The topic discussed in this article is a bit of a hot topic here among chicken keepers on BYC. However, I think it's important to examine both sides of the debate. In this article I will discuss the topic of Prefab Vs. Hand-built coops and explain why I am an activist for Prefab Coops.
Many chicken keepers do not like them and recommend that new comers build their own coop. I for one am of a differing opinion. I built my first coop then added 5 prefab coops later. I will say that I love the prefab coops and that they make very viable options for those who cannot build a coop for various reasons whether they be financial, physical limitation, or conceptual reasons. Woodworking and carpentry is not for everyone, its a skill, hard work and can be very expensive and dangerous especially if you have never worked with wood before. So, to those who want chickens but have become discouraged and downtrodden with the discussions of “if you don’t build the coop it's not a coop” this article is for you. This is the story of my journey in both building a coop and owning prefabs. It's my intention with this article to help others who are not craftsman or builders to put your mind at ease with respect to prefab coops.
For those who are not familiar with what a prefab coop is allow me to explain. When I refer to prefab coops, I am talking about coops that you see in farm stores, such as Tractor Supply or Rural King just to name a few. They come in boxes and require assembly which is very simple only requiring a screw driver, a partner, and a little of elbow grease. Above I have pictured three of my largest Prefab coops that I purchased from Tractor Supply (Henwarts, The Bantam Boutique, and The TARDIS). I will formally introduce you to all of these coops a little later in this article.
I built my first coop, The Kuntry Klucker 10 year ago. I love my big coop but I will say it was the hardest most dangerous project I ever undertook. I was new to chickens and followed the advice from more experienced keepers, one of which was, "don’t buy a prefab coop build your own". Not knowing much, that's what I did. I found out through this endeavor that I have no business using power tools. I nearly killed myself several times and spent $1500 more than I had intentionally set out to spend. After I cut the wood too short or at wrong angels, adding to that two visits to an Urgent Care Center, it got expensive. I realized that this was really bad advice that I followed from more experienced chicken keepers. I had never built anything before, so this was my first and last experience with wood working and carpentry in general.
So, how did I come to love prefab coops you may be asking. Well, as the saying goes, "you cannot have just one". I fell in love with chickens and wanted more. I knew from my past experience that building my own coop was a suicide mission, so I began looking elsewhere. I began to entertain the thought of prefab coops against the better judgement of other poultry keepers. The fact was simple, I cannot build a coop, so I had to seek out other options.
To start, I read reviews, most will say, "it looks good but the quality is poor". This is a general across the board review that you will see for a prefab coop. Don’t let this bother you, the coops given a little love will do just fine. Anyway, knowing this I ordered my first prefab, Roy's Roost with a plan in mind. When it arrived I put it together and was actually shocked at how well it was really made. Drawing from the experience from my coop building disaster, I made a few adjustment. I updated the hardware cloth, the latches, and gave the wood a good coat of barn paint followed by a good water seal. The results were stunning!!! No only did I not kill myself building the “kit coop”, (all I needed was a screwdriver instead of a power saw). But after I made my adjustments it held up well, and I mean well! I live in the steamy south of East Tennessee. We get hot summers with lots of humidity, nasty spring storms, and ice in the winter. Mother Nature throws it all at us. Through all of this my prefab coops have held up very well. I do touch up the paint every other year, the hardware cloths and latches are still fine.
After this experience with my first prefab coop which now has 5 years under its belt, I ordered more as my flock grew.
I now have 7 coops currently in operation, 5 of them are prefab coops. I have not had any predators get into my prefab coop, nor have I had any problems with the wood rotting (hence the paint and water seal). The Roofs hold up well and the durability of the structures have withstood everything mother nature has thrown at it thus far. I can honestly say that it would take a disastrous weather event to tear them down such a tornado or derecho. If I get a tornado or other high wind event here I will have much more to worry about than just damage to my prefab coops. I have them insured under my homeowners property damage clause. I will just put them in with all the other things we need replaced should we have to deal with a real disastrous weather event.
