Coop Ventilation Woes

The snow hasn’t stopped coming. We haven’t had a thaw. Is this what it’s like to live in Hobbit-land during the winter?


This sort of weather poses challenges to the flock owner, but perhaps not what you think. This morning when Steve let the animals out (thank you for doing that chore!) it was -6° F. The cold isn’t going to directly harm the Girls. The hens are eating, drinking, active and showing no signs of cold stress (no shivering, no frostbite.)

If you’ve read my blog for any time at all, you know that three things are required to keep your hens healthy: plenty of space, sunshine and good ventilation. All of those are compromised because of the snow.

The run has been shoveled as best we can, but It’s down to a fifth of its normal area. Because the hens are crowded, I add extra bedding, and keep them from getting bored with treats in the suet feeder. My hens have good-sized coops with plenty of roosting bars. That keeps the pecking pressure reduced, as well.

The hens continue to go outside, but we’ve had far too few brightly sunny days. The piles of snow block the light that there is. And now, there’s another issue. The coop is darker than it usually is because the windows are iced over.



Interior icing is due to too much moisture in the air – it comes from the hens’ breathing and from the water in their manure. Just because the poop is frozen doesn’t mean that it’s not contributing to damp in the barn. The Little Barn has excellent ventilation. It has a working cupola. Air comes in the pop door and flows up and out through this effective vent at the roof. But, right now, that cupola is covered in snow.

blocked cupola


Someone has to get up there, on a ladder, with a broom, and clear it off. Someone. Not me. Thanks, Steve! I suppose he can wait until the snowstorm that is coming on Monday passes by. After it dumps another foot of snow.

In the meanwhile, the temperature hovers in the single digits, but the door is open during the day.

open door


The hens are fine with that.

inside coop


  1. The bright red door is such a cheery sight in that sea of white! Even so, I am sure you must think twice about bundling up in all the gear and gingerly heading out through the snow and over the icy paths out to care for your expectant creatures. Watching your hens this a.m. is reassuring on just how well they adjust to change when their basic needs are met. I guess us humans are much the same… carry on….Spring will be a welcome change when it finally shows itself. :)

  2. Good to know that the girls and goat boys are fine in the cold snowy weather you’ve been having! Today we are getting our first rain since before Xmas. We tried letting our girls out this morning for some free-range time but they stayed in their run. Must have been too windy outside. I’ll give them a bunch of kale tomorrow to take their mind off being cooped up.

  3. From my California perspective, this just seems overwhelming. I admire you-all’s ability to keep calm and carry on! That includes the hens! I have such a warped view of living in snow—I just assumed all those 4-foot piles would eventually melt away, soak into the ground, or run off into the street or the woods. But yesterday I heard on the radio that New England actually has SNOW FARMS, where the plowed snow is loaded onto trucks like garbage and hauled off to these farms where it is piled up again and “stored” until spring. It makes perfect sense, but I’m nonethless having a very hard time trying to wrap my head around this while tending my hens in 70 degree weather. Hang in there!

    • Sue, we will gladly trade out 4 feet of snow for some of you warm temps. It was minus 19f here this morning.

    • 70 degrees?! Can’t even remember what that feels like.

  4. And there goes Lily, trudging up the path to the big barn…I wonder what she’s thinking (we already know what Scooter thinks of such excursions)!

  5. I love seeing the snow pile up….it looks beautiful…..and your town is a good place for it, better you than me…..I like snow, but constant cold on top of it? …too much for me….take care and keep the pics coming

  6. Hope you get it sorted okay, just checked your weather for next 7 days no let up coming. Really feel for you guys, please keep safe and warm. ( Positive thoughts, positive thoughts it will get better ) lol

    • Bit concerned 5.40 on your time and dark, Phoebe’s still outside her eyes shine like cats eye’s quite spooky ,she’s usually gone in by now.

  7. Sort of off the subject, but what diameter are your roosting poles? Currently mine are square with rounded off top edges and about 1-1/2″. I think my flock of 6 will like round better. Good luck with the rest of the winter. Your chickens are so adorable and hearty. I am in So. California and do not have the challenges you do with the weather. I enjoy checking in with your flock daily. Love your posts! Wish I was closer so I could come to your groups. They sound amazing! Oh! I have an 8 month old Speckled Sussex that started to limp a bit. I think she injured it because she’s so active. I gave her an Epsom salt bath yesterday and she still has a hitch in her gait. She is eating and acting normal otherwise. Any ideas?

  8. If February give much snow, a fine summer it doth foreshow.
    – The Old Farmer’s Almanac
    Sounds like you’ll have a fine summer, indeed!

    • That’s a nice thought. Actually, snow cover is excellent for the garden as it insulates, whereas cold and ice burns. Also, in dry climes, snow is what supplies the water for the summer. Here, alas, what it means is an extra-long mud season :)

      • I hear ya. Here in the Texas Panhandle, we often have just three seasons: Summer, Winter and Thaw.

  9. Our son lives in Maine and gets even more snow than we do. He uses a snow rake to clear his roof — no ladders needed. It’s awkward because it has such a long handle, but much safer than ladders. Placing a ladder in the snow is really tricky.

  10. Picture a Sat morning, under quilts, reading blogs, arguing with your beloved about who will leave the quilt to let the chickens out. Thanks Steve, for tipping the scales in my direction! Signed, a warm and cozy wife.

  11. Glad to see the boys and girls outside for a while. My granddaughter asked me to get an update on Tonka if you have time, she is mad on horses. Great pics of him in the snow. Thanks

  12. Hi Terry, 4.00 am your time snowing heavy, had hoped you would have a break until Monday. Seems so unfair our girls are wandering around in bright sunshine ( wish I could send you some ). Never makes sense when you look at a map and you are in line with Portugal/Spain and we are higher. I know its all to do with curve of earth etc, but still seems wrong. Keep warm and safe. lol

  13. Thank you for sharing your info & beautiful photos. Keep warm!

  14. I’m watching it snow on your cam…again! The snow covered barns look so beautiful but several feet of snow is no fun to deal with on a daily basis I’m sure. You are a pro though. Hang in there, Spring is a few weeks away :)

    • Tonka agrees that spring is on its way – he’s shedding! So now he has to wear his heavyweight blanket. Snow up to his belly.

  15. I saw this morning on the news you were getting another foot. Not sure what to say…sorry…hang in there…good grief…
    I hate to tell you it was almost 70 degrees here both Saturday and Sunday. But back to normal this week.

  16. Oh Terry I keep checking your cam in the mornings and cannot believe how much snow you are getting. We were in the 80s here in the land of no weather in So. Calif. It just seems like another world where you are. You will have to let us know how much in total you have recvd this year.

  17. Terry, I was cleaning our greenhouse ready to start growing next month when I had a thought, we have some really dark days in spring so use our sun glow lights when needed. Could you use these for 3/4 hours a day in the hen barns while snow is blocking your sunlight they are easy to use and work well??

    • I’m sure that would be an excellent light, however I try to limit the things plugged into my coop – the air is dusty and there’s always a risk of fire. In any event, what we’re experiencing here is a weather anomaly (hopefully!) – a once in a hundred years amount of snow. We’ll muddle through.