Condensation in coops.

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Marigold
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Condensation in coops.

Post by Marigold » Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:19 pm

This thread has developed out of a previous one, 'Rat? problem' by Mollteaser, which began as a discussion of safety measures to prevent small predators such as weasels and mink from entering runs and coops and killing or injuring chickens.This developed into a discussion of ventilation and condensation in coops, especially if they were closed up at night to keep the birds safe. I've started this new thread so anyone can post their ideas about condensation here without taking the original topic too far off course.

To recap the previous thread; Sue was worried that rats or predators might get in to her plastic Green Frog Chicken Lodge through the vents, even though the automatic pophole closes safely at night. She reported that, with 2 hens inside, this coop has a lot of condensation in the morning, so she has to leave the nestbox cover open for it to dry off. I have the identical coop, with 4 hens in it, and I leave the pophole open at the moment as the nights so far have been very mild for the time of year, well above freezing. So far, i haven't noticed any condensation in my coop. Tonight, I've shut the pophole in my coop and will report tomorrow on what difference this has made. However, last night was much colder and there was thick fog around, so not surprisingly the woodshavings in nestbox were a bit damp and there was a little condensation inside.

Chris has suggested using water-absorbing crystals in the coop, and said this had been successful in keeping some stored papers dry indoors. Also he uses microporous paint on the outside of his wooden coops, as this lets damp out whilst keeping waterproof from outside.

We'll see what the morrow will bring!
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Re: Condensation in coops.

Post by Sue » Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:42 pm

Just to add to the discussion re condensation, my other hen house is made of good quality wood with an onduline roof and also the covered run has an onduline roof. I have noticed in the last couple of days that this is absolutely dripping with condensation in the morning. Not quite so bad inside the house fortunately, but none the less was dripping. Outside in the run was much worse. Will be very interested in Marigold's report tomorrow after her door has been closed tonight.
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Re: Condensation in coops.

Post by chrismahon » Wed Nov 23, 2011 10:54 pm

Condensation in any habitation is a problem from gas cookers, boiling pans, showers but most of all drying clothes or just breathing. Friend lived in a house built from Engineering bricks which have a water absorbsion only slightly higher than the blue bricks used as damp proof courses. His house suffered terribly from condensation. The point I am making is if the structure isn't permeable -won't let water pass through it-condensation will result. Wet chickens going to bed will be the worst case with warm damp air inside and cold outside. Houses tackle the problem with forced ventilation, internal heating or dehumidifiers, none of which are really practical for small chicken coops. What do the Green Frog manufacturers suggest?
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Re: Condensation in coops.

Post by chrismahon » Thu Nov 24, 2011 9:54 am

Gave more thought to this overnight in the context of wooden coops. Had a problem with all of them with the sealant applied breaking away from the surfaces over time. Outside it allows water to get under the drip strips and inside gives red mite somewhere to hide. Looked carefully at the small print and it does say, even for silicone exterior sealant, that the bond will break if the surfaces get damp. So the damp is in the wood, even inside the coop, which is evidence of condensation. I've now selected an acrylic all weather sealant which is paintable (unlike silicone) and can be applied even to wet surfaces. Hope that does the job as there are no alternatives.
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Re: Condensation in coops.

Post by Marigold » Thu Nov 24, 2011 11:32 am

Overnight low of 5C, some rain, and fog rolling up the valley at 7-20, when I let them out - perfect conditions to test condensation. Went back at 8-00 in full daylight to examine the coop. Back door panel perfectly dry, no condensation at all - droppings indicated two of them had slept next to this. Sides of coop and inside nestboxes misted with damp. Woodshavings inside nestboxes also a bit damp, but I don't think this was a problem for the hen who had laid in there, since she was about to go out and get really wet in the garden anyway. Roof had quite a lot of condensation, ie up above the long vents along the sides of the roof and the circular ventilators, (which indicated to me that they were doing their job in circulating air.) I wiped the damp away easily with a dry dishcloth about 1ft. square, which finished up damp but nowhere near the wringing out stage. Probably things were a bit damper than the night before, when I had left the pophole halfway open, as this would have enabled better airflow from lower to higher levelsbut not a lot of difference really.

I think the orientation of the coop may be important - in mine the pophole faces SW, and the coop is positioned so the pophole end is under the roofed end of the run, facing the sides which are covered with white tarp, so the shelter effect is of an open-fronted shed. Consequently, when we have SW gales with wind and rain, none of it blows directly into the coop, but there is always steady ventilation whatever the conditions outside. The triangular pophole hangs from the apex and can be adjusted to open fully, ie nearly all the front area exposed, or any degree of division between that and fully closed. I've been keeping mine at about half open so far this autumn, which allows the hens to get in and out but provides steady ventilation without wind or rain blowing in.

I think one of the main benefits of these plastic coops is, paradoxically, the fact that condensation does form on the inside surfaces, especially on the roof, which after all is way above the hens' heads and doesn't affect them at all. Moisture which has been removed from the outside air, plus from damp and breathing hens and their droppings, has to go somewhere, and at least you can wipe it away in a couple of minutes from a smooth impervious plastic surface in the morning, if you want to. No problems with sealants or mould, as Chris has reported in his wooden coops.

