During the winter, it is very important to the flock’s health that the chicken coop remains dry. Humidity in the coop is one of the number one reasons that chickens become ill during the winter. Humidity can quickly become an issue in quite a few ways. Therefore, controlling humidity in the coop should be a winter goal for all chicken owners.
Let’s talk about humidity first. Humidity is simply how much water vapor air can hold. The lower the temperatures the less water vapor that can be held by the air. During normal temperatures in the 60s and 70s comfortable air humidity levels are usually around 40%. When heating our own homes in the winter, the humidity levels can drop causing us to become uncomfortable with dry skin and dry noses. This is typically when humidity levels dip below the 30% range. On another health note, molds, mildews and bacteria need decent humidity to survive.
I must mention that as temperatures drop the humidity, or moisture, in the air drops as well. This is why frost can sometimes occur on the inside windows of your chicken coop even though the air’s humidity is only 25%.
High humidity levels in the coop can lead to frostbite, illness and even death. This is why controlling humidity is key.
There are two ways that chickens add to or increase the air’s humidity levels.
- Normal breathing (respiration)
So what can we do about controlling humidity in the coop?
- Be sure the coop has adequate ventilation to allow the excess water vapors in the air to escape. Usually this is accomplished by placing shed vents into the eaves of the coop. As always, the coop should be draft-free.
- Check to be sure the chicken coop is not leaking. Snow, ice and rain can seep into the coop’s structure. During the winter, it is difficult for the wood to dry out. Simply having a coop that is not weatherproof can add to the air’s humidity level.
- Clean out the droppings everyday. With a kitty litter scoop, simply scoop them into a 5 gallon bucket each morning then add them to the compost pile. It takes minimal effort and time.
- If you are using the deep litter method, be sure you have the correct balance of droppings to shavings.
- Consider replacing straw with kiln-dried pine shavings. Or you can simply use a mixture of two. Pine shavings absorb moisture much better than straw.
- Winter bedding should be thick. Summer coop bedding only needs to be a couple of inches whereas winter bedding in places where temperatures regularly dip below freezing should be kept at least 6 inches deep.
- Consider using a product like Dookashi– this helps to speed up the composting process in the coop- especially during the winter. It works wonderfully when incorporated with the deep litter method.
- Do not allow snow to build up in the run. Melting snow contributes to muddy run conditions that can cause chickens to track unnecessary moisture into the coop.
- Add a roof, cover or shield your run from rain, snow and sleet.
- Consider painting the walls, roosts and nesting boxes inside your coop with a low VOC latex paint. This keeps the wood from absorbing any excess moisture that is in the air and keeps mold levels down.
Do you have any other tips that you do with your flock? Please share them in a comment below.
Disclosure: Dookashi is a sponsor of Tilly’s Nest. The thoughts I have shared in this post are all my own. I have not been paid by Dookashi to give a positive review.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest