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Coop Building Materials

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by Chieftain, Dec 21, 2009.

  1. Chieftain

    Chieftain Songster

    Dec 21, 2009
    Greetings to everyone from America's Vancouver, and Merry Christmas!

    I have given my wife the gift of chickens for Christmas. (Well, I'm not actually giving her chickens for Christmas, but we will have them in early Spring...). We are permitted a flock of five chickens (no roosters) here in town, and after talking about it for a couple of years, and after enjoying fresh eggs from others, we have decided to take the plunge and raise our own little urban flock. We are very excited about this and it makes a great deal of sense for many reasons, but I have some basic questions about toxicity of certain materials to chickens.

    I have a basic coop materials question: What about using treated lumber in construction? Is it safe long term if you cover it with an untreated cap??

    I live near the Columbia River gorge, and we get some extremely brisk winds here on a regular basis. I have real concerns about a free-standing coop blowing over, so I plan on using treated 4x4 posts on the corners of the coop, that are set in concrete at least 2 feet in the ground. That presents a problem of exposed pressure treated wood inside the run. I don't see any other efficient means of securely anchoring the coop, other than to set posts into concrete anchors. The rest of the construction will be with Douglas Fir and untreated (but painted) plywood.

    If I use cedar boards on the inside of the run to cover the treated wood, will that be sufficient to protect the birds from the chemicals in the treated wood??

    I am also a believer in epoxy resin for difficult construction projects, and I wonder if anyone has any experience with epoxy products, (paint, resin, and fiberglass) that is exposed to chicken manure? Tough environment, and I wonder if epoxy (specifically West Systems marine resin) has some useful applications in coop construction.

    Also, what about paint? Is there any kind of paint to avoid due to toxicity to the birds? Is is safe to use a primer like "KILZ", and cover it with a latex porch paint? Is it safe to use latex paint, or is oil based paint safer?

    I am planning a coop and run that will provide about 40 sq. ft. of enclosed run space, and a raised, insulated shelter/roost of 16 sq ft of inside floor space, with separate, insulated nesting boxes that are accessible from the outside. I believe that anything worth doing, is worth over-doing, so my coop will no doubt be as earthquake and nuclear weapon resistant as Home Depot and I can make it. I'm planning on shelter walls that have siding on the outside, block foam in the center, and painted plywood walls inside. It should stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. I am also considering including some sort of ceramic heater in the initial construction.

    I've always been a fan of Rhode Island Reds, and since we love brown eggs, that's probably the breed we will select. We are excited about the prospects of our own small flock, and I'm particularly excited about the prospects for my compost pile and raspberry bed...

    Again, it's nice to be here, and I look forward to any comments and suggestions that anyone has to offer.

    Cheers, and Merry Christmas!!


  2. SoJoChickens

    SoJoChickens Songster

    Mar 9, 2009
    Fountain Green, UT
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Welcome to the forum. Glad to have you here.

    PatAndChickens's comments in Sojo's second link make a lot of sense. If you hang around this forum, you'll learn to pay a lot of attention to what Pat says.

    If you use treated wood, you can may not be able to get certification as being organic. I don't know if certification is important to you. That's purely your personal choice.

    I would not think that capping the wood would be all that beneficial. I'd think your concern would be the chemicals that leach into the ground. Chickens will peck the rocks and sand in the dirt in an effort to get grit, even if you supply grit free choice. They will take dust baths in the soil, usually where you don't want them to. I would not worry as much about them pecking the wood itself, although they might pick of any loose slivers. They will peck at about anything.

    I envision you are building a 4' x 10 foot run with a 4' x 4' elevated coop in one end. Your concern are the four corner posts. At that size, that should be all you need touching the ground. You said you like to overdo things. Have you considered building the corner posts out of mortar and brick or even cinder block? It may cost a bit if you hire it done or challenge your building skills, but I'll just throw it out as an idea. Another thought would be to use metal or plastic sheathing in a manner to keep the chemicals from treated wood from leaching into the soil of the coop and run where the chickens could get at it.

    You mention up to five chickens and areas of 40 square feet in the run and 16 square feet in the coop. The rule of thumb on this site is that you need 4 square feet per chicken in the coop with an additional 10 square feet per bird in the run to minimize your odds of having certain problems. Different things make up this rule of thumb area. Part of it is to give them access to feed and water without putting the feed and water under the roost where they will poop in it all night. It gives them a little personal space so they are less likely to get into squabbles. The poop load the area can carry with "standard" poop management practices also plays a part. How well you ventilate it also plays a part. Nest boxes subtract from usable floor space unless they are elevated where the chickens can get under them. The 4 square feet per bird also assumes there will be some times they cannot go into the run due to weather, but hopefully not great periods of time, like several days. These space requirements are rules of thumb and not a law set in concrete. They do not guarantee you will never have problems and they do not guarantee you will have problems if you violate them. The just improve your odds. Management practices definitely play a part. So what I am saying is, with your sizes, I'd limit myself to 4 hens and consider bumping the nest box out of the enclosed coop.

    If you have not done so, I'd suggest following these two links. They are to Pat's ventilation and cold weather sites.

    Pat’s Ventilation

    Pat’s Winter Coop Temperatures

    Good luck!!
  4. Stumper

    Stumper In the Brooder

    Dec 16, 2009
    Fayetteville Arkansas
    [​IMG] Welcome and congrats on taking the plunge! I took it myself recently and am still in progress of building my coop (90% done) I took alot of ideas from the coop section and went from there.. I really focused on ventilation and making it air/draft tight.. Best of luck.. post some pics!
  5. Kewlhanded

    Kewlhanded In the Brooder

    Jun 4, 2009
    They use a much kinder chemical process in treating wood now a days. No more formaldehyde in the process. I would use it at least as the bottom frame/supports cause it will hold up better. Killz works great in coating it. Epoxy lets off quite a bit of fumes in the cure'n process, after it dries, usually 48 to 72 hrs, it will be okay-ish, but epoxy will leach resin in an acidic environment... I'd go with a heavy duty silicone caulk instead. If you want a "bomb proof" roof, metal is the only way to go.
  6. gsim

    gsim Songster

    Jun 18, 2009
    East Tennessee

    You have gotten good advice so far. Some pr treated wood now has chemicals not so toxic. Regardless, I would not be too concerned about it. Chooks cannot tolerate cedar at all inside the coop. Something about it and their lungs. Your paint ideas are fine. Chooks are pretty easy to care for as long as their coop is ventilated well and not ever damp nor drafty in cold weather. Pay attention to minimum space requirements and exceed them if at all possible. Do not skimp on either size or security. Nest bumpouts for smaller coops is a good thing to help get the most bang for the buck in a small coop. Best to make roof overhang so that it shields both the bumpout and you for egg gathering in rain. It rains a lot up there if I recall correctly so being generous with size of coop is a good thing. Do cover a part of the run with a solid cover for both rain and snow. Best for the chooks to be standing around pooping outside instead of inside. Allow some openness to the sky as chooks need sunlight just as we do.

    Do use a linoleum covered poop plank or sheet metal one. Make it 24" wide full length of roost. Clean it daily. Use linoleum over OSB for floor and do the deep litter method. With poop plank you are likely not to have to change litter more often than yearly. Make roost higher than nests to prevent them sleeping and pooping in nests. Figure on 2 sq ft of permanent ventilation at top of coop, min of two places. Make two windows that can be opened or closed with sturdy mesh screens (not chicken wire) They will give you controllable ventilation for warmer weather. Drafts are desirable on roosts in warm weather and very undesirable in cold weather. A small coop may be best done with a roof that just opens like a giant lid for access. Large overhang at nest bumpout can also have counter weight added to make lifting the lid easier to do. Or, double end wall doors may work well too.

    Pay great attention to predator proofing your whole operation and I would recommend a fence charger for the whole show to be safe. No chicken wire unless just across top of run and even then, coons can climb up and rip a hole in it. Hardware cloth mesh over 2x4 welded wire is top notch for all but bears regards security.

    RIR are a good choice for up there. Black aussies, barred rocks and any of the various sex links are likely choices too.

    Good luck in all aspects. [​IMG]
  7. valentinebaby

    valentinebaby Songster

    Mar 23, 2009
    Sherman-Denison, TX
    Not sure why you feel you must use so much P/T. I built my elevated coop frame out of regular 2x4's (base out of 2x6's) and used OSB as walls and floor (2 layers of thick OSB on the floor). I covered it all with overlapping roof felt and then cedar siding on the outside - works great! My run's posts are cedar trees that I cut down on my property (they grow WILD here in Texas). The only place I used P/T was on the upper two horizontal supports for the run - and I stained those to match the house (I know you're not supposed to be able to stain P/T, but it worked!). You might be able to see this in one of the pics I have on my BYC page. Have fun! Learn from my mistake - go with a larger floor plan over height. Since I'm tall, I thought I would need a tall coop but I should have added more floor space instead...

  8. Chieftain

    Chieftain Songster

    Dec 21, 2009
    Great comments by all, and I certainly appreciate all of the advice.

    Since I am in the early stages here, I'm adjusting the plans to enlarge things just a bit to accomodate five hens more comfortably. I won't try and address every comment here, but I read them all and am printing this out for guidance.


    That is a link to the style of coop I am designing for our yard. I consider this a plan to deviate from and it looks pretty good to us.

    The reason for the pressure treated posts is my intention to set them 2 feet into the ground in concrete to anchor the whole structure, i also have a grade that has to be raised across the back, and I am still working the details of that out too.

    Thanks again folks, and I will start a coop thread and post progress pictures once construction gets underway.

    Merry Christmas!!
  9. CityChook

    CityChook Songster

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    Hi Bob - and [​IMG] from Minnesota!

    I too have an urban flock. It sounds like you are well on your way to an addiction - very good that you are doing lots of homework now. It will save you time, money and headaches when you are ready to build. Here are some of my opinions:

    Treated Lumber: I am very sensitive to the chemicals that I expose my children/yard/animals to. However, I am also very sensitive to my wallet. And if my coop rotted out from under me, which it WOULD without P/T lumber in a climate with "weather", well, my DH would say "oh so sad - time for another hobby dear." I say go for it with the PT lumber and make sure it's seal it if it still worries you. I used treated lumber throughout my coop and the chooks haven't bothered it one single bit. I did seal it (weatherproofing stain) prior to construction, but only because I liked the way it looked.

    Paint: I like the look of natural wood, so on the outside of my coop I used linseed oil cut with mineral spirits. It soaks immediately into the wood and dries. Originally I had used Thompson's water seal and it peeled up in one winter season. Won't be making that mistake again. The interior is painted as well. I used Kilz oil-based primer (it's better on bare wood and will cover knots) and three coats of exterior latex semi-gloss paint. It was not epoxy paint, but it has worked out well for me. Clean up is a snap and it looks great. The chickens have not bothered with it AT ALL and it has not peeled up. I'm glad I did it. With only 5 chickens, upkeep of your interior environment isn't going to be that hard. Paint will make your job just that much easier. I don't know if the additional expense of marine based paint is worth it in a chicken coop. Really, if the interior of your coop is WET, you have a whole different set of problems.

    Setting posts: Digging and cementing in your exterior posts is just good construction practice. It sounds to me like you're on the right track. Again, I'd definitely use PT wood here. Don't look back.

    Size: Your size sounds okay, but a little on the small side. The more space you can give them, the better. Especially if you are not planning on free-ranging (and trust me, you might not want to free range them every day after they start destroying your yard). Here in MN, we have long winters, and I am so thankful that we made the coop *much* larger than the 4 sq/ft that is recommended. There are lots of times that they are locked inside for days on end when we are getting weather and I don't feel guilty about it because they have plenty of space and nice windows for sunshine and a view. Also, a walk-in style coop is well worth the added expense.

    Nest boxes: Spend a little time researching nest boxes on the coop forum. Many have had trouble with leaking, so learn from their experiences. Also, you will need to lock the box as it will become a point of entry for predators. Because it's so cold here, I chose to leave my nest box (I only have one large one) inside. It's no big deal to check it when I'm handing out lov'n, treats and fresh water.

    Electricity: I'd also recommend hardwiring TWO light sockets, both on switches. I wish I had TWO. One for a light, one for a heat bulb. However, if you decide to go flat panel for heat, then you'd probably only need one. Not sure of what you meant by "ceramic." I have a ceramic socket hardwired over the roost with a 250 watt ceramic heat emitter. Greatly reduces fire risk and I have the flexibility of turning it on/off with the flick of a switch in the fall/spring when we don't need heat all day. Works great for my small flock. However, when I want light in the coop, it has to be clipped to the rafters because I don't have a spare socket. I hate that. Also, put in two electrical outlets. You'll use them.

    Check out Pat's ventilation page. She has a great deal of knowledge. Never underestimate the power of good ventilation in your design.

    Sorry for the novel. Good luck and feel free to PM me anytime if I can be of help!

    Edited for spelling because I'm a ding dong.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009
  10. CityChook

    CityChook Songster

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    duplicate post deleted
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009

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