wood preservative nightmare - please advise

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by bookchick, May 25, 2010.

  1. bookchick

    bookchick Out Of The Brooder

    May 9, 2010
    I have searched the backyard chickens website and seen many conflicting opinions, so I am not sure how asking will help, maybe if only to consolidate the opinions in one place for me?

    I recently got an 8ft coop from www.sunnysideupcoops.com - a local guy who builds based on plans from www.catawbacoops.com It's great, but I ordered it unfinished and now I think I'm losing my mind trying to decide what to do next. Whatever I do, it would need to be non-toxic to chickens. That's a primary consideration.

    The coop has some hardwoods and some softwoods as it incorporates store purchased lumber and some recycled pallet wood (which has several black spots that I assume is mildew). I 'm pretty sure there's oak and pine wood in there, but not sure what else. Most of it has a pretty rough grain. How long can I expect this unprotected wood to last before it decays?

    The coop is designed to sit on the ground and be moved every day or so in order to give the chickens access to fresh grass & scratching areas. The bottom of the wood frame sits directly on the ground to keep out predators. Since it is frequently moved, it will get wet from the lawn sprinklers twice a week and then whenever it rains. So weatherproofing is necessary (or is it?). It will be in a mostly shaded back yard under oaks with occasional days in direct sun (maybe 30% of the time?).
    The upper roosting area and ramp will get slightly messy from chicken poop, so ease in cleaning/disinfecting from time to time will be necessary for health reasons. I applied one coat of boiled linseed oil to the inside of the upper roosting area because I heard that it was a good miticide, but now I hope I haven't caused a problem with anything else that will need to be done to the wood. I don't mind using BLO on the entire coop, but I'm not sure how well it preserves wood against the elements. The BLO was applied 3 days ago and is totally dry now though I've heard that it can take a long time to cure. Here's the product data sheet. It is not known to be toxic. http://www.packserv.com/Data/Products/Data-Sheets/1689765720.pdf It took nearly an entire quart ($8) to do just the inside of the roosting area. I found this little phrase here http://www.scrollsawer.com/forum/wood-finishing-and-painting/15301.htm
    traditional phrase for this reapplying BLO is:
    Once a week for a month
    Once a month for a year
    Once a year for life.

    The number of people out there in the online world is astounding and everyone seems to have a different opinion. Some people seem to jump in and paint their coops with whatever paint they have on hand. Some people have definite opions about wood preservatives, paint types, etc. Each time I think I'm close to making a commitment, I find a new, logical reason not to do it.
    Cabot preservatives seem to fit the bill for everything I need, but it's toxic to the birds, so no go.
    BLO is great for preventing mites, but I have no idea how often it would need to be reapplied in order to keep the wood from rotting. It will do nothing about the mildew that's already in the wood (and in fact, I read that oil products may actually encourage mildew), nor will it be much help against the ground contact areas.
    Exterior paints seem to come in so many varieties that I am stuck in going forward. Latex? Arcylic? Oil or water based? Semi gloss is recommended for easy wipe-off cleaning, but it may not help with allowing the wood to release moisture when it gets wet.
    Some pople recommend priming, some don't. Some reccomend Kilz/Kilz2, etc.

    Please help me. I am overwhelmed. I need a miracle. Thanks in advance to anyone who wants to chime in for this.

    - tracy
  2. bnentrup

    bnentrup Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 5, 2010
    Central Indiana
    I feel your pain on the diverse opinions of everyone. Therefore, my opinion!

    If you are worried about preservatives, go with none at all. That is the safest.

    How long will the wood last? well, the bottom of the framework will soak up the most moisture. Therefore, if you can figure a way to isolate that, or if you feel risky/preserve the bottom pieces.

    The top of the framework will deteriorate some in the rain and major temp changes. I use to own a fence construction co..and we installed MANY untreated fences. Fences take a beating in rain and wind. The customers were told to finish/seal/paint to protect the fence. They hardly ever did. They last about 5-years with minimal maintenance (A few nails here and there to keep the boards against the rails). Treated wood would double that..and cedar even more (5/10/30-years respectively)

    After 5-years, the wood becomes too soft for nails to hold, and then a few boards each year would need replaced. A customer could expect upto 10-years without having to replace the entire fence if no treatment occurs. The wood looks 'gray' after a short period of time as well.

