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#1 2017-02-18 05:25:56

shaneb99
I Love A.C.E.
From: Strathmore
Registered: 2012-08-28
Posts: 1895

Fresh air poultry housing

I've been getting a news letter from Bob Plamondon and reading one of his books on chick raising.  If you're not familiar with him he writes about free range poultry and is big on looking at how chickens were raised in the 1900 - 1950 period which he calls the golden age of chickens when most poultry was raised on small farms not thousands at a time as they go now.  One of the books he's reprinted from the 1940s is about raising chickens in open fronted fresh air houses year round.  The rationale being that as long as they have shelter fresh air is more important than warmth.

This winter I unintentionally tried it.  I had about 40 roosters that were intended for dog food but I had no place to keep them in my regular fully enclosed houses so I put them in an open shelter I normally use just in summer.  This shelter is 3 sides and a roof made of heavy gauge plastic designed for covering silage.  It's 25 feet long and 10 feet deep with 2x4 roosts.  The opening faces south and its in a pretty sheltered spot.  Along 15 feet of the south side I put wood frames covered in clear plastic to act like a sort of a greenhouse effect as well as block any wind from the south but 10 feet is wide open.   So the temperature inside is the same as outside.  In January I did hang 3 heat lights when the forecast was -28c and the water pails are heated.  I only ran the lights when night time temperatures were forecast to be below -20c.   

The roosters did amazingly well in fact their overall health seems much better than the ones that are in the regular houses.  I only had 1 unexpected death, a 3 year old who pitched off the roost one night.  No respiratory problems, or lingering illnesses.  I culled 3 early on who looked like they might have had Marek's disease which I do as a matter of course anyway.  On cold days they received extra rations of fermented corn to give them more energy.  The ones that I butchered were fat and in good condition.  Some Marans suffered frost bite to their combs but less than the ones who were in regular closed houses.  I think it's moisture that is the biggest contributor to that.  The birds were active in all weather while the ones in heated houses tended to sit around inside when it was cold.

I've read discussions on other forums where people said it would only work in mild climates but I'm convinced there are definite benefits and I've opened up all the windows in my other houses.


Blue Buff and Silver Laced Brahmas plus too much other stuff to list.

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#2 2017-02-18 11:17:47

Cjones28
I Love A.C.E.
From: St-Alexandre, Quebec
Registered: 2009-09-21
Posts: 1992

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

Interesting....I keep my ducks like that and they do extremely well given that they have lots of straw to snuggle down in and heated water buckets....never tried chickens though.


Mom to 2 wonderful boys, a White Boxer, an English Mastiff, 3 cats, mixed ducks,  2 geese, 3 Bourbon Red Turkeys and many varieties of free ranging chickens -Ahhhh Life is Grand!!

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#3 2017-02-18 11:28:19

yardbirds
Administrator
From: just north of Yorkton, Sk
Registered: 2011-08-02
Posts: 9510

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

clpz  :goodpost:

Grouse, prairie chickens, pigeons, magpies, crows, cedar waxwings, sparrows, owls and a host of other "wild" birds survive and thrive in our harsh climate. 

I had one of my blue laced red wyandotte hens decide she would rather "roost" on the edge of the 2x4 framed dusting box I built on the ground in the run than perch with her sisterhood in the coop.  I discovered this one morning after a snow storm with howling winds; I had neglected to cover the doorway with the greenhouse plastic the rest of the run was covered in to provide shelter.  The entire ground inside the run was blanketed with about 3 inches of snow and there she was almost buried in snow.  I thought she was dead.  Nope, I bent over to pick her up...lifted her and brushed the snow off her as she showed her dismay and placed her inside the coop with the rest of the flock.  She suffered no damage as far as I can tell, and is still laying regularly.  It was also about -28C that morning.  She, as well as the rest of the flock, come daybreak refused to come down the ramp into the snow covered ground in the run where their feed and waterers are.  I found I had to remove as much of the snow as I could and then threw pine shavings on the ground to cover the snow so that they would venture out to feed and drink.  The only consequence of the weird winter weather this year has been the inconsistency of their laying; 6 to 8 eggs daily from 8 currently in lay birds out of a flock of 10 to 2 to 4 eggs at times from them, as well as 4 of the hens becoming broody and all sharing one nest box that the other birds tend to lay in as well...ignoring the other nest box, except for the one bcm egg that is consistently laid in the 2nd nest box.  I have tried blocking off that nest box, with the result being that 2 of the broody hens will utilize the 2nd nest box and the other 2 either wander around for the day or hollow out a makeshift nests in the shavings on the coop floor.  After the birds that are in lay have laid for the day (usually before noon) I have tried removing the broodies from the coop and emptying the coop and closing it up, leaving the birds to spend the day in the run, in an attempt to break the broodies.  I open up the coop for them to roost for the night later in the day, just before dusk, and an hour or so later, I will check and low and behold, find an egg or two in the 2nd nest box.  I find it odd that a bird will patiently wait to lay an egg in a nest box, where as others (not often) will lay the odd egg on the ground in the run if for whatever reason they do not have access to a nest box.  An example of that would be 4 broodies in the favorite nest box along with another who will lay an egg (how? I can't imagine) amongst them.  I can only imagine an egg being laid on the back of one of the broodies and slipping off her back to underneath them all.  Funny thing being with all that activity in that nest box...egg retrieval is always a surprise.  Removing the broodies one by one to retrieve any eggs.  Sometimes there will be 4 eggs in that box.  In closing, for whatever our animal husbandry techniques entail, the creatures in our care, will do what they decide to do.