Allow me introduce you to the 5 Prefab Coops that I have.
First came Roy's Roost and Betsy's Bliss. These two coops, the smallest of my all my coops are situated in my spice and herb garden. Roys' Roost was purchased for use as a hospital coop and hatch out coop. I use it for other purposes but these two remain most predominate.
Betsy's Bliss is my broody breaker. It is just big enough for one hen. The upper compartment is the coop area where food and water are kept and where the resident roosts at night, below is the pen area. This coop is only used to restore a broody hen back to her normal behavior. Stints in Betsy's Bliss are usually short lived, after a little bit the resident is granted parole pending good behavior.
Next, came the Bantam Boutique. This coop belongs to my youngest son. This coop houses White Crested Polish Bantams and Frizzle Cochin Bantams. This was the first of the large Prefab Coops. The addiction really took off from there. The Bantam Boutique is currently 4 years old and holding up very well.
The next prefab coop to be added to our backyard was the TARDIS.
The TARDIS belongs to my oldest son, this coop houses Bantam Silkies. My son is a huge Dr. Who fan and wanted a coop reflecting the TARDIS. He painted it the dark blue color of the TARDIS and even added details to bring the "Time And Relative Dimension Is Space" machine to life. The TARDIS is the tallest of all my coops. I was concerned that it would be knocked over during stiff winds. To my surprise it has held up remarkable well, surviving several very rough spring seasons. The TARDIS is 3 years old and still holding up very well. Even after being battered by several severe spring seasons it is showing no signs of ware.
The final large prefab coop to be added to our backyard "coop-hood" is Henwarts.
Henwarts was added this spring and has so far survived several hail storms that contained high sustained winds. Henwarts is my youngest son's coop currently serving as a bachelor pen for his breeding Polish roosters.
The current residents in Henwarts are three Buff Lace Polish Roosters and two White Crested Polish Roosters. We wanted to keep all our Polish boys since they are my youngest son's favorite breed. With access to a large outdoor run under a large shade tree, the guys cohabitant peacefully enjoying the bachelor life.
How to extend the life of a prefab coop?
Just like everything else in life, a prefab coop needs maintenance. Here are some hacks that I discovered along the way that have resulted in the longevity and durablility of my prefab coops.
~1. Grounding: Make sure to set the prefab coops on large outdoor treated lumber planks. It is important to make sure that the prefab coops do not touch the ground. I am sure that it would be fine, but I like to raise my prefab coops off the ground a little bit. I set them on large outdoor treated landscaping 4x4's. These large heavy pieces of lumber serve as a buffer between the ground and the coop. Then with long screws I secure the coop to these large timbers of wood. Although my prefab coops have held up well on their own this adds bit more of stability to the coop. Furthermore, this insures that the coop is well grounded and will better withstand strong winds.
~2. Latches: Prefab coops do comes with latches installed, I have found that they do suffice for the purpose intended but I like to add a bit more security to my coops. Typically, I will add several more latches to the coop for added security. Most prefab coops come with barrel latches, I like to replace or add to these latches predator proof latches. Below is a photo of my preferred latching mechanism that I like to use on all my coops.
~3. Paint: Prefab coops come painted but only with a wood stain or primer. Be sure to fully paint all your prefab coops with a quality outdoor oil-based or latex paint. Then follow with a top coat of water seal appropriate for the paint you used. This will aid in the life expectancy of the wood. I touch up or repaint my prefab coops about every other year depending on the need. In doing so I have never had an issue with the wood rotting.
~4. Hardware Cloth: Prefab coops do come with hardware cloth already attached to the coop and pen sections. I like to add another layer for my own peace of mind. This is probably not necessary since the hardware cloth that comes on the coops is a sturdy heavy gage. I also make sure that I add a few more staples to insure that the hardware cloth stays on.
With these 4 simple adjustments my prefab coops have held up just as well as the coop that I built 10 years ago.
