Safest | Best Wood for Chicken Coop

Almost every chicken coop and run is made of wood, and it is no lie that all wood eventually rots (some take longer than others).

The search for the best wood for chicken coop floor and building probably brought you here. The coolest coop designs are one with overhanging roofs to shield the structures and their occupants from the weather.

However, your coop will still be exposed to insects, humidity, UV light and still get wet. To shield the wood from the harshness of being outdoor, here are some options:

  • Pick a plywood designed for exterior use and stain or paint it.
  • Select a softwood (like spruce, pine, or Douglas fir) and apply a nontoxic treatment or sealer
  • Build with wood that’s infused with pesticides (pressure-treated)
  • Use a naturally rot-resistant wood (like tropical hardwoods, cedar, or redwood)

In today’s post, I’ll explain each of these options, weighing the advantages and disadvantages. I’ll begin with my least favorite of the best chicken coop wood and end with my preferred approaches. For a fast overview of our 10 tips and takeaways of selecting the best performing chicken wood coop for floors click here.

Best Wood for Chicken Coop

The Best Wood for Chicken Coop Floor or Building

  1. Pressure-Treated Lumber

Whatever is put into or onto wood may find its way into the insides of your chickens, then into you. So, let’s first consider the reasons not to use pressure–treated (PT) lumber.

Cons

  • PT needs more costly fasteners created to be used with ACQ, such as hot-dipped galvanized nails and screws. (Regular galvanized fasteners aren’t meant for the increased level of corrosion that comes from contact with copper).
  • Pressure treated lumber can leach copper and other potentially harmful stuff into the soil where your chickens will be. I say “potentially” because the preservatives (ACQ or alkaline copper quat) used in PT is said to be safer than the stuff they used to use (CCA or chromated copper arsenate) in that it does not bear any trace of arsenic. That said, the EPA still discourages the use of any form of PT where the lumber contacts crops, livestock, or soil in an organic production area.

Pros

  • It may cost less than other wood types
  • PT is softwood lumber injected with chemicals that makes it maintenance free, pest-proof, and water resistant for several years.
  • The bottom of the frame is the best part to use on a chicken coop. However, this is also the place where your hens will be rubbing their beaks and scratching. Leaching of toxins can be minimized by priming and painting the lumber.
  • If you prepare it right, treat cut edges, are careful in collecting sawdust, and use it appropriately, PT might make sense for you, especially if you’re in a termite-prone area or unusually humid area.
  1. Cedar, Redwood, and Tropical Hardwoods

If you don’t trust pressure-treated lumber, there are wood species that last for year thanks to natural preservatives they carry. Cedar is the most widely available, though in certain regions tropical hardwoods and redwood are simpler to access.

Pros

  • By using woods that are naturally rot-resistant like redwood, cedar, and tropical hardwoods gets you around the toxicity problem all the same. It is possible to use these products without sealants saving you time.

Cons

  • Some chicken keepers are concerned about the effects of the cedar oil on chickens.
  • The demand of these wood types makes them a bit pricey.
  • Sourcing redwood, FSC-certified hardwoods, and cedar can be time consuming. You may be in for an expedition for better unique lumber products.
  • Ability to resist rot can differ from tree to tree. Plus, while cedar is said to be rot-resistance, this characteristic is true more of the heartwood than the sapwood. A large number of available cedar comes from second-generation forests and lacks the longevity of old-growth heartwood. You would need to seal it in this case, and if you’re sealing it anyway, you might as well employ the use of cheaper softwood.
  1. Softwood — Painted, Stained, or Preserved

Out of all the best wood for chicken coop, this is my preferred option for lumber to frame up a chicken coop. Using standard softwood lumber (hemlock, pine,. Fir, or spruce) and treating or sealing it with a nontoxic, stain, sealer, paint, or preservative takes a little more time, but it gets around the potential deadly problem of pressure-treated lumber and is often more economical than a naturally-rot-resistant option.

Treating lumber with a non-toxic preservative

Pros

  • A large number of coop owners opt for priming and painting and skipping the IWS application. The paint protects the outer surface of the wood from elements. However, note that wherever a staple, nail, or screw penetrates the wood, water can get in. So once you’ve attached hardware cloth to your frame, you won’t be able to retouch the paint – neatly, anyway. So wisely pick sealers and paint carefully to avoid toxic ingredients.
  • The result of treating/sealing lumber with a nontoxic product is that you can transform less expensive, off-the-shelf lumber into a long-lasting, weather resistant building material.
  • Personally, I vote for TimberPro UV’s Internal Wood Stabilizer (IWS) when it comes to preserving softwoods. It brushes on like water and reacts with the wood to harden and densify it. One application (2–3 coats) is all it takes.

From observance, woods treated with IWS remain bright for a year or 2, then fades to silver, naturally weathered patina. Ours has lasted for about 2 years in Chester, MA where it gets soaked in the winter and baked in the summer. It has shown no signs of rot. Unlike with PT, standard fasteners still work with wood treated with IWS.

