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Posted: 4/3/2013 7:42:10 AM EDT
My wife and I both grew up on rural properties, but have been suburbanites for the better part of the past two to three decades. We decided we wanted to get back to our rural roots so we just bought a home on eight acres in a rural farm area. Move in date is May 10th! I grew up with a substantial chicken coop on my parents land, and my dad has been a wealth of information on the subject, but there was one question he couldn't answer - coop construction in a state that gets snow and cold weather. He raised chickens in sunny and warm southern California, and never had to deal with the cold or snow. The home we bought is in western Wisconsin (currently we live in Minnesota) which can see some cold negative temps in the winter and can receive lots of snow. I'd like to build a chicken coop soon after we move in, and Google has been helpful for looking at designs, but I'd like to know if there are any build considerations I need to consider for living in a state that can see temps dip down to negative twenty with loads of snow.

Thanks!
Link Posted: 4/3/2013 8:40:06 AM EDT
This is the coop we built but downsized it to an 8 x 10 by dropping the storage area.  http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/our_offices/departments/Biological_Ag_Engineering/Features/Extension/Building_Plans/poultry/housing/Poultry+House+10+X+12.htm  There are some other designs at the site and the material lists make it helpful.

The shed roof design should help shed the snow and is low enough to use a roof rake or shovel if necessary.  The roof has 2 X 6 rafters which could be upgraded if you felt it was necessary.  You could also increase the pitch of the roof.  

We insulated and drywalled ours to help in the winter.  The design has good ventilation with the open but screened soffits.  We just stuff some insulation in there to adjust the airflow in the winter.
Link Posted: 4/3/2013 11:14:19 AM EDT
Do you have a barn on the property already?

Link Posted: 4/3/2013 11:40:54 AM EDT
Originally Posted By EightySecond:
Do you have a barn on the property already?


We do. It is a 40' x 60' barn, with two very nice box horse stalls in one corner. We will be adding two more horse stalls next year to accommodate more horses. I'd prefer the chicken coop be outside the barn.
Link Posted: 4/3/2013 11:44:15 AM EDT




Originally Posted By godzillamax:



Originally Posted By EightySecond:

Do you have a barn on the property already?





We do. It is a 40' x 60' barn, with two very nice box horse stalls in one corner. We will be adding two more horse stalls next year to accommodate more horses. I'd prefer the chicken coop be outside the barn.
Well if you should change your mind, here are some interior ideas.  It gets extremely cold here too and that was part of the reasoning of why I did it.  



http://www.ar15.com/forums/t_1_5/1443730_I_m_Making_a_Chicken_Coop_Inside_My_Barn___UPDATED___3_19___Now_with_Meat_Bird_Coop_Addition.html
Link Posted: 4/3/2013 3:03:22 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/24/2013 1:13:41 PM EDT by Scarpa]
Tag for info
Link Posted: 4/3/2013 3:11:36 PM EDT
I'm in VA but we get temps in the teens here, and I'm right on the water. I insulated my coop with R-13 and interior OSB walls and ceiling. Chickens can tolerate cold MUCH more than they can heat. You can choose especially cold- hardy varieties for your area. Please remember this: When you build perches (or roosts) for them, don't use very thin or round wood for it. Use wider wood, like 1x3,  2x3 or 2x4" lumber. Their toes won't freeze on the wider perches because their body will keep them warm. Chicken toes curled on curved roosts leave them exposed to freezing temps.
Link Posted: 4/3/2013 4:53:09 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/3/2013 4:57:02 PM EDT by iasc300ia]
I live just south of you in Iowa, what we did is just picked up a used shed and set it up. All we did was disassemble it and put it back together. I added windows for ventilation though.
We get a ton of snow here too and its just fine.
Here are some pictures of the coop and run.




The shed will keep the chickens warm enough,  we do have an electric heater hanging inside with a built in light because the wife sells the eggs at work, so we have the lights and heat for egg production.
I dont know how many chicks your planning on having but this hold 50 chickens and could easily hold more.
I highly suggest you dont put a coop indoors. You barn will stick to high heaven, attract bugs and rodents.
Link Posted: 4/3/2013 7:16:45 PM EDT
Open air coop:


There is absolutely no heat/electricity or insulation.  The big window on the front and the wide narrow window above are open--only covered with hardware cloth.

We're northern MN, the coldest I saw this winter was -39, and we got probably better than 4 Ft of snow (officially 53 inches)

The hens have been fine



Remember, they're chickens, not humans. Being as they are covered with feathers, their shelter needs are quite different. Most importantly, they need ventilation/fresh air. A closed up/heated coop makes meeting that need difficult
Link Posted: 4/3/2013 11:46:04 PM EDT
just get cold hardy birds and youll be fine. Worry less about the birds, and more about convienience and ease of upkeep for yourself throughout the winter.
Link Posted: 4/4/2013 5:59:15 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/4/2013 6:00:38 AM EDT by godzillamax]
Originally Posted By iasc300ia:
I live just south of you in Iowa, what we did is just picked up a used shed and set it up. All we did was disassemble it and put it back together. I added windows for ventilation though.
We get a ton of snow here too and its just fine.
Here are some pictures of the coop and run.
The shed will keep the chickens warm enough,  we do have an electric heater hanging inside with a built in light because the wife sells the eggs at work, so we have the lights and heat for egg production.
I dont know how many chicks your planning on having but this hold 50 chickens and could easily hold more.

