First Coop Build

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by MattNice, Dec 28, 2014.

  1. MattNice

    MattNice New Egg

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    Dec 28, 2014
    I am building my first chicken coop, and I have a question about Eastern Cedar wood. I have read several threads about this, but I can not find a clear answer on using cedar as building material (I know using cedar chips is a bad idea). We have a large amish community and several sawmills that they operate. I have a good amish friend who owns a sawmill and I bought a huge truckload of cedar boards for $10 (that's right, TEN DOLLARS). Being so cheap, insect resistant, and weather resistant, I want to build my coop with this if it is safe. It has never been treated or chemically infused, it is all natural, raw lumber. So, does anyone know if it would be safe to build the coop and run out of this for sure? I live in Tennessee and it is local trees that have been cut for this wood. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2014
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    It’s a matter of ventilation and curing. Cedar gives off fumes that can harm chickens respiratory system. That’s why hope chests were normally built of cedar. The sealed chests would build up fumes and prevent insects from damaging the natural fibers.

    Cedar shavings present a large surface area so they give off a lot of fumes. Planks, on the other hand, do not provide as much surface area so a lot less fumes are given off. That’s why shavings are so dangerous. Also, fresh cedar gives off a lot more fumes than aged cedar. Those cedar hope chests will still give off fumes decades after they are built so they can smell pretty strong when you first open them if they have been closed for a while.

    The fresher the cedar the riskier it is. As long as you use it for the frame of your run and don’t build places that are not well ventilated, I would not hesitate to use even fresh cedar boards for your run. As long as you have decent ventilation and don’t build a closed box where the fumes can’t escape, I’d use cured cedar for the coop framing. I’d be reluctant to use cedar for siding unless there is a lining to keep the fumes outside where they can dissipate. I would not use it for enclosed nests but if it is cured I’d probably be OK with it as framing for the nest. Again, that depends on how good your ventilation is.

    There is not a clear-cut answer. It depends on how fresh the cedar is and how you use it.

    That cedar is a great find for $10. I’d use it for anything that touches the ground without a problem, but would be careful about building an unventilated box out of it.
     
  3. MattNice

    MattNice New Egg

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    That was my thought, but I have never had chickens or a coop so I knew someone here with more experience could shed some light.
    I will definitely use it for frame and trim pieces safely I think without sealing it off or what not. I do plan on having venting windows in the coop for airflow, but otherwise I want a draft free coop.
    Do you think it would be enough to use maybe pine tongue and groove boards on the inside of the coop structure to protect the chickens from the cedar smell/"gases" or should I also line with maybe plastic or something?
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Tongue and groove sounds expensive and a pain to work with as a liner but if you can get some for the right price they should work. You don’t want to use anything the chickens will eat so watch out for that. No Styrofoam or anything like that. I’d probably use plywood, but then I’d probably build the frame out of cedar and enclose the coop in plywood. Cedar siding can look real pretty though. If you have scrape metal siding or roofing, that would work for a liner too.

    Another option would be to seal the inside of the coop, either with a sealer or paint. That would slow down the fumes being released inside.

    I was raised in the Cumberland Gap area of Tennessee so I have an idea of how cold your winters can get. Chickens can handle that cold pretty well as long as you don’t have direct winds hitting them on the roosts. You could even build a coop with one open face as long as the roosts were back in the protected end where a breeze didn’t hit them. At the least built it tall and have lots of openings above their heads in the winter so any breezes are over their heads.

    Many people think of drafts as a very gentle movement of air, like you can get around windows in your house. That kind of draft won’t even be noticed by the chickens, even in winter. What you are trying to prevent is a breeze ruffling their feathers enough to let the warm air trapped in those feathers to escape. Openings above their heads can give you that. Don’t be afraid to give them lots of ventilation.
     
  5. MattNice

    MattNice New Egg

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    The only reason I mentioned pine tongue and groove is that I have some left over wood from a previous project (I should have stated that earlier). I am in Middle TN, and the coldest day last year was ~5 degrees F, so I am glad to hear someone from this region knows about the warmth the chickens need in our weather. I was worried about heat lamps, electricity, etc to the coop in the winter. Good to know I shouldn't have to go there.

    So are you saying I should leave permanent openings above their heads in the coop or maybe just like a window that can be open and closed periodically?
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    Permanent openings over their heads. Open year around. Openings at or below roost level in warm weather. Heat in summer is your enemy. Heat kills a lot more chickens than cold.

    Check this out. The lady that wrote it lived in Ontario Canada.

    Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION
     
  7. RonP

    RonP Chillin' With My Peeps

    My 40+ year old repurposed shed is made out of cedar planks.

    No preservatives or paint in over 40 years.

    It is now a well ventilated chicken coop.

    The planking could look as if new, if I washed off the oxidation.
     

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