Soldier of Tolerance

[ If you consider yourself a "gift" to all you share your life with....I promise you will always give your best.... ]

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#4 2017-02-18 12:45:17

confused
A.C.E. Addicted
From: Vermilion, AB
Registered: 2011-09-20
Posts: 870

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

I sort of do this with some of my peacocks. I bought a horse shelter with a tack room attached from the UFA but had them insulate the tack part. After I got  it, I put a window and smaller door behind the large door which they used. Because my door isn't very weather-proof, I can still shut the outside door when it gets really cold. I put stucco wire on the front of shelter part and cut a small door from the tack part to the shelter part. I  sort of got the idea from an old English book written in the 1800's. I found it online but can't find it again to finish it. In that case, he was using glass houses next to his chicken houses for them to exercise in. My system was all improvision and really needs to be improved on but it's working for the present. I have heat in there and a light right now but It is mostly because of the water (to keep it thawed out). I don't think they really need the heat.

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#5 2017-02-18 14:51:30

heda gobbler
I Love A.C.E.
From: Tatlayoko Lake, BC
Registered: 2009-01-26
Posts: 6874
Website

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

My turkey toms are outside all year long.  They have roosts made of old 2 by 4s and shelter from the wind but otherwise seem quite happy.  We've had weeks of -30C at night and it doesn't seem to bother them.  Very careful to keep them well fed however.  I think the geese would prefer to free range all the time but I like to close them in the barn at night because of the predators.

I like having chicken houses to keep the predators from the hens, help keep the eggs from freezing and the keep wild birds and rodents from getting in the feed.


Beltsville Small White Turkeys - White Chantecler chickens and Buckeye chickens
Highland Cattle, Shetland Sheep and Kerry cows.
www.tatlayokofold.com

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#6 2017-02-18 16:10:17

killerbunny
I Love A.C.E.
From: Brockville, Ontario
Registered: 2012-07-30
Posts: 3036

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

My turkeys are out all year too but they have  windproof shed with roosts in for night but it is never shut completely.


Mixed collection of chickens, trio of Blue Columbian Wyandottes,BSW turkeys.
RIP Lucky the Very Brave splash Wyandotte rooster.
RIP little Muppet the rescue cat.

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#7 2017-02-18 16:31:21

Hillbillyreefer
Active Member
From: EC Alberta
Registered: 2015-10-27
Posts: 220

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

In reference to tom turkeys "that boy just ain't right" (Hank Hill). During -30C weather the birds are closed up in the coop at night.  Almost every night there would be 2-3 Tom's roosting on the top rail of the metal chain link fence at lock up time.  They stayed there all night for several nights and have shown no adverse affects.


Saltwater reef tanks not pot!

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#8 2017-02-19 10:42:42

vic's chicks
A.C.E. Addicted
From: courtenay bc
Registered: 2012-02-09
Posts: 784

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

We read an old book on open air poultry houses. It made so much sense to me . When  we renovated the coop we used the specifications in the book(can't remember the title) and have been very happy. I remember that the important thing was to make distance from the front to the roosting area far enough that the air flow doesn't create a draft or allow wind to reach them when they are roosting. Something like 14 feet. The birds also love the open front which is hardware cloth that they can see through.


enjoying a small flock of chickens Barnevelders Buff Sussex, Orpingtons Barred Rocks and Wyandottes and belgian malines,  with my husband, a golden retriever,black lab , one cat. and occasionally our 4 kids , their partners, and 6 grandchildren.

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#9 2017-11-06 19:00:48

jvillads
New Here
Registered: 2015-07-20
Posts: 4

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

Wondering what the consensus is on these open-air coops? I have done bit of reading and am almost convinced that these are a good idea, I think I just need some convincing still about this design in the winter. I do not have any chickens currently but we are planning to get some in the spring and I have been looking at building an open-air style coop. I had chickens about 15 years ago, they lived in an old coop on the farm with almost no ventilation and reading into this now make me realise where my problems were coming from. Does anyone use these type of coops in Canada with any degree of success? Thanks in advance

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#10 2017-11-06 21:11:30

niglefritz
Moderator
From: western MB
Registered: 2012-02-21
Posts: 1346

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

Well, I guess it is time to say what we are using.

We used old insulated overhead garage door panels and cut them to the length we wanted. We have one panel the length of the pen as well as a structural support, and this also gives us 2 separate pens this way. A couple of wooden frames were made for the peaked roof. It has hardware cloth to the front & back. We put a heavy duty tarp over as a roof. Boards are to the one non-door end for shelter from winter winds & to keep extra snow out. This is removed in summer because it gets too hot. We add straw in the winter of course. It has worked very well for our runners, guinea fowl, & silkies. Our less expensive marans have been in a different outdoor style structure. They did well except for the big comb tips freezing as someone mentioned. No bugs seem to survive the winter.

