meat-types are at the 55 end.
lgds are not fool proof either. I have seen many many for give away because they are chicken killers.
the lgd thing really depends on your area. my new neighbors have pygmy goats and they run free and in talking to them have done so for years (my heeler? mix now finally has the job she has always wanted "send those goats home charlene" ) . this area is more rural than our last and there is no way a pygmy goat would have survived outside of a fence at our old place. once again due to domestic dogs (not my own in that case)
at first I was leaning towards an lgd but the dog food is a huge expense and I don't produce enough meat to feed one. now I have decided that my own regular old dogs are enough of a detterent for now. they are on an invisible fence system. might lose a chicken to them here and there but....thats one day I don't have to feed them
People have learned the hard way that many dogs, esp those with a high prey drive, will eventually learn that they they can blow through the warning and the shock.
Once they've learned, the invisible fence is useless. Actually, worse than useless, because once the dog gets out and the attraction disappears, the fence is now keeping the dog from going home. NOW he is paying attention to the warning. That's why you see Lost Dog ads that say the dog is wearing an invisible fence unit on his collar.
The next worst thing about them is that they don't protect anything on your property from incoming animals, like coyotes or the neighbor's vicious pitbull.
They give an false sense of security, and many people rue the day they ever decided to get one.
the two I have on the system are a border collie/lab and a rat terrier type dog that has an extremely high prey drive. she lived wild for months near the old house. I caught her by slowly baiting her closer...took me weeks and weeks to finally trick her into getting a lasso around her neck.
I walked the boundary with them on a leash showing them where they get the tone and vibration and that if they run back towards the house it stops. they would hardly leave the porch for a week after that. now they are more relaxed.
i love that I don't have fences junking up my view and I also love that no one can get to the house without encountering four dogs that are not to keen on strangers. and they have a big yard which I could not have afforded with traditional chain link. the dogs themselves are the deterrent to other animals entering the property but of course it wouldn't help deter a truly vicious animal. I just holler at charlene that the neighbors goat is here and she chases it to the fence line then comes back.
they have a fairly large area too. we installed 1000' of the wire. that probably makes a difference. if someone tried to use it on a small yard or area I can see where it wouldn't be as effective.
I am a believer in it now. and also believe that the problems most people have with it are probably due to training. I would highly reccomend that your dogs learn what a tone is insinuating is going to happen with a rented regular shock collar first. and I doubt it will work for a dog that hadn't already had his innattention issues addressed. that is what i used the shock on demand collar for. I don't take to being ignored by my dogs. when I say something to them they had better listen and when I tell them to 'come here' I mean it and if they continued to ignore me they got zapped. pretty soon their attention span miraculously became much longer and they started paying attention to what was going on. I think they are like children. the ability to focus and to have self control must be trained in many cases. you couldn't take a dog that is used to ignoring its surroundings and doing whatever it wants and just put it on an invisible fence system.
it can't replace training. in other words..if your dog is already used to 'blowing through' your commands and you can't control it...the fence probably won't either. it will continue the trend of not listening to the tone or you. if its not used to associating consequences with actions it will just end up confused if you expect the fence to teach it.
sue - if someone tries to give you one...send it to me! I want to expand the area. I would do the whole property if I could.
And the ones that did see it happen, saw from the house or somewhere that the dog was just so excited by (and focused on) something on the street (cat, raccoon, kid on bicycle, etc) that they were just moving so fast when they approached the warning spot that they were through it before they realized. One Tervuren stopped when he hit the street, acting stunned that he was actually out there. Then he took off after the cat. After that, it was just a matter of running fast enough (and probably squeezing his eyes shut).
Others said that it never happened when they were home, just when they were gone.
And if anyone gives me one, I'll send it to you!
Did you check your private messages?
This is commonly not the situation for individuals who will be raising chickens to as a hobby or perhaps who would like to raise hens for eggs, meat or even as pets. This information is for those who are raising their chickens, inside their own backyard, and therefore are not necessarily overly focused on generating revenue.
A happy, healthy chicken will require space. It is that simple. The vast majority of types of chickens are generally friendly as well as docile and often will get along with the additional members of your flock unless extreme measures happen to be imposed upon them. Overcrowding is one kind of those extremes.
Before buying your chicken coop or perhaps chicken coop plans, take into account the breed of chicken you want to raise. Bantam chickens because they are so little don't need the same living space as other breeds. If you plan to raise larger chickens, for instance Rhode Island Reds, you will want at the least three times as much space as for Bantams.
For many breeds of chickens, you need a minimum of 3 square feet of space for each adult chicken. This is the minimum amount of room which you will want within the chicken coop itself. Should you be raising solely Bantams, this specific requirement can be lowered. However for all other birds it is a minimal.
For the floor we cover the bales with layers of cardboard and the keep adding loose straw to the floor to absorb the poop some times I might put down a sprinkling of sawdust to "freshen"up the place.
We also have good ventilation.....an absolute must.
The straw floor is pretty deep by the end of the winter, we can only let our chickens out end of may, so they have had nearly 7 months inside. The chicken floor the is cleared out to the compost pile along with the sheep flooring and left to break down for a year or two...perfect.
We make sure they get a god diet and lots of clean unfrozen water, oh yes and a few items in the room to keep them interestd! eg; hang a cabbage from the ceiling so they can jump up to it, a branch with little seed balls or. or just a bale of strw that they can peck apart!
Protection from the wind and ventilation is more important than insulation. The chickens have a good insulating layer of feathers. We leave our coops open so the birds can go in and out in all but the worst (below -25°F) weather. Even then, building a sun room off the coop takes care of that.
One is an earth berm design. The other is a portable design that is parked for the winter and surrounded by straw bales.
Oh, we're in the mountains of northern Vermont. It is very windy. It can get down to -45°F although this year it has just gotten down to -16°F, thankfully. If the chickens can survive outside here they will do fine most anywhere.
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
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We are in upstate New York and raise Red Stars and White Leghorns. We built the chicken houses ourselves and put them on skids so we can move them around often. We produce about 21 dozen a week, well more than what we need. It sure makes our friends and other family members happy. In regards to insulation, we use reflective insulation very successfully and have no problems with the animals. We do not require heat in the winter other than maybe a heat lamp in severe conditions. The summer months the buildings stay cooler. I buy 100' rolls from this company. Product doesn't cost much and have used it elsewhere wrapping my pumps for wells and inside my horse stables.
ediblecities Hatfield wrote:Everything is said, but never insulate your chicken coop with the white insulation stuff (you might have the idea to reuse fruit or other packaging). Because they like eating it and I guess it is not very healthy for the birds.
Hoop Coop and winter pics added
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