Not many. It will just be my wife and our two kids, who are only 7 and 8 yrs of age. So at the moment we don't consume a lot of eggs, but as kids grow they eat you out of house and home. I was thinking of starting small, with just 3-4 hens, but want room to grow.

Originally Posted By iasc300ia:I highly suggest you dont put a coop indoors. You barn will stick to high heaven, attract bugs and rodents.


Sound advice. I remember the coop my folks had when I was a kid (had a few dozen chickens). Stank to high heaven.
Link Posted: 4/4/2013 6:02:16 AM EDT
A worthwhile investment in your time would be to read this book on open air coops.



http://www.nortoncreekpress.com/fresh-air-poultry-houses2.html



As others have stated, chickens handle cold weather just fine.  The worst thing you can do for them is build housing as if people would live there.  They are chickens - they have different needs than people. DO NOT shut the coop up tight and add a heater.  They need lots of ventilation.  Read the book.  ( it can also be found online for free )



Open air coops for good chicken health.




Link Posted: 4/4/2013 7:49:07 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 4/4/2013 2:11:57 PM EDT by loon_138]
Originally Posted By godzillamax:
Originally Posted By iasc300ia:
I live just south of you in Iowa, what we did is just picked up a used shed and set it up. All we did was disassemble it and put it back together. I added windows for ventilation though.
We get a ton of snow here too and its just fine.
Here are some pictures of the coop and run.
The shed will keep the chickens warm enough,  we do have an electric heater hanging inside with a built in light because the wife sells the eggs at work, so we have the lights and heat for egg production.
I dont know how many chicks your planning on having but this hold 50 chickens and could easily hold more.

Not many. It will just be my wife and our two kids, who are only 7 and 8 yrs of age. So at the moment we don't consume a lot of eggs, but as kids grow they eat you out of house and home. I was thinking of starting small, with just 3-4 hens, but want room to grow.

Originally Posted By iasc300ia:I highly suggest you dont put a coop indoors. You barn will stick to high heaven, attract bugs and rodents.


Sound advice. I remember the coop my folks had when I was a kid (had a few dozen chickens). Stank to high heaven.


The fresh air ventialation helps greatly in reducing the smell as well.  my coop hasnt smelled foul yet. in fact it always seems dry and relatively fresh, considering how filthy chickens are

eta better coop pic:
Link Posted: 4/4/2013 1:32:53 PM EDT

Not many. It will just be my wife and our two kids, who are only 7 and 8 yrs of age. So at the moment we don't consume a lot of eggs, but as kids grow they eat you out of house and home. I was thinking of starting small, with just 3-4 hens, but want room to grow.

I would go as big as your comfortable, the more room the better for chickens, and in the future you wont have to mess with expanding anthing.
Link Posted: 4/4/2013 2:11:39 PM EDT
Northern NY here, on the Canadian border, in USDA Zone 3.  We regularly see -20, with occasional overnight dips down to -40F.  And we get lake effect snow, so 12" in a night is not infrequent.  

I've kept chickens here, under these conditions, for nearly a decade.  Zero losses, and no issues. I have a coop with attached run and the birds have freedom to use either much of the year.  Once snow starts flying (usually early November) I simply close the door to the run, and keep the birds confined inside for the winter months.  I'll open the run in March/April.  They do fine, without issues, in an enclosed, unisulated coop.  Mine is simply a 5x13 leanto shed type structure that is built on the side of an existing garage.  It has windows, which are closed in winter, a roof vent, and eaves vents.  Ideally, you need ventilation but NOT drafts.

In addition you can go a long way by selecting cold hardy birds.  These are typically smaller combed birds.  I've done quite well with Buff orpingtons, Barred Rocks, Wyandottes, and red sex links.  All over winter in confinement without problems. The secret is having sufficient floor space for the birds.  In my case, I have about 75 square feet for 6 birds -  way more than needed.  

As for design, it need not be a big deal.  Your biggest issue is snow load.  Your roofing members are going to be dependent on span and spacing and do a lesser degree roof slope and material.  If its a flat roof, snow will pile up.  2x6 on 16" centers will do fine for the typical 6 foot shed span, and will do fine for your coop too.  You may be able to push that spacing to 24" if its a sloped roof with metal roofing (where snow will slide off and not pile up).

Link Posted: 4/24/2013 7:33:22 PM EDT
Good stuff.
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