In this post I will discuss a hot topic within the backyard chicken community. It’s a topic that is important, examining both side of the debate offers much in-depth knowledge. In this post, I will examine the topic of Prefab Vs. Hand-built coops. Showing that prefab coops can and do make very viable options for your flock.
Many chicken keepers do not like prefab coops, they recommend that newcomers build their own coop. I differ in regard to this opinion. I built my first coop, then added 5 prefab coops. I love prefab coops. They make viable options for those who cannot build a coop for various reasons be it financial, physical limitation, or conceptual. Wood working and carpentry is not for everyone, it’s a skill that requires hard work, training and can be very expensive. It can also be very dangerous if you have never worked with wood or high-powered tools before.
This is the story of my journey in both building a coop and owning prefabs. It’s my intention to help others who are not craftsman or builders to put your mind at ease with respect to prefab 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 your see in farm stores, such as Tractor Supply or Rural King to name a few. They come in large boxes and require assembly which is very simple only requiring a screwdriver, a partner and a little elbow grease. Above I have pictured three of my largest prefab coops that I purchased from Tractor Supply (The TARDIS, Henwarts, and Hyrule). I will formally introduce you to all these coops a little later in this post.
I built my first coop, The Kuntry Klucker 10 years ago. I love my big coop, but I will say that it was the hardest, most dangerous project I ever undertook. I was new to chickens and followed the advice from more experienced keepers, which was “don’t buy a coop, build your own”. Not knowing much, that is what I did. I found out through this endeavor that I have no business using power tools. I nearly killed myself several times and spend $1000 more than I had intentionally set out to spend. After I cut the wood too short or at wrong angles, adding to those two trips to an Urgent Care Center, it got expensive. I realized that this was really bad advice that I followed from my experienced chicken keeper counterparts. Up till that point, I had no experience with wood working or carpentry in general.
So, how did I come to love prefab coops you may be asking. Well, as the saying goes, “you can’t have just one”. I fell in love with chickens and wanted more. I knew from my past experience that building my own coop was a suicide mission, so I began looking elsewhere. I began to entertain the thought of prefab coops against the better judgement of other poultry keepers. The fact was simple, I cannot build a coop, so I had to seek out other options.
To start, I read reviews, most will say something like this, “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, and little love will do just fine. Anyway, knowing this I ordered my first prefab with a plan in mind. When it arrived, I put it together and was actually shocked at how well it was made. Drawing from the experience from my coop building disaster, I made a few adjustments. I updated the hardware cloth, the latches and gave the wood a good coat of barn and fence paint followed by a quality water seal. The results were stunning!! Not only did I not kill myself building the “kit coop” (all I needed was a screwdriver instead of a power saw) but after I made my adjustments it held up well, I mean really well! I live in the steamy south of 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 all of this my prefab coops have held up very well. I do touch up the paint every other year, the hardware cloth and latches are still fine.
After the experience with my first prefab coop (which now has 5 years under its belt), I ordered more as my flock grew.
I now have 9 coops currently in operation, 7 of them are prefab coops. I have not had any predators get into my prefab coops, nor have I had any problems with the wood rotting (hence the water seal). The roof holds up well and the durability of the structures have withstood everything Mother Nature has thrown at them. I can honestly say that it would take a disastrous weather event to tear them down such as a tornado or derecho. If I get a tornado or other high wind event, I will have more to worry about than just damage to my prefab coops. Additionally, I have them insured under my homeowner’s property damage clause. If we experience a disastrous weather event, I will just put them in with all the other things that we need replaced should this unlikely situation actually occur.
Allow me to introduce you to the 6 prefab coops that call The Kuntry Klucker Farm home.
First came Roy’s Roost and Betsy’s Bliss. These two coops, (the smallest of all my coops) are situated in my spice and herb garden. Roy’s Roost was purchased to use as a hospital coop and hatch out coop. I use it for other purposes but these two are most predominate.
Betsy’s Bliss is my broody breaker. It is only big enough for one hen. The upper compartment is the coop area where food and water is kept, its also where the resident roosts at night. Below is the pen area. This coop is only used to restore a broody hen back to her normal behavior. Stints in Betsy’s Bliss are usually short lived. After a short stay in Betsy’s Bliss, the resident is granted parole pending good behavior.