    Therefore, expect to get 5-years with minimal headaches. The chicken wire/mesh is actually holding the wood together also! Therefore, you have a bit more security with the wire. Keep in mind that the wire will deteriorate too...therefore even if you treat the wood, the wire will need to be watched for any rusting areas.
    laughingdog likes this.
  3. elmo

    elmo Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 23, 2009
    Well, there's toxic and there's toxic, but it depends on the mode of transmission of the toxins.

    Chickens like all birds have very efficient respiratory systems and thus are very sensitive to air quality issues. The "canary in the coal mine" is a good example of this fact. It's important to be very careful with fumes of any kind of paint or wood treatment. I use only low voc paints indoors, but I still move all of our indoor birds outside before I paint, and only return them after the paint is completely dry and the house has been well ventilated. When I housed our chickens in the garage on freezing nights last winter, I made my husband park his car out in the driveway because of the risk from the exhaust, if only briefly.

    Chickens don't chew on wood the way parrots do, though. Once latex paint or wood stain is dry, I believe it's pretty much safe for chickens. The only caveat I'd add is that I wouldn't want to have any globs or drips of paint that might attract the chicken's attention and be something they'd be able to peck away at.

    I used pressure treated wood for the ground contact lumber, and stained everything with ordinary deck stain, I think it was a Cabot's brand, actually. And I painted the inside of my coop to seal it with some low voc paint I had left over from an interior project. I just made sure it was completely dry before letting the chickens go in.

    Out of an abundance of caution, I don't use pressure treated wood for roosts, though, since it is at least theoretically possible that the chemicals in the wood could be irritating to the chicken's foot in constant contact with the wood all night. I use natural tree branches for roosts.
  4. columbiacritter

    columbiacritter Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 7, 2008
    Scappoose Oregon
    Unless you are giong with industrial grade preservatives you'll be fine. Between my job and my honeys profession we deal with A LOT of chemical info and I have no issue with applying darn near anything available to use on a house or deck on the OUTSIDE of my chicken run. Inside I would use regular outdoor paint, if you can air it out for at least two days before the chickens go into it. Perches should never be painted or treated.

    Depending on where you are the ground contact will be a real issue. Your coop might not last very long unless you treat the bottom or better put some treated 2x4's on the bottom. In the rainy, rainy Pacific NW where I live a piece of untreated wood won't last 2 years of ground contact.
  5. AnnainMD

    AnnainMD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 1, 2010
    Eldersburg, MD
    Quote:You definitely sound overwhelmed. I can give you our rationale for painting with latex paint. Ease of clean up of the painting equipment (think brushes and rollers), easy cleaning of the interior of the coop and durability.
    Regarding priming or not priming: you have to prime if you expect any longevity from the paint and I think Behr makes a 2-in-1 primer/paint if you are short on time.

    If ease of cleaning is your concern (particularly the INSIDE of the coop) then I would whole-heartedly recommend painting with a semi-gloss paint, I chose latex (which is water based) for easy clean up and fast drying time. Oil based paints take longer to cure and we've had a wet spring so it would have been even longer. Oil paints also require mineral spirits or some such thing to clean up the brushes which in turn requires a visit to the dump on hazardous material day, no thanks!

    I just cleaned the coop this past weekend and couldn't believe how easily everything came off from the floor, walls and roosts. Lovely.

    If off-gassing is a concern, you can get low-VOC paints.

    For the outside you can do whatever you want-stain or paint; if you do nothing then it will eventually rot. Everything eventually rots, I guess it's just a matter of time.

    If you have wood touching the ground, it just predisposes it to moisture, elevate it on something or paint the bottom.
  6. SB Austex

    SB Austex Out Of The Brooder

    May 9, 2010
    I've been thinking about the same thing with our first coop and have settled on no VOC 'milk paint'.
  7. bookchick

    bookchick Out Of The Brooder

    May 9, 2010
    Thanks so much, everyone - I just don't want to hurt my babies. (Can you tell I'm a new chicken mom?)
    I truly appreciate your willingness to share your expertise.
    Deep down inside I know that man has been keeping chickens for a very long time and they're pretty resiliant creatures.

    - Tracy
    Central Florida

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