Chicken Keeping Buyer's Guide

Product Recommendations for Chicken Coop Construction and Backyard Chicken Keeping

Below is a list of products and books we think make building your coop and keeping chickens easier, safer, and more fun. We limit our recommendations to products we’ve used personally or that have come highly recommended by our customers and readers. 

The links here are mainly to North American retailers, but can be used for reference wherever you are. Of course, we encourage you to shop locally when possible. Please note, some retailers offer commissions for the privilege of being linked to, so we will make a little something on those sales at no added cost to you. For instance, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. 

Timber ProUV Internal Wood StabilizerWhen framing up your chicken coop, you want to get the longest life you can out of whatever wood you choose to build with — without exposing your chickens and soil to the potentially toxic preservatives used in pressure-treated (PT) wood. Timber Pro UV’s Internal Wood Stabilizer is a product I’ve used on my chicken coops and other garden projects for years, anytime I want to give wood extra protection. It’s non-toxic, doesn’t corrode fasteners, and is truly a pleasure to work with. Internal Wood Stabilizer hardens and densifies wood from the inside. Simply brush or spray it on bare, untreated wood in a one-time, permanent application. It soaks in, then reacts with the wood’s internal chemistry to create lasting protection against moisture, rot, and insects. 

DISCOUNT CODE: Mention “The Garden Coop” to guarantee contractor pricing on your order when you buy direct from Timber Pro UV.

We’ve arranged a special discount for anyone visiting TheGardenCoop.com. Simply mention “The Garden Coop” when you purchase direct from Timber Pro UV and receive contractor pricing on your order — a savings of about 8% off the retail price. Note that most small shipped orders they get come from either us or a similar garden-related referral, so the price they quote you may already be the discounted price + shipping. But mention “The Garden Coop” to be sure. ALSO. . . This code applies to all Timber Pro UV products — including their amazing non-toxic stains when purchased directly from them either in their Portland store or shipped. The discount is not good with any other offer, sale, or applied discount. And it does not apply to purchases made through a dealer.

Where to buy Internal Wood Stabilizer

To find a dealer in your area (U.S. only, and discount will not apply), call Timber Pro UV at 888-888-6095 (Portland, OR: 503-232-1705), email them, or visit their websiteYou can call to have your product shipped directly to you. Or you can purchase it from Timber Pro UV’s showroom at 2232 E. Burnside Ave. in Portland, Oregon. The folks at Timber Pro UV are a pleasure to speak with and are happy to answer any questions specific to their products or your project.

Some questions about Internal Wood Stabilizer:

Applying Internal Wood Stabilizer to chicken coop

How much do I need to protect my chicken coop?

  • For The Garden Coop, you might get by with 1 gallon, but I suggest 2 gallons to be safe. Some woods are just plain thirstier than others.
  • For The Garden Loft, 3–4 gallons should do it.
  • For The Garden Ark and The Quail Hutch, you could stretch a quart, or get a whole gallon to be safe.
  • For The Basic Coop, you’d use about a quart.
  • For The Garden Run enclosures, it really depends on what you build. Use the above coops as a reference point. 
It’s a great product, and I’m sure you’ll find a use for any extra on other garden projects. Beyond chicken coops, Internal Wood Stabilizer is great for:
  • Raised vegetable beds
  • Flower boxes
  • Bird houses, goat sheds, dog houses
  • Garden sheds
  • Fence posts
  • Decks and railings, especially near lakes and streams

What makes Internal Wood Stabilizer ideal for chicken coops?

