Chicken coops are the most expensive initial investment in backyard chicken keeping. There are lots of creative ways to reduce the sticker price by building your own. Hen coops can be as original and varied as their owners, from traditional red barn shapes to retro funk to sleek modern chicken tractors. But some materials are not suited for keeping these fine birds, and particle board is one of them.
Particle board (also known as chip board) is made up of wood chips and saw dust held together with a large quantity of glue and then compressed into slabs. It is cheaper and lighter than plywood, which makes it tempting to use in a chicken coop. However, it has two big drawbacks.
One major problem is that particle board soaks up dampness unless it is coated with some serious paint or sealer. Anyone who has put a glass on a cheap table and discovered an instant ring on the “wood finish” wallpaper-like covering of particle board knows what I mean. Chicken poop is very wet. Constant exposure to droppings will make particle board warp, discolor and potentially disintegrate.
Which brings up problem number two. Chickens have a high respiratory rate, and are very close to the ground. Air quality is very important to keeping them healthy. Since particle board is made up partially of sawdust and glue, when it comes apart those can get kicked into the air and end up in the chicken’s lungs. If you use good bedding, this is less likely to happen, but why take the chance? Especially when you can easily avoid the potential in the first place?
So what can you use? A popular choice is placing your coop on bare earth. This can get mucky, and is slightly less safe from ground predators than other options. A next step up, is to raise your chicken coop off the ground using wood. “Repurposed” wood can include table tops, doors, or scraps from any local lumberyard.
You can also use plywood. Plywood is similar to particle wood in that it is layers of wood. However the wood is in sheets and the sheets are glued at right angles to each other, it is less likely to warp and the top surface is straight wood. Another option is to use any sort of board and cover it with linoleum. This will make the surface easier to clean.
The most expensive option is concrete. Concrete has the advantage of being long lasting and easy to clean. It also is harder for predators to penetrate – there’s no burrowing through well laid cement.