Our layers & special birds have been in a building as shelter, but we want to see how they will do in this "outdoor" setting as well.

Our muscovies have done okay. They have a small greenhouse frame covered in a tarp. There is a south-facing window in the front. It helps with warmth to some degree and they appreciate it. It also helps us see! All tarps are dark side out...if they have a dark side. The most recent ones are silver colored.

We want to put all of our birds in a similar structure next year with a few changes. We want to experiment with hip roof style & bowed...the latter with welded panel...to better deal with snow load. We also want our front door side to the south and put a window in part of that side for taking advantage of the sun a bit more. I want a flap to secure over the front door end should we get a storm that blows from the wrong direction. I also want a skirt put around the outside to keep digging marauders (mink, rats, foxes) out. Not sure if we should lay it out around & between pens (enough to mow between) or dig down.

We have not figured out how to make a full length door yet without compromising the strength of the structure. At this point, it is at the hardware cloth height...above the door panel wall.

What I would like to find is an awesome safe heated waterer that can withstand super cold temperatures (not just -10) and a safe way to keep the eggs above freezing in a roll away nest box. Maybe I need to invent something for those eggs...what do you guys think? Is there such a thing?


FOCUS: blue JG, copper marans FUN: silkies, ameraucana, guinea, muscovy, runners, Eggs: hybrid RIR
WTB: SP SUSSEX; IR: Black, white, & fawn & white hens; Cayuga
My Daughter's Shop: feathers & more create beautiful accessories: www.etsy.com/shop/DreamOfMustangsMB ;horse;

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#11 2017-11-07 00:50:40

GalaBoys
I Love A.C.E.
From: Alberta
Registered: 2014-01-14
Posts: 2291

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

Waterer: get a rubber pail or tub. Add electric de-icer. Secure de-icer so birds can't pull it out. Done.


Gala Partridge Chanteclers - see us on facebook
Maker of chicken saddles, fan of evidence-based poultry keeping.
Vermilion Fair APA Poultry Show: July 28, 2018 - visit www.vermilionag.ca to enter
2018 St. Paul Critter Market - May 19, 2018 - find our group on facebook

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#12 2017-11-07 16:39:13

shaneb99
I Love A.C.E.
From: Strathmore
Registered: 2012-08-28
Posts: 1895

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

Last winter and again now I've housed my extra roosters, about 2 dozen, in an open shelter. Kind of like a calf shelter if you know what those look like. It's basically 3 sided with an open front and sloped roof to shed moisture. I have 2 of these. One I use in summer for growers.  Inside are 3 roosts running the length of the building which is 8 feet long.  Last winter about 1/2 way through I added a 5 foot wide X 5 foot long piece of greenhouse plastic attached to 2 poles like a tarp and leaned it against the front to give some area without snow on about half of the structure. I've added that again this year.  That gives them about 3 or 4 feet out front with little snow and that's where I throw scratch.
For water they have a 2 gallon heated bucket that I top up every morning.  They do really well and seem far healthier than the ones in the enclosed houses where the hens are. The summer grower shelter is longer and I thought about moving these roosters to it but I think the smaller building keeps them huddled together more are they stay warmer at -18c that we've had for the last week.


Blue Buff and Silver Laced Brahmas plus too much other stuff to list.

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#13 2017-11-07 16:40:35

shaneb99
I Love A.C.E.
From: Strathmore
Registered: 2012-08-28
Posts: 1895

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

My avatar picture shows a rooster sitting in that shelter last January.


Blue Buff and Silver Laced Brahmas plus too much other stuff to list.

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#14 2017-11-07 17:17:25

jvillads
New Here
Registered: 2015-07-20
Posts: 4

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

Good to hear that others are having success with this in our climate, I will proceed with building my coop in this fashion and report once I have it done. Thanks for the responses.

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#15 2017-11-08 17:01:44

KathyS
A.C.E. Addicted
From: Bashaw, Alberta
Registered: 2010-11-06
Posts: 905
Website

Re: Fresh air poultry housing

Well it's that time of year again. The ACE facebook group once again filled with posts of chickens with frozen combs, frozen feet, and even a few completely frozen, dead chickens. Other people wondering why their chickens suddenly started dying when the temps hit -20.  This always upsets me.  but I've found there is no point trying to warn people ahead of time to prepare and get their coop ready for the cold. People will find out on their own.  I've also found that there are far too many variables at play for a one-size fits all solution. One person's advice is often not adequate for his neighbour's flock made up of fewer chickens, different breed or size of chickens, a coop located in a less sheltered area, no windows to collect warmth from the sun...etc etc etc...


Hawthorn Hill Poultry
Exhibition Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Chanteclers & Rhode Island Reds

Member of APA, CHB, POAA, CFI and Cochins International

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