Chicken Coop Insulation and Ventilation Options

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Now that winter is officially here, if you haven’t already (and you really should have done by now!) you need to look at your chicken coop insulation and ventilation. This is a place where everyone seems to ‘know’ the answer and yet there are a lot of wrong answers. I’m hoping to clear up some of the confusion in this area for everyone. There are a few things that you MUST do.

Have a DRY coop

Currently a good portion of the US is rainy and wet and expected to stay so for a few months. Add cold to that and you can have some very unhealthy chickens.

The cold, wet air can encourage illnesses of the head and lungs such as flu, cold, bronchitis, cough, or some of the more ‘official’ sounding chicken diseases like coryza (a bacterial cold bug). But more than just illnesses, the damp conditions will breed a horde of fungi and molds that can be very dangerous or even fatal for your flock. To prevent this, start by removing anything that can serve as a breeding ground for mold or fungus inside the coop.

  • Hay and straw usually come with their own types of molds and fungi so if they start to get damp, scrape and dump it. In wet weather I usually don’t even bother putting it in the coop to begin with.
  • Water dishes that have been repeatedly filled but never washed. Slimy mold tends to build up and then the hens are actively drinking it. Yuck.
  • In places where it is often rainy (like the Pacific Northwest) or has a long rainy season (Florida and the low areas) it’s best to make a coop that does not have insulation between the walls because unless you spray it with nasty chemicals that can outgas into your coop, it’s going to get damp and because of lack of air circulation it will stay damp which turns into mold and mildew. Possibly even the dreaded black mold that is guaranteed to get into the lungs of your flock and YOU!


So let’s say that in the summer your coop has good airflow, catches the breezes just right, and stays nice and dry even in the rain. Your hens are happy and productive, giving you a lot of eggs because you also give them good feed and access to fresh water and insects.

Then winter comes . . .

This same coop that worked so well during the summer months becomes a nightmare. It doesn’t keep the drafts out completely. The plastic you put up over it catches the wind and frequently rips pieces of the coop or blows away. Your hens are freezing cold and huddled together so tightly that you don’t think you could pry them apart with a stick. The water is frozen in the dish.

What do you do?


So your hens are warm and cozy. They’ve snuggled up together against a big hay bale to keep warm and there are enough hens to generate heat that prevents them from getting cold in the 20F temperatures outside. But the air grows moist from a combination of spilled water, ammonia fumes from the chicken waste, and no ventilation. Soon the hay bale wilts and the fungal spores start to grow from inside. Even the walls themselves are growing mold and mildew from the moist conditions. The chickens start to get sick from the damp, moldy air and the fumes from their own waste.

Or you could take those warm, cozy hens you started with and keep them that way by making sure there is a good airflow from bottom to top (cool air comes in on the bottom and carries away the air that is too moist or too warm up through the roof). You can use hay bales if you want, but keep in mind that they carry a lot of fungi and molds so it’s critical to keep the air the perfect balance between moist and dry or you’ll have problems. We’ve already explored how the the temperature variations can cause problems, as well as the moisture, but try taking some additional steps to keep your flock safe in the very likely event that you aren’t perfect and will never have the perfect balance of temperature and moisture.

  • When you do seasonal cleaning, spray the walls with a light solution of vinegar and lemon, lavender, or thyme oil (thyme oil was the original Lysol…). This will help prevent mold and mildew.
  • Paint the interior of your coop at seasonal cleaning time with mold and mildew resistant paint. They have a low VOC paint that is safe for animals and humans.
  • Put a couple of drops of apple cider vinegar in your chicken water to help combat mold or fungal growth where the water gets spilled.
  • Stay on top of chicken waste, especially in the winter.
  • If you serve your flock a hot mash or peelings for a treat, make sure they eat it all and if they don’t make sure it’s cleaned out of the coop within two days.

There are several options for insulation that work for coops depending on your needs. If you live in a hot, dry area then the type of insulation you need is drastically different from someone who lives in a cold, damp climate.

HOT & DAMP (Florida, Coastal South, etc) Insulation isn’t needed, but ventilation is a must to prevent mold and fungus.
HOT & DRY (Southwest US) Insulation isn’t needed as much. Focus on keeping flock hydrated.
COLD (or COOL) & DAMP (Pacific Southwest) Light insulation since temperatures rarely go below 25F. Ventilation is important to prevent illness, mold, and fungus.
COLD & DRY (Midwest states) Insulation required, ventilation type depends on amount of chickens in coop. May need additional heat source, but usually a heated water dish will provide enough warmth unless you have very few chickens or a very large coop.
EXTREME COLD (Upper Midwest, Canada) Insulation required, ventilation depends on amount of chickens in coop. Will certainly need additional heat source.

Roll insulation works really well, but to prevent mold problems inside the walls where I can’t see it, I like to use a safe roll insulation like bamboo or recycled denim. I’m not really concerned that way if the hens peck at it a little. Just staple it up on the walls, then cover the walls with cut to fit chicken wire or micromesh

Photo by: fishermansdaughter

How To Find Cheap and Free Construction Materials (for any purpose!)

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So we’ve all been there: money is tight, but we have big plans to help our family with various projects (such as chicken coops). We look at the costs involved for the building supplies and we think to ourselves ‘we just can’t afford this right now!’

Paying attention to detail

This type of negative thinking prevents a lot of people from fulfilling their dreams of building gardens, sheds, chicken coops, and even just regular ol’ home improvement projects. Below I have outlined several tips and suggestions for getting around that so you can move to the construction phase of your big ideas quickly and easily.