Next, and the first of my large prefab coops is Hyrule. This coop belongs to my youngest son. Hyrule houses White Crested Polish Bantams and Frizzle Cochin Bantams. After witnessing the durability of this large prefab coop, my chicken addiction really took off.
The next prefab coop to join the backyard “coop-hood” was the TARDIS.
Belonging to my eldest son and home to Bantam Silkies, the TARDIS was the next large prefab coop to land in the backyard. My son is a huge Dr. WHO fan and wanted to paint and name his coop after the TARDIS. His artistic skills really made this “Time and Relative Dimension in Space” machine come to life. I was concerned that due to its height it would be easily knocked over in strong winds. To my surprise it has held up remarkably well, surviving several very rough spring seasons. The TARDIS is 4 years old and still holding up very well. Even after being battered by several severe spring seasons, it is showing no signs of slowing down.
The final large prefab coop to be added to the “coop-hood” is Henwarts.
Henwarts was added spring of 2018 and has so far survived several hails storms and a few ice storms. Henwarts is home to Silver Lace Wyondottes and Lavender Orpingtons. Painted the colors of the Ravenclaw house at Hogwarts, all the residents are named after characters from the “Harry Potter” series.
This spring (April 2020) we added one more coop to our coop-hood. A medium size coop bearing the name “Curisable”. This Dalek chook interplanetary ship belongs to my eldest son. Along with the TARDIS, the Crucible is home to 4 Silkie breeding roosters.
Now that I have introduced you to all the prefab coops that call the Kuntry Klucker Farm home, allow me to tell you how I preserve these coops for long lasting value.
How to extend the life of a prefab coop.
Just like everything else in life, a prefab coop needs maintenance. Here are some hacks that I have discovered along the way that resulted in the longevity and durability of my prefab coops.
1. Grounding: Make sure to set the prefab coop on large outdoor treated lumber planks. It is important to make sure that the prefab coop does not touch the ground. I am sure that it would be fine, but I like to raise my prefab coops off the ground a little bit. I set them on large outdoor treated landscaping 4×4’s or 4×6’s. These large heavy pieces of lumber serve as a buffer between the ground and the coop. With 4” deck screws, I secure the coop to these large timbers of wood. Although my prefab coops have held up well on their own, this adds a bit more stability to the coop. Furthermore, this ensures that the coop is well grounded and better withstand strong winds.
2. Latches: Prefab coops come with latches installed. I found that they do suffice for the purpose intended but I like to add a bit more security to my coops. Typically, I will add several more latches to the coops for added security. Most prefab coops come with barrel latches, I like to replace or add to these latches’ predator proof latches. Below is a photo of my preferred latching mechanism that I use on all my coops.
3. Paint: Prefab coops come painted but only with a primer or wood stain. Be sure to fully paint your prefab coops with a quality outdoor oil-based or latex paint. Then follow with a topcoat or water seal appropriate for the paint you used. This will aid in the life expectancy of the wood. I touch up or repaint my prefab coops about every other year depending on the need. In doing, so I have never had an issue with the painted wood rotting.
4. Hardware Cloth: Prefab coops do come with hardware cloth already attached to the coop and pen sections. I like to add another layer for my own peace of mind. This is probably not necessary since the hardware cloth that comes on the coops is a heavy gauge. I also make sure that I add a few more staples to ensure that the hardware cloth stays on.
With these 4 simple adjustments and additions, my prefab coops have held up just as well as the coop I built 10 years ago.
This is my story, I learned from experience that building your own coop as many suggest, is just not feasible for everyone. Since I discovered prefab coops, I will never build one from scratch again.
I have extended experience with prefab coops; I can honestly recommend them as a viable option for others who cannot or do not have the skills necessary to build a chicken coop. In my opinion they are a worthwhile option.
I will add, I will only purchase my coops from Tractor Supply or a local CO-OP. Reason being…if it arrives damaged (so far none of mine have) they will replace or exchange it for me. If I order from retailers, it would be harder to return it to the store. Prefab coops are great, but get them from TSC, Rural King or other reputable local co-ops in your area that stock them. If you have problems, you are not far from help.
If you have any questions about prefab coops, please post them in the comments. You can also drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see a video of the “coop-hood”, visit our YouTube channel.
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~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~