This is my story, I learned from experience that building your own coop as many suggest is just not feasible for everyone, I did it and nearly killed my self. Since I discovered prefab coops I will never build one from scratch again.
How many chickens will fit in the coop?
This question was raised in the comments, a very importation question I may add. I have added this section to my article to fully answer this important aspect of prefab coops.
In my experience this is one of those instances where size matters. The manufactures recommendations of how many chickens will fit in the coop hold true IF and only IF you plan on putting Bantam chickens in the coop. If this is your situation then the recommendations on how many will fit is spot on. However, if you plan on putting standard size birds in the coop then you will need to lower your expectations.
For example, if you purchase a coop that says that 8 chickens will fit and you plan on putting standard size birds in the coop such as Orphington or Australortps, then I would subtract 3 from that number. In this situation realistically only 5 large standard size birds will fit comfortably.
On the other hand, if you plan on putting medium size standard birds in the coop say a breed like the Polish or Easter Egger, then you can fit 1 or possibly 2 more.
For example, Henwarts (a prefab coop I am using as a bachelor pen for standards size Polish roosters) will fit 7 according to the manufacture. Due to the size of my Polish guys, I have only put 5 in the coop. Yes, I could probably squeeze a few more it to make it 7 as stated by the manufacturer, but in reality 5 is more comfortable for them.
So, you see, in the end, the size of your birds matter. Standard size large birds will fit in these coops, the door openings and nesting box compartments are large enough to accommodate their size. However, its the job of the keeper to practice good husbandry and not overcrowd the coops.
Birds such as turkeys or Pea fowl will not fit in these coops specified for chickens. Ducks may fit in some of the coops that are low to the ground that have ramps to access the coops instead of ladders such as Roy's Roost pictured below.
I have enough experience with prefab coops to honestly recommend them as a viable options for others who cannot or do not have the skills necessary to build a chicken coop. In my opinion they are a worth while option.
I will add to this that I will only purchase my coops from Tractor Supply or a local CO-OP. Reason being… if it arrives damaged (so far none of mine have) they will replace or exchange it for me. If I order from Amazon I might be a bit screwed as it would be harder to return it to the store. Prefab coops are great, but get them from TSC, Rural King, or other reputable local CO-OP in your area that carries them. If you have problems you can get help.
I know that I am a small voice with respect to prefab chicken coops in particular. But I like to think that my experience will help others understand that there are other options out there and that prefab coops can and do make great homes for your chickens.
Thanks for reading!
~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~
Prefab vs. Hand-Built Coops.
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Hi, I'm Noelle Moser I have been keeping chickens for about 10 years now. I currently have and maintain 7 coops and about 50 or so chickens well, according to chicken math anyway. I have several breeds including Orphington, Australorps, Silkies, Polishes, Cochins, and Easter Eggers. I love the farm/country life and my "Backyard Divas".
Welcome to the Coop! Pleased to meet you and thanks for reading!
Recent User Reviews
"Good Advice on Prepping & Using Prefab Coops"
- 4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Jun 30, 2019
There is a lot to be said for using prefab coops - as long as your area is relatively predator free and you are willing to do some preventive maintenance. This article outlines many positives for using prefab coops and runs - and is a must-read if you want yours to last!
"Very good article about the pro's and the con's"
- 5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jun 27, 2019
Very well written article about the pro's and the cons of prefabricated coops vs. DIY coops. Many, many pictures of different prefab coops!
A little biased towards the prefab's, but you are so right: If you are born with two left hands (like me) it is better to buy a prefabricated coop and make it better than spending a lot of money in wood and hardware and end up with something inferior.
"Prefab vs. Hand Built Coops"
- 5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jun 27, 2019
I believe one of the issues people have with the pre-fab coops are the number of chickens the manufacturers claim will comfortably fit. What have you found with yours? This is a nice addition to the articles section. You give hope to people that can't or won't build their own coop but want to keep poultry.Kuntry Klucker likes this.