Prefab vs. Hand Built Coops

Hi everyone, this post is going to be a little bit different than my normal posting. I have received a lot of questions from my readers inquiring what chicken coops are best, prefab coops or hand build 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 needing a screw driver and a little elbow grease.

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 and I added 4 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, it is hard work and can be very expensive and dangerous especially if you have never worked with wood before. So to those who want chickens and hear the “if you don’t build the coop its not a coop” rhetoric this post if for you. This is the story of my journey in both building a coop and owning prefabs. I hope that it helps.

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I built my first coop, the Kuntry Klucker. I love my big coop but I will say it was the hardest most dangerous project that I undertook. I was new to chickens and followed the advice of more experienced keepers, one of which was don’t buy a prefab coop build your own. Not knowing much this is what I did. I found through this endeavor that I have no business using power tools. I nearly killed myself twice and spent $1500 more than I had intentionally set out to spend. After I cut the wood too short or at wrong angels 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.

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So how did I come to love prefab coops. Well, as the saying goes you cannot have just one. I feel in love with chickens and wanted more. I knew from my past experience that building my coop was a suicide mission so I looked elsewhere. I began to entertain the thought of prefab coops against the better judgement of other poultry keepers. The fact was simple, I can not build a coop so I had to seek out other options.

To start I read reviews, most will say that 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 one with a plan in mind. When it arrived I put it together and was actually shocked at how well it was actually made. Drawing from my experience from my coop building disaster I updated the hardware cloth, updated 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 inserted of a power saw. But after I made my adjustments is held up well, and I mean well. I live in the steamy south in 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 this my prefab coops have held up very well. I do touch up the paint about every other year, the hardware cloths and latches are still fine.

After my experience with my first prefab coop which now has 5 years under its belt, I ordered more as my flocks grew. I now have 5 coops currently in operation, 4 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 disasterous weather event to tear them down such a tornado or derecho. But if I get a tornado here I will have much more to worry about than just damage to my prefab coops. Additionally, 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 disastrous weather event.

So 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 and I will never build one from scratch again. I have enough experience with prefab coops to honestly recommend them as a viable options for others who cannot or do not know how to built a chicken coop. They are a very good option. I will say that I will only get mine from Tractor Supply or a local co-op. Reason being… if it arrived 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 there. That would be my only advice. Prefab coops are great, but get it from TSC, Rural King, or local co op that sales them. If you have problems you can get help.

I am a small voice with respect to prefab chicken coops in particular. But I like to think that my experience and opinions will help others understand that there are other options and that prefab coops can make great homes for your chickens.

 

Thanks for reading. The girls and I will be back soon. Till next time keep on crowing.

~ The Kuntry Klucker, Bantam Botique, and TARDIS Crew ~

6 comments

  1. Lyndy · March 10

    Very well put!

    Like

  2. CF · April 11

    Hi, great post! It’s nice to see some positivity / constructive comments towards prefabs amidst all the self-built coop superiority complexes. Could you please elaborate a little on what exactly is used to prep / modify the prefabs to last longer? Which brand water sealer do you use? What kind of paint do you use to 2 yrs later? What kind of hinges / latches might you replace with? Do you dig down in the ground before putting down the garden cloth? Thanks!

    Like

    • Noelle K. Moser · April 11

      Hi, thank you for your comment, I am glad that you found this post valuable. Yes, prefab coops get a really bad rap as opposed to the self built coops. I find this both unjust and under representative of the true value that prefab coops can offer to the backyard chicken movement.

      As far as the specifics of how I modify my coops I will detail what I can below.

      The paint I use is Barn and Fence paint found at Lowes. It is oil based so it protects the wood as well as repeals water. Most prefab coops come with some sort of paint but it is usually more of a stain rather than a wood protective paint. As far as a water seal, I just use a clear coat wood seal. Pretty much what you would use to seal a wood deck with. Noting really special just as long as it does the job. I just make sure that its clear so it does not change the color of the painted coop. Again I find this at Lowes, I use Thompson Water seal last time for color treated wood or painted wood.

      Latches and hinges, just make sure that it is galvanized. Any metal exposed to water will rust unless its galvanized, I have used several different brands most found at Lowes or Tractor Supply.

      I do not dig in the ground before I set the coop in position. If digging predators (usually mice and rats) are a problem you can put a layer of galvanized hardware cloth under the coop to detour digging animals. So far I have not has a issue with this. If I do however find that an issue is occurring I will remove the coop and place a layer down. But so far after 8 years of keeping chickens this has not been a problem. To keep rodents at bay the best defense is to make the water and food inaccessible to them. My backyard is fenced in with a wood privacy fence and an electric wire running the outside permitter. I think this keep most of the diggers away. The only predators that I really have to worry about are hawks and snakes, well, so far keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

      Modifications to a prefab coop are relatively simple and inexpensive. Just a few little steps helps them to last a long time a become great homes for your chickens. The weakest link with a prefab coop is the wood. So really the most important thing to do is apply a wood protecting paint and water seal. Once applied they last a long time. I just reapply two years later for good measure. But even then the original paint applied still looks good. I reapply anyway to keep the coops looking sharp and to keep any water issues at bay.

      I hope this helps, If I left something out or you have more questions just drop me a line. I will be more than happy to help as much as I can.

      Cheers!
      Noelle

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      • CF · April 11

        Wow, thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions! We just got some chicks for the first time and bought a prefab coop from TSC. After reading some online threads, we are hoping to put down a good base and apply any easy preventative mods to make it last as long as possible through the pacific northwest climate.

        Like

      • Noelle K. Moser · April 11

        Congrats!!! getting new chicks is just so exciting. TSC has great coops!!
        TSC stocks quality items in their stores, they want their customers to be happy and thus supply the best in my opinion. I have 4 prefabs, two are from TSC and two are from other sources. I have found that the coops from TSC are far better than the other sources I purchased from. I live in the steamy south, we get lots of humidity, wind, and hail in the summers, the coops hold up well though it all. The key is a good coat of paint and modifications to further protect your girls. Sounds like you are on the right track. Enjoy the journey, backyard chickens are so much fun!!!

        If you have any other question don’t hesitate to drop me a line. You can also find us on Facebook, just click the facebook link on a blog page or you can search for “Kuntry Klucker”. If you message me I will do my best to get back to you a soon as possible. It is my passion to help others in their journey of keeping backyard chickens.

        Best of luck from my farm to yours.

        Like

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