1. It’s non-toxic. 
Your chickens can scratch and peck on wood treated with IWS without them (or their eggs, the soil around your coop, etc.) being exposed to the metals and chemicals used in industrially pressure-treated wood. The safety of using pressure-treated wood around animals and livestock remains a subject of debate. I’m not trying to scare anyone out of using PT or come down categorically against it. But I do see IWS as an easy, safe, effective alternative, and therefore recommend it.
2. It’s perfect for the moist environment of a chicken coop. 
Chicken coops are exposed to moisture both inside and out, so it’s a good idea to either protect your wood with a finish or use a naturally rot-resistant species like cedar or redwood. (These woods can be costly, however. See point 3.) What’s more, chicken coop designs that include an open-air run, such as The Garden Coop and The Garden Ark, require that you attach hardware cloth (heavy-duty chicken wire) directly to the frame with galvanized staples. If you only stain or paint your coop frame, that finish and the moisture protection it provides will be compromised at each staple point. Once the hardware cloth is secured, you cannot (easily, anyway) repaint or restain the frame as the finish weathers to shore up that protection. Internal Wood Stabilizer hardens and protects wood from the inside. It is a one-time permanent application that gives you long-lasting protection. You can choose to leave it bare or paint over it before attaching your hardware cloth. (NOTE: the manufacturer does not recommend staining over IWS. See question below.)
3. It allows you to use less expensive, more readily available softwoods than cedar or redwood, while still building to last.
Internal Wood Stabilizer is recommended for softwood species such as pine, fir, spruce, cedar, and redwood. It is not meant for use on plywood.

Can I paint or stain over it?

Internal Wood Stabilizer is not a finish, and it does not protect wood from UV rays. But if you wait the proper time to let it cure (at least 3 weeks — see manufacturer’s site), you can paint over it for the look and sun protection you want. The manufacturer does not recommend staining over IWS, as the IWS seals the wood too well, preventing the stain from soaking in. You may, however, do a combo, staining the outward-facing sides of the boards while using IWS on the inner faces. If you want to stain all or select parts of your coop, Timber Pro UV’s non-toxic stains happen to be among the most durable stains in the industry. The discount code applies to those products as well.

Other questions about Internal Wood Stabilizer?

With any other questions or to order, please call Timber Pro UV directly at 888-888-6095 (Portland: 503-232-1705). You can also email them or visit their websiteAnd don’t forget to mention “The Garden Coop.”

materials

Hardware cloth. The gold standard for keeping your chickens in and predators out of your coop is 1/2″ Galvanized Hardware Cloth. It usually makes sense to buy this locally, but there are often some surprising deals on Amazon that include shipping, so it’s definitely worth a look. Make sure to get the right width for your coop design. Look for hot-dip galvanized / galvanized after welding. It’s typically 19 gauge or thicker. (The lower the gauge the thicker the wire.) Avoid the brand Goplus.

Roofing panels. We recommend SunTuf polycarbonate roofing panels for all our coop designs. They’re easy to work with, provide shade and UV protection, are impact resistant, and made to last. You can find them and the closure strips you need to attach them at just about any Home Depot store, or special order them. Lowe’s and Menard’s sell comparable products by different brands.

Wood preservatives and stains. I recommend TimberPro UV’s Internal Wood Stabilizer to preserve (but not stain) bare softwood lumber. Their non-toxic stains are exceptional too. See section above for details and a discount code. Customers have also had great results with German-made Osmo One Coat Only HS Plus, a semi-transparent, earth-friendly stain that comes in a variety of beautiful, mixable tones. Here’s a spec sheet on it.

Landscape/sod staples. If you’re staking down hardware cloth over the ground around the base of your coop for predator proofing (a perimeter skirt), we recommend these Heavy Duty 9-Gauge Landscape Staples for the job. Figure about one per foot at each edge of the hardware cloth. By the way, these are included in the Quick Kit for The Garden Loft.

Coop hardware kit. With our Quick Kits, you get all the hardware you need in one box (not including plans or the wood, roofing, and bulky stuff). We pack these ourselves, and Priority Mail shipping is included in the price.

tools

Power tools. Some basic power tools you want for building a chicken coop are a cordless drill/driver and a circular saw. For bigger coops and projects, you might consider adding an impact driver (a wrist saver) and a pneumatic stapler (for attaching lots of hardware cloth). If you can borrow tools from a friend or local tool lending library, that’s great.

