Good ventilation in the chicken coop brings in fresh air without causing windy conditions. Ventilation is important for many reasons. So, too, avoid drafts. Today we’ll explore the importance of barn ventilation, as well as how to determine if your barn is over-ventilated or under-ventilated.
Reasons for good ventilation
The chicken coop needs good ventilation for these important reasons:
- Fresh air reduces microbial populations, especially those that cause airborne diseases.
- It also removes suspended dust particles that can cause respiratory problems in chickens.
- Proper air circulation reduces humidity inside the coop.
- Reducing humidity reduces heat stress during the warm summer months.
- Reducing moisture helps prevent sore combs and wattles in the winter.
- Good ventilation reduces ammonia fumes concentrated in the barn.
Reduce heat stress
Humidity tends to be particularly high in the chicken coop. This is because chickens breathe quickly. When the temperature exceeds the hen’s comfort zone, she will breathe more rapidly.
Panting reduces the chicken’s body heat through evaporation. The bird inhales air that is cooler than its body temperature. Air circulates through the chicken’s respiratory system. The exhaled warm air is full of moisture.
When panting isn’t enough, the chicken increases evaporation by rapidly vibrating its throat muscles. This technique is known as loop flutter.
As the environment temperature approaches the chicken’s body temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit, moisture also evaporates from the surface of the chicken’s body. But air can only accept so much moisture.
If the ambient humidity is already high, the air can take no more. The high air temperature is generally considered to be 95 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when the humidity is above 65%, an air temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit can be uncomfortable for the flock.
Good air circulation inside the coop reduces moisture in the air. Therefore, it helps chickens avoid heat stress in hot weather.
The warm air trapped in the flying feathers helps keep the chickens warm in the winter. However, the draft moves the warm air, causing the chicken to feel cold. But good ventilation is just as important in winter as it is in summer.
Relative humidity tends to be lower in the winter months. However, the air inside the chicken coop can be high in humidity, just from flock breathing and defecation.
When humidity is high, the air trapped in a chicken’s feathers is moist. Therefore, the chicken’s body needs to generate additional thermal energy to stay warm. Or, again, the chicken will get cold.
Temperatures low enough to freeze moisture in the air can cause chicken combs, wattles, and toes to freeze. Therefore frostbite is more likely to occur in damp dwellings than in dry dwellings.
By reducing moisture in the air, good ventilation without a draft helps chickens stay warm in the winter. It also helps prevent frostbite in combs, wattles and toes.
Hold a strip of masking tape or tissue paper in the roosting area to determine if your coop is windswept. If the tape or paper moves while you’re stationary, the hanger is too wide. Good ventilation, unlike ventilating, does not necessarily arouse the breeze.
Increase air flow
Ventilation involves a constant exchange of air as stale air exits the barn and fresh air enters. If moisture builds up on barn windows, ventilation is insufficient.
One way to ventilate a barn is through windows, which can be opened fully or partially, or closed depending on the weather. Another method is to cut ventilation holes in the walls, tightly covered with ventilation logs or rags. To provide ventilation without aeration, make sure the vents are higher than the chicken roost. A dome in a barn roof is another option.
Or you may need a fan to get stale air out and let fresh air in. For a fan that can withstand the dust and humidity of a barn, check out a farmhouse store or a country-oriented builder’s supply. Or search for a keyword for “barn fan” or “agricultural fan”.
So how do you know your barn will benefit from a fan? Put on a dusk mask. Then stir up the dust by scuffing your foot in the litter. Wait 5 minutes for the dust to settle. Then look at the beam of light coming through the window, or use a powerful flashlight beam to scan the air. If dust is still suspended in the air, the barn is not well ventilated.
As old people are fond of saying, “Build your barn tightly, and vent properly.”
And that’s today’s news from Cackle Coop.
Gil Damero is the author of The Chicken Health Handbook.