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Enhancing a Prefab Coop

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Good Afternoon! 

 

So happy to have found this community during my first season as a chicken-momma. I have six hybrid gals on the cusp of moving from their spacious basement brooder (we've been using a big old galvanized steel horse trough with pine shaving bedding in our basement) to their outdoor home. We purchased a pre-fab coop, the SummerHawk XL Victorian Teak, which is

designed for 9 chickens and I think will be more than comfortable for my ladies, particularly as I plan to allow them to free-range for the better part of the afternoons when we are working in the garden. My question is this: What do you seasoned chicken people suggest that we do to make their home extra secure against vermin and improve the structure's longevity. Should we seal the seams with caulk? Paint the exterior? Change out hardware? I've seen some designs that dig a foundational footprint and lay chicken wire underneath to prevent burrowing critters from getting in. Any and all advice appreciated. Our coop arrives by freight on Monday!

 

xx 

post #2 of 5

A few things about prefab coops.

 

- They're usually a lot smaller than expected and rarely (if ever) can properly house the number of hens suggested by the manufacturer.  They have to be going by commercial poultry standards when making their suggestions...

 

- They aren't built to last.  The wood is thing, low quality, often comes with split and/or broken pieces right out of the box and will need extensive and constant work to make them last as long as your chickens will.  I don't know that they'd keep a determined predator out but you can take steps to discourage them (burying wire, reinforcing, etc)

 

- If it's possible, I'd recommend returning the coop and fabricating something yourself.  It's possible to throw a solid coop together in a weekend and there are a lot of plans here.  If you aren't in a position to fabricate yourself, I'd look into a storage shed and do some modifications (roosts, nesting boxes - easy to make or modify existing items). Here is one for around $260.  You could bury some hardware cloth or fencing and assemble the shed on top of that footprint.  It would probably be a good idea to cut a window for ventilation and possibly build a different door with more ventilation but with only 6 chickens, they'd likely be able to live in it while you work on getting these modifications worked out.

 

- All that being said.  If you want to keep the coop you ordered (or can't return it).  I would definitely reinforce as much of the structure as you can.  Prefab coops vary by design, but once you open it up and assemble it, you'll likely be able to see what areas need some help.  I imagine, for this to be a permanent & long term home for your chickens, you'll need to expand it and be diligent in your upkeep.

 

As a reference, I purchased this coop a few years ago (initially to house a rescued rabbit for a few days until a permanent home was found, then to house a few bantams I picked up on a whim).  That coop, while not as complete as the one you linked, was likely made by similar materials and it didn't last anywhere close to a year despite it being placed under a large tree that offered shade and some protection from the sun and elements.  It would creak in heavy wind and bleached out even in partial shade.  It eventually began to fall apart piece by piece and ultimately, the only thing it successfully housed long term was insects that finally came around to nest in the cracks and crevices.  I eventually just removed all the hardware cloth (to cover windows in a quickly made pallet coop) and used the prefab as kindling.

 

I know that's not the news you wanted to hear, but these prefab coops aren't the highest of quality and the manufacturers are terrible.  It's unfortunate because, like fast food restaurant food, they're able to take some pictures to make the product look great...

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post #3 of 5

C Momma:

 

Welcome to the forum. You have found friends who share your enthusiasm. That said good friends can be blunt sometimes.

 

I assume you have purchased this coop:

 

http://www.homedepot.com/p/SummerHawk-Ranch-Extra-Large-Victorian-Teak-Barn-Chicken-Coop-35050/206645144

 

If so, one should probably stop short of suggesting you have been had.........but don't feel bad. You are not the first one to have been mislead. 

 

In short, this coop should be very similar a lot of these type coops.......basically it was likely designed by someone with good design skills to look cute and to enable the buyer to assemble a pre-fab kit, but also a designer with no working knowledge of poultry husbandry. It has all the right features (roof, walls, floor, nest boxes, roost bars, droppings board, pop door, etc), but nowhere near right in proportion. Also, what is sorely missing is open ventilation. Depending on your climate, this could be a serious problem for any bird placed in it.

 

As near as I can tell, the coop part will be around 40 in x 40 in, which by most standards would house no more than 3 birds. Where did they get to even 4, let alone the 6 to 9?  I also read the reviews and most had been written pretty soon after assembly. Not many had lived with it for more than a few weeks or so. Give them another 6 months and the story may change.

 

If you are committed to this, and want to give it a try, and don't mind blowing the original investment until you get a chance to see it in action (and time to do better next time), this won't be the end of the world for you or the birds. Well, maybe the birds. Given a choice, they would probably roost in the trees instead. My daughter put 4 birds in a coop a bit larger than this and given a chance, hers took up residence in a fort atop her son's playground set. They wanted no part of the coop and only used it when actually confined to it.

 

But to sum things up, expect it to be way too small for the amount of birds you plan to keep. The interior and run will quickly become a smelly mess. My first suggestion would be to purchase and install 2 x 6 lumber (on edge) around the perimeter of the run and plan to fill it with deep litter. This will cut down on the smell, the flies, and give them a place for their water and feed. You might try hang those beneath the coop in the run or maybe put them up on blocks to get the feed and water up off the wet, messy floor. 

 

So figure you have about 6 months to do better. Time with the birds and time with this coop will give you a better feel for what you want long term. I'd suggest a coop no less than 6' x 6' plus an enclosed and covered run of the same size (so overall about 6 ' x 12').

 

For reference, the coop I'm building is 8' x 12' and I don't expect to keep more than 8 birds or so in it, plus allowing them free run of a garden area. That is larger than standards suggest for the number of birds I plan to house (at least 2X), but that's OK. I'll have room to expand if I want to. 

post #4 of 5
Here's what I learned from my prefab coop: http://simplechickens.blogspot.com/2015/11/small-prebuilt-coops-reality-and-work.html?m=1. I'm on my phone or I'd cut and paste and summarize smile.png
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so kindly for the input. I guess I'll see what the coop looks like when it arrives tomorrow and make a call on whether or not it's worth keeping and building out/securing to make it a suitable (if temporary) space for the girls. I'm definitely prepared to add run space, ventilation, and a hanging feeding unit and likely seal/stain/reinforce hardware wherever needed. It's the actual coop square footage that may not be easily amendable. I'll report back.
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