The Efficiently Heated Chicken Coop
Having grown up farming, Dennis and Dianna Westphal were no strangers to the joys of raising chickens. After 20 years or so without them, Dennis decided in the spring of 2013 to build a coop and try his hobby anew near their Wisconsin home.
So what’s the big deal? Another Midwesterner builds another chicken coop. Cluck, cluck. Thrift and resourcefulness are part of this Midwesterner’s background. Using all found materials on the farm, he built his 11-foot by 4.5-foot by 5-foot high coop and added some pretty special features.
This coop is built on a frame that Dennis welded from found parts. The wheels come from a John Deer Grain Binder from the late 1940s, painted John Deere green.
The frame of the coop is built from ash lumber that Dennis and Dianna cut out of their woods and milled themselves into lumber. It is insulated with 3.5-inch bats of fiberglass insulation.
Dianna wanted an easy system for maintenance and keeping the coop clean, so the couple lined the coop with plywood. On the floor they used an old plastic tarp. When it is time to clean, they are able to just fold the sides in and slide the whole floor out the coop door. Then they are able to neatly fold the tarp and take it right to the garden to dump for instant compost and an instantly clean coop.
In mid-summer, Dennis came up with a way to keep the chickens comfortable without spending a dime (apart from a $26 duct fan found at a hardware store).
“The idea just popped into my head,” Dennis explained. The home has a basement surrounded on three sides with Earth, the west side being open to the driveway.
Dennis butted the coop up to the west wall of the basement for the winter. He cut a 6-inch hole into the top of the basement wall. Using two duct work elbows, a path is created to allow air to flow from the self-regulated 55-degree basement into the coop. The coop is built with ventilation around the far door. With the duct work fan mounted inside the duct pipe coming from the house basement, a continual temperate stream of air is able to flow from the house basement through the coop and out the far door of the coop, keeping the air fresh and the chickens comfortable.
It is trouble free, says Dennis, adding: “If a person had to leave overnight, the water would not freeze even in a cold Wisconsin winter.”
On a 20-degree day, the coop stays right around 45 degrees, and during the harshest cold of the past winter when the thermometer hovered at negative 30, the coop stayed at 34 degrees.
A heating duct in the coop, away from where the birds could burn themselves.
Apart from the initial cost of the duct fan, Dennis and Diana don’t spend a dime on keeping their flock of Icy Browns comfy. These animal lovers have even built a bench so that the grandchildren can sit and visit the chickens they have named and loved. If that weren’t enough, streaming music keep Rocky, Gloria, Stacy, Luna, Bobo and Stevefert rocking to their favorite tunes in the dark winter evenings after Grandma rings her bell and they run in for the night.
It is a low cost, environmentally friendly innovative system. And as the daughter-in-law argues, a happier chicken makes a healthier egg.