    1. ASK for cheaper wood! Go to a lumber yard and speak to the manager or owner. You can also call, but the old saying ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ so they’re going to see a potential customer RIGHT in front of them and be more willing to play Let’s Make A Deal than if you call. Ask them if there is any hardwood or construction lumber they would like to sell quickly and cheaply. Be careful with wood marked as ‘infested’. If you get wood which is marked as this, generally it can be frozen or sealed to kill any bugs in it, but I wouldn’t risk it personally. Check for insect activity before purchasing. Generally a smart manager will give you a good deal on wood they can’t sell for various reasons. And if you happen to run into a not-so-smart manager . . . move on. There are a million lumber yards so don’t waste your time. Most managers and owners know that you’re really doing THEM the favor by taking that wood off of their hands. It would cost more for them to dispose of it and this way they’re not losing as much money. It’s a two-way partnership.


    1. A lot of people will turn their noses up at wood that has knot holes and imperfections in it so ask for wood that people have returned (this works for lumber yards as well as your major hardware stores). It’s generally still good wood, but it didn’t meet their high standards of ‘pretty’. Sometimes entire bundles will be marked as rustic or second grade lumber when in reality only a few pieces on the top are imperfect. Other people’s snobbery is your gain!


    1. Don’t be a jerk. No one wants to talk to or give anything to a person who has a chip on their shoulder or an entitled attitude. Take a page from my wife’s book of Southern Charm and eat a spoonful of sugar before talking to anyone about getting free or cheap items. A pleasant tone of voice and a friendly smile goes a long way toward getting what you want in a subjective agreement that is usually off the books.


    1. Check the dumpsters around places under construction or behind hardware/lumber stores. I don’t recommend actually going inside the dumpster, but good items are generally left right there either on top or in front of dumpsters frequently. Think I’m joking? Years ago when I worked for a well-known hardware store chain that begins with L, we often threw away entire stained-glass doors, sheets of drywall that was missing a corner, charcoal grills, tons of good lumber, a million and one old wood pallets that could be used for a ton of things, and many items that came back from deliveries since we had a policy of removing the old appliances when delivering new ones. Many things were demos that we couldn’t actually sell so we had to throw them away! And when doing construction, companies will often purchase more than they need and the rest gets tossed. Just finding places to go ‘cruising around’ will be worth the weight in gold later. Things like this really irritate me because Western culture is so focussed on the ‘bigger is better’ mentality that good items are thrown away. It’s wasteful, but you can benefit from that and so can your chickens! The best part is that almost no one can tell that you got something from next to a dumpster unless you tell them so if you’re still nervous about keeping up appearances, don’t be.


    1. Visit the recycling center in your area and question them about construction items or other bits and pieces which may work for you. Old doors and windows, etc. Usually this stuff is free for the taking and almost any plan or blueprint you read can be adjusted easily to accommodate a recycled window or door instead of building one from scratch.


    1. Freecycle and Cheapcycle are both great groups to join on yahoogroups. Check out the rules for your local group, but usually you can both browse the ads and then post your own want ad for things you’re looking for.Craigslist has a dubious reputation these days, but if you follow basic safety rules you can generally sniff out great deals. People often want things picked up for free instead of paying to have it taken to the dump so they’ll happily give you extra construction items they no longer need. Just look for ads or post one of your own there.Need cheap paint? Go to any paint store or major hardware store and ask where they keep the mistakes. People often not only return paint because it isn’t exactly the right color for them, but the mixers also make mistakes sometimes, too. So it’s just a matter of sorting through their shelf to find what you want. When I do this I make a note on an index card of what type of paint finish it is, what brand, and then dip half the card and dry it so if I want to go back and get that exact same color again I have a paint chip for a color match with all the information on it. It worked great when I was repainting our daughter’s bedroom!


    1. Look for ads where people are wanting old barns torn down. You might not even have to do all the work, but you can sometimes lend a hand in exchange for as much of the wood as you can carry. The wood is generally older and well-seasoned so it’s great to use for chicken coops, garden sheds, and dog houses!


Until later,


2 Awesome Chicken Coops Built Using Our Plans…

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Quite often we receive emails from happy customers who have used one of our plans to build a chicken coop (and saved tons of money in the process)…

Today I’m going to show you images, sent in by two of our customers, of two absolutely beautiful chicken coops so you can see what our coops can look like in real life…

Check out these coops that were built using our Gambrel Chicken Barn plan here below…

This coop was built by James using our Gambrel Chicken Barn Design
This coop was built by James using our Gambrel Chicken Barn Design
Here’s the same coop as above but from a different angle.
Here’s the same coop as above but from a different angle.

Here’s an image, sent in by Gretchen Evans, of his coop that was also built using our Gambrel Chicken Barn plan…

Gretchen Evans chicken coop
Here’s what Gretchen said in his email to us: “Just wanted to send you a photo of my chicken coop. I used the Gambel design – just “super-sized” it!


…And here’s the plan they both used to build these beautiful coops:










The Gambrel Chicken Barn is a coop designed to accomodate a medium sized flock of 10-20 chickens. It could come as a kit for as much as $5000.00! Depending on the

materials used, to build this coop costs less than $1000! With such
easy clean-up in the design, why would anyone ever pay six times as much
and still have to put in the work?

Click here right now to sign up as a member and get instant access to the Gambrel Chicken Barn Plan and our complete collection of 19 carefully designed chicken coops!

Every plan comes with:
– Full color plans, ready to print
– 2 measurement metrics (cm/m & feet/inches)
– Step-by-step-instructions
– Complete lists of materials & tools needed

Check out all plans here