As a woodworker, you may come across several different projects. A popular project that is simple but satisfying to execute is making a chicken coop. Although the project is not a complex one, you still have to make specific considerations, keeping in mind that livestock will live in the structure that you create.
One crucial consideration is toxicity concerns. Some woods are toxic to chickens, so it is essential to choose the wood carefully. Other than toxicity issues, you would also like to use wood that is easy to cut and nail together. Further, you need to choose a wood that will be able to withstand exposure to the elements, as you would mostly locate your chicken coop outdoors.
Best Wood for a Chicken Coop
Since it is essential to use suitable wood for chicken coops, let us take a look at some of the popularly-used types of wood that woodworkers use. Consider the habit of chickens pecking away at everything. Part of the wood ends up in the chickens. It finally reaches the stomachs of those who consume the chicken. So, let’s look at some popular types of wood for making chicken coops:
Pressure-treated (PT) lumber may contain trace elements like copper and arsenic. It can leach into the soil where the chickens roam. Or they end up pecking at bugs and chicken feed on the wooden floor. Another downside of using PT lumber is that the fasteners like nails and screws are more expensive.
However, PT lumber is exceptionally versatile and maintenance-free, and because it comes treated, it is a durable material that will last you for years. You can minimize leaching toxins from the wood by using sealants. PT lumber also tends to offer enhanced resistance to insect attack.
If you would like an alternative to PT lumber, you can use a hardwood like acacia, redwood or other varieties of tropical hardwoods. They are readily available so you will not have a problem procuring them. These woods contain natural oils which help in enhancing the durability and resistance to insects. If you choose the type of hardwood carefully, you can get away without having even to apply a finish, ruling out the necessity to add chemicals of any type.
A significant downside of hardwoods is the relatively higher price. Moreover, you may end up with sapwood which has a low degree of resistance to rot. It can result in you having to use some form of sealant which increases the overall price and having to add a chemical of some sort in the finish. Moreover, if you are going to coat the wood with a sealant, you may just as well use a cheaper wood.
We can safely conclude that softwoods are by far the best choice for making chicken coops. We can treat softwoods, including pine, hemlock, fir, and spruce with sealant or non-toxic paint. The main advantage of using softwoods is that they are readily available and the least expensive option.
Most types of softwood take a brush well with different varieties of finish. You can treat softwoods with Internal Wood Stabilizer (IWS), and the wood will stay bright for one to two years. It will then take on a silvery patina which is quite appealing to the eye and helps to protect the surface of the wood from the weather.
If you want to use color, you can paint on top of IWS after it has cured in about three weeks. You can also skip the IWS in favor of applying primer followed by paint. However, on driving a staple, nail or screw, water will get in and it will be difficult to repair the finish. Choose your coating for chicken coop wood carefully to ensure you use non-toxic materials.
You can also use varieties of engineered woods on the part of the chicken coop. You can read more about different types of engineered woods in another interesting post by us. Here are the variations in engineered woods that you can use for making a chicken coop:
Oriented Strand Board (OSB)
It is the least expensive type of plywood and comes under the category of engineered wood. Layers of wood strands come together joined with an adhesive under high pressure to form a solid sheet. You can get OSB that has been sealed with a sealant. It is a suitable choice for using inside the chicken coop.
Exterior Grade Plywood
You cannot use exterior grade plywood for siding. It is temporarily resistant to moisture but will give in if exposed to it for an extended period.
Regular Grade Plywood
This grade of plywood is among the cheapest and easiest to work on. However, when you finish your project, ensure to apply a suitable protective coating. It is alright to use regular-grade plywood inside the chicken coop.
Marine Grade Plywood
You can try marine grade plywood for making a chicken coop if you need a rugged option. This type of plywood is even more durable than regular wood, harder, and significantly costlier.
Medium Density Overlay Panels (MDO)
MDO is a grade of resin-soaked engineered wood. It is easy to paint, and although it has similar properties to marine grade plywood, only cheaper.
Chicken Coop FAQs
After reading this post, we are sure that you would have a few questions for which you seek answers. Here are a few commonly-asked questions about chicken coops:
Can I use treated wood for a chicken coop?
The impression we get of treated wood is that of PT lumber. There was a time when this type of wood posed a hazard to both animals and humans. But with advances in the process of treating lumber this way, the chances of it being harmful are ruled out.
What is the best flooring for chickens?
You may have to choose the type of flooring based on the style of the chicken coop. If you have a coop where you can remove and/or replace the flooring easily, a wooden floor is a good option. Although we use different materials like cement, plastic, and stone tiles, wood is the most durable and preferred option for chicken coop flooring.
If there is less risk of bigger animals burrowing into the chicken coop, you can use a natural earth floor. The advantage of natural earth is that your chickens can dig for worms and grubs in the ground.
What type of wood is toxic to chickens?
Cedar shavings are highly toxic to chickens. They are sometimes used to line the floor of a chicken coop. It would be best if you avoided it. Pine shavings can also be toxic to chickens and can cause some serious respiratory problems. The issue lies in the aromatic and terpene hydrocarbon compounds which affect the lungs and liver. Pine dust has been proven to be carcinogenic.
You can make chicken coops out of various materials and different types of wood. However, my favorite choice is wood. Your choices are far from restricted, but ensure that the wood you use is free from toxins. Of course, you need to use a cost-effective type of wood, and we have highlighted the best wood for a chicken coop in this post.
We also touched upon a few chicken coop FAQs, which are the ones that you would be likely to ask. We hope that you benefit from the information we have provided in this article and that it will help you to make some very fine chicken coops.