If you’re buying, remember that you get what you pay for. I’m a fan of the RIDGID brand, available at Home Depot, in large part because of their lifetime service agreement. If you do the online registration, you get free service for life. On cordless tools, this covers chargers and batteries, which often fail well before the tool. (Keep in mind, if you ever bring a Ridgid tool in for service and you receive a replacement tool or component, you must re-register each new item for it to be eligible for the continued lifetime service.)

Tape measurer. I recommend a standard 25′ Tape Measurer especially on larger coop and garden projects where you may need the length. But I use — and love — my pocket-sized 12′ Tape Measurer for most of my work. The smaller size makes it super easy to work with.

Sawhorses. They unfold to hold stuff that you’re cutting. Then they fold up to be stored away. I keep saying I’m gonna upgrade to something fancier, but my old plastic set just won’t fail. Here’s a pair comparable to what I have — Stanley Jr. Folding Sawhorses — yet certainly better.

Square. It’s triangular, yes, but it helps you keepthings square. This 7 1/2″ Rafter Square is a fine one. Handy for marking crosscuts so you can make your cuts nice and perpendicular.

Handsaw. Stanley SharpTooth Handsaw. Like a saw through butter.

Metal snips. If you think building your coop will be the only time you’ll use a pair of metal snips, you can probably make do with lesser ones than these Wiss Compound Action Snips. But cutting hardware cloth is already such a pain, why make it any harder? And you will use them again. Whatever kind you get, make sure they can handle at least 19-gauge thick material (the lower the gauge, the thicker the material).

Clamps. Clamps help a lot when you’re building a coop, especially if it’s just you and your own two hands. You can get simple spring-loaded clamps or pony up for these trigger clamps, which are easier on the wrist, provide a more solid hold, and have a greater holding capacity. A couple 6″ trigger clamps should be all you need for your coop project and many other DIY purposes. I went with the 12″ clamps, but I can’t say I’ve every really needed the wider capacity.

Pneumatic stapler. If you’re gonna be stapling a lot of hardware cloth to your coop, especially to vertical surfaces, a Narrow Crown Stapler and some good 7/8″ Stapleswill save your arm and thumbs. Here’s another decent model.

You’ll need an Air Compressor (here’s a nice small one for DIY) to power your stapler, an Air Hose to connect the two, and a couple of couplers to join the hose to the tool and to the compressor. (If your tool, hose, or compressor models vary from those here, be sure to check that these are indeed the coupler styles and sizes you need.) Also, you want to use Seal Tape on the threads where you attach the couplers to the hose to prevent leakage.

safety

Respirator. Whether you’re sanding or cutting wood or cleaning out your dusty, straw-filled chicken coop, a Respirator can mean the difference between a day of sneezing and chest congestion and no issues at all. It works better than a disposable dust mask — a lot better, IMO — because it seals to your face and has broad or pleated filters for better airflow. It also prevents your glasses or safety glasses from fogging up as you exhale.

If you’re sensitive at all to sawdust, straw and hay, or any dust and pollen, these will bring a smile to your face. (No one will see it, but you’llknow it’s there.) They come in different sizes, so check that before you buy. You can get replacement filters as needed, and ones specific to the task or particle size you need to block.

Safety glasses. I do not have a specific recommendation for Safety Glasses, other than that I highly recommend you wear them, especially when operating power tools.

Work gloves. A good pair of work gloves will prevent blisters and splinters from working with wood and protect you from scrapes as you work with hardware cloth. I use Atlas Nitrile Tough Gloves (links to a 4-pack, though one pack will more than do for a coop project). I like them because they’re comfortable, have good grip to them, and are thin enough that your fingers can stay nimble. Double check your size before buying online.