So what exactly are we worried about, if our coops have condensation? Well, if it's like a sauna in there, (ie, the air inside is just as damp as the air outside, only warmer) the hens are at risk of inhaling mould spores, if these have formed on the inside surfaces, especially in wooden coops maybe. Or transferring bacteria to each other if an infection is taking hold in one of them. In either case, the best way forward, it seems to me, is to increase the ventilation, and maybe also, in the case of a plastic coop, wiping the inside as part of the daily cleanup. But so long as ventilation is adequate (ie, the air inside is not more humid than the air outside) and the coop isn't actually dripping water on to the birds, and the birds are not actually touching the sides of the coop, what is the problem?
I think you are only going to get perfectly dry conditions inside any coop in winter if fan heating is provided, which is obviously unecessary and undesirable. I think, for hens, roosting inside a coop which protects them from driving wind and rain is a big advance on roosting in a wet and windy tree, and if we go too far towards trying to create the sort of conditions we would find tolerable ourselves, we risk affecting their natural hardiness and even their health. Hens have evolved beautiful feather insulation against most outdoor conditions of wet and cold, after all.

However I would like to know how many people with secure runs and thus no fear of predators shut their pophole all the time to keep their hens warm, and how many, like me, leave it open or partly open except in very extreme conditions.

I'm also interested to hear from eglu owners about whether their coops get condensation, as Omlet coops are double-walled and insulated against it. I didn't notice any condensation in my eglu when I was using it, even though then I was more indulgent to the hens and did shut them up most nights. But I stopped doing this when it seemed to me that the ventilation holes in the eglu were not sufficient for the 3 hens inside it.

Lastly, I'm wondering if it's good practice to shut the hens up under cover for an hour or so before roosting time on rainy days, so they go to bed dry, as obviously this is going to be the biggest factor affecting overnight humidity in the coop.
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Re: Condensation in coops.

Post by chrismahon » Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:21 pm

Hi Marigold. You've covered it all there I think. Our runs are mobile so not fox proof. Perhaps Fox resistant for an hour as they are heavy so a fox will need to dig. All the pop holes are closed at night as you would expect, but when it's hot and still we risk leaving them open. The vents on each side are very big and wind blows across the centre of the coop; the perches are at each end, but no wind and we need the entry at the bottom to let hot air rise out at the top.

You mentioned insulation on the Eglu. Of course if the inside surface temperature is high enough the moisture won't condense on the surface.

Think the key to it is wiping all the surfaces on a plastic coop in Winter. On a wooden coop it is treating the surfaces to stop mould forming. Hopefull creosote will kill the mould as well as the red mite.
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Re: Condensation in coops.

Post by Marigold » Thu Nov 24, 2011 2:22 pm

I'm thinking more about shutting the pophole at night in order to keep the hens warmer - I actually think it's more important to have the right number of hens in the coop, so they can keep each other warm by cuddling up and sharing body warmth. Otherwise, when they go out of doors in the morning, there will be a temperature difference which could be like you and me getting out of bed in our nightwear and going out into the garden with no extra coat. They do need to stay acclimatised to our temperatures and warming them up perhaps doesn't help as long as they're in good health.

I'm in the process of making a house for my quail, which is basically a small 6' X 4' traditional wooden summerhouse with glazed front and front half of the sides, with built-in wooden cages painted white for maximum light. The windows are not designed to open since the double doors at the front open fully, so we've had to think carefully about ventilation when the doors are closed. So far we've installed plastic ventilation panels from Wickes on the gables front and back (see http://www.wickes.co.uk/invt/713012 ) which provide a plastic flyscreen behind fixed louvre strips, so should help prevent insect, predator or vermin entry whilst giving quite good ventilation. Anyone tried these in their coop? Better than opening windows, because I think rain would blow in through them. In fine weather I shall open the double doors, with a mesh screen in place to keep predators out, also the hens! Not 100% sure about condensation in the painted insides to the cages, though maximum light is important for quail and the paint does seal the wood against redmite.
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Re: Condensation in coops.

Post by chrismahon » Thu Nov 24, 2011 4:13 pm

I agree about chicken density in a coop. I am trying to put two lots together in one coop for Winter. Problem with our mobile coops the walls, floor and roof are thin (only 12mm) to keep the weight down, so that they are actually mobile.
Plastic has no vermin resistance at all unless it is chemically impregnated. I put a very heavy duty windbreak up across the veg patch and the rats tore big chunks out and got through it. They seem to like the taste as they made 6" holes to get through and they are big, but not that big! Put 10mm square galv mesh on the other side of the vent if you can Marigold.
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Re: Condensation in coops.

Post by Marigold » Thu Nov 24, 2011 4:22 pm

chrismahon wrote: Put 10mm square galv mesh on the other side of the vent if you can Marigold.
The vents are 6ft off the ground on the gable ends front and back, so I don't think a rat etc would be able to climb up the North Face to get to them! But I'll bear it in mind and keep an eye on them. I did think of just cutting slots and fixing mesh over as you suggest but have done this to the top of the greenhouse door (because I ordered a replacement pane 10cms too short...) and rain blows in through the gap quite a lot.
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Re: Condensation in coops.

Post by animartco » Thu Nov 24, 2011 4:24 pm

Goodness, condensations sounds horrific! I can't really understand it. I have always used hen houses with a good area of window covered by mesh, and this is not closed even at minus 15. The chickens remain perfectly healthy! You HAVE to allow ventilation and fine mesh is the only safe way to do it. Mind in my ancient quality hen house there were glass windows which could be closed OVER the mesh in cold windy weather.
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