  • If you’re an art lover and have got an eye for colors, it’s possible to paint over the top of IWS as long as you wait the proper time to let it cure (at least 3 weeks — see manufacturer’s site). The manufacturer does not advise staining over IWS, as the IWS seals the wood too well, preventing the stain from soaking in. But, You may however, execute a combo, staining the outward-facing sides of the boards while using IWS on the inner faces. Pay additional attention to the bottom of the frame (the sole plate), all the cut ends, and any horizontal surfaces. Those are the areas that will be most exposed to moisture.
  • As for stains, I like the internal wood stabilizer from TimberPro UV. Osmo brand stains are really nice too. For more about stains and sealants, see our Buyer’s Guide.

Cons

  • Time and patience is needed form your end to properly apply any of the above requirements.
  • If you want to paint over the IWS, you need to wait 3 weeks after you prime and paint.
  • Once hardware cloth has been applied, you can’t really repaint lumber.
  • Nothing in IWS repel evasive insects (like the termites). However, it’s worth remember that chickens love to snack on termites, and they forage down low, right where termites would be out of concern.

Grades of lumber

The grades of lumber determine the appearance, strength, and price. The higher the grade (smaller #), the better. Lumber stamped “standard & better” or “#2 or better” is the way to go.

“Green” or unseasoned lumber contains high moisture content, which makes it heavier, and water in the wood creates a poor surface for products like stain and paint to properly bond. Rather, look for 2-by-4’s that have been kiln-dried. The drier wood will also soak up more of any treatment or stain you apply.

  1. Plywood options

The 4th option on our list of best wood for chicken coop is plywood. Some parts of your birdhouse may need plywood.

As with dimensional lumber, there are plenty choices depending on what you need and how much your budget is.

  • The cheapest kind of plywood is the Oriented Strand Board (OSB). It is engineered by using compressing and adhesive layers of wood strands together to create a solid sheet. OSB that has been sealed with paint and primer is a reasonable pick for use inside the henhouse. Seal it well or cover with linoleum if you’re going to use it for the inside floor. Avoid using OSB on external applications where it will frequently be moisturized. It will swell and rip itself apart.
  • Remember that, regular exterior plywood is also not designed for use as siding. The glues in exterior plywood are made to fight off temporary moisture, but they cannot stand up to consistent exposure to the elements. If you want to use regular plywood on the outside of the coop, protect it well with at least 2 coats of quality exterior latex sealer or paint and a primer. It’s just fine to use inside the chicken building.
  • Do you want a wood for sliding? It’s best to pick a unit that is created for that purpose. Units like T1-11 typically has a textured surface on the outer face (rather than bare or sanded) that won’t blister or spilt as easily and holds up better to the elements.
  • An honestly strong and rugged inside and out is marine-grade plywood. This is designed with more durable wood and water-resistant adhesives.  Marine-grade plywood is generally cost more and harder to buy than standard, exterior grade plywood.
  • Instead of marine-grade plywood, I prefer medium density overlay panels (MDO). Their smooth, resin-soaked veneers make them better suited and ideal for outdoor applications, and their smooth finish accepts paint very well. Importantly, it is cheaper than marine-grade plywood and can be used similarly.

Note: Ensure all edges of the doors and walls plus outer faces amd inner faces of any doors are painted. You can paint the inside floor and walls of your coop too, if you so wish. I like to use white for this, and the glossier and more durable the finish the better.

10 tips and takeaways. . .

  1. You should use standard softwoods for roofing and framing and apply a nontoxic plant, preservative, or stain like the TimberPro UV’s Internal Wood Stabilizer (IWS).
  2. Stain, sand, paint/prime all plywood.
  3. If you would like extra color on your coop or are concerned about greying wood, wait 3 weeks after the IWS application and paint plus prime your lumber.
  4. Use only products made for siding to side. Do not use OSB as siding and consider medium density overlay (MDO) panels rather than regular plywood.
  5. For environmental and health concerns, avoid the use of pressure-treated lumber unless your environment of residence is super humid or have termites. Even at that, use it only where needed.
  6. Remember that the best wood for chicken coop may be what you can reclaim from another project. Ensure it is free of toxic plant or lead, seal it up, and you’re good to go.
  7. Remember that once you attach hardware cloth to your chicken coop, you will likely never get the chance to seal or paint the frame properly again.
  8. Build in a manner that replacing pieces can be done without having to dismantle the complete coop. This way, a rotten board every couple of years won’t be a problem.
  9. Mix material on how exposed your finished product will be, and never hesitate to invest in longer-lasting materials where it pays to do so.
  10. Don’t let your search for the ideal, perfect or best materials or design get in the way of building something. After all, it’s just a chicken coop!

Has any of the best wood for chicken coop floor here listed worked for you (or not) in your residence and outdoor wood structures? Please leave a comment below. 

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