Well, we actually did it! We tried the open air coop method for the winter to date and so far it is a huge success! We started out slow (one day at a time) because we weren't sure if it really was a good idea or how our chickens would react. But after only a few weeks we realized they were way healthier than ever before despite the fact that it had reached temperatures below freezing!
Ok, so what is an "open air" coop? Well, actually, the idea is that the coop is basically left open for fresh air all year long. Rather than just having a vent (which we do have at the front and the back), the coop is literally left open even through the winter.
For our coop (pictured above) we simply just left the inside coop door open all winter (you can't see this door - the screen door you see would actually be closed every night to keep predators out). The little inside door faces south, but is in the shade so really doesn't get as much sunlight as we would have liked. It didn't matter though. The chicken coop was full of great fresh air and the chickens (five of them) shared a perch of 4 feet wide that is just above the inside door opening. They easily kept each other toasty warm on the perch each night!
Our girls are more healthy than ever before! Normally over the winter their combs (on top of their heads) would look pale and sickly. Their feathers would not look healthy and full. Not this year! They are absolutely thriving, and I believe they are even happier!
The reason we think this method was so successful is the decreased moisture content and increased fresh oxygen. Normally we would close the coop up each night and all the exhaling done by the chickens would stay inside the little 4 x 4 house with them. This would create a moist environment with high concentrations of carbonic acid (they exhale this) - neither of which is healthy for the hens.
Of course, I don't know what the results would be should the temperature go below zero degrees, however according to the book "Fresh-Air Poultry Houses" it still shouldn't be a problem! In fact, this book provided the general concept of a open air coop to start with and was my inspiration to give it a try! It's a great book and well worth the read!
Our future hen house will definitely be designed with this fresh-air concept in mind!
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Welcome! I'm Kathie, an educated, happily married mother and step-mother to four adult children. I wholeheartedly believe in creating and living a simpler, happier, and healthier life in this stressful and modern world! I work at creating a simpler life in ways that are as economically wise and environmentally conscious as possible. Please join me on my journey:-)