Ear protection. I started with some over the ear protection like these Earmuffs. Most recently, I switched to these Etymotic High-Fidelity Ear Plugs that I bought for a concert where I still needed to be able to converse with people. I put them in while I’m running my power tools, enjoy the extra peace while I’m not, and I can still hear my kids when they call me in for dinner. It’s your call which type you prefer. I also wear prescription glasses, safety glasses, and a respirator when working, so the in-ear style is one less thing attached to my head.

Nipple waterer. We sell fully assembled food-grade Nipple Waterers and the nipples to make your own for poop-free water and more time between changes. These are gravity fed so there’s no hose connection or pressure regulator required. Just hang and go. . . away for the weekend.

Heat your nipple waterer. The challenge with drip waterers in the winter is keeping the water liquid both in the bucket and on the exposed nipples. This 200W Pail De-icer by API holds the temp right around 40 degrees F. Since it sits at the bottom of your waterer near the nipples, its warmth should also keep those mechanisms flowing free. (I just couldn’t say nipples there.)

Flat-panel heater. We very rarely add heat to our coop, but there are times and places in this world where it makes sense to do. The Cozy Legs Flat Panel Heater gets solid reviews from chicken owners. At 100W, it adds just enough heat to take the edge off a hard freeze, but not so much that your girls get spoiled. Plus, it fits into even the coziest henhouses and should present much less of a hazard than an open bulb.

Add light to chicken coop in winterExtend daylight. We’ve been adding timed light to our coop during the darker months for a while now — a few hours in the morning and evening to ensure 14+ hours of total daylight — and it has resulted in noticeably more eggs during the winter. I’m not sure whether the hens are laying more over the course of the year or just evening out their production. In any event, the light sure is pretty, brightening our yard during the Pacific Northwest’s dark, rainy season.

To add light, all you need are a Mechanical Programmable Timer and an LED Light Strip. We used a 30′ strip for The Garden Loft, running it in both the henhouse and run, but a shorter strip (6.6′ or 16.4′) would do for most coops. Your chickens don’t need much light to get the effect. Check the daylight tables for your area and start adding as soon as the day shortens below 14+ hours. Here, we add light between August and April. If you’re currently within that window, build up to your target by adding no more than 15 minutes of light per week.

By the way, if you’re the one who could use some extra light in the winter, I highly recommend the Philips goLITE BLU Energy Light Therapy Lamp. 15–20 minutes every morning helps ward off the winter blues!

Feeders. Your choice of feeder will depend on the size of your flock and how the feeder needs to fit in your coop. For The Garden Coop or anything larger, I like a standard 12 lb. Galvanized Hanging Feeder. For The Garden Ark, you may want something smaller to hang (7 lb. Hanging Feeder) or tuck in a corner (Hanging Corner Feeder). For The Basic Coop, this 3 lb. Hanging Feeder (pictured) hangs neatly beneath the raised nest box. This particular one is kinda flimsy, but it fits better than any other I’ve found, and ours has lasted quite a while. Finally, for small flocks of 3 or so, we’ve also just used a mason jar chick feeder (see below) in the henhouse.

Anchor your coop. Tipping is not an issue with our coops, as wind flows through them, rather than building up pressure against a solid wall. That said, you know your area and building codes best. Should you decide to anchor your chicken coop, this 15″ Anchor Kit is the way to go. If you only do overkill, there’s also a 30″ Kit.

Control houseflies. Fresh chicken poop + hot summer sun = flies. These Disposable Fly Traps help keep things under control without insecticides. As with diapers, I’m a fan of disposables here. Place one near the pooping grounds, above where the chickens can get them, and downwind of your and your neighbors’ windows. There is an odor. Remember, you’re not trying to attract houseflies to your yard — the poop will do that on its own. You just want to give the flies one last, irresistable dish to sample along their buffet line. By the way, there’s an existing patent on an odorless fly trap. Keep your fingers crossed this makes it into mass production soon.

Shade the chicken yard. We use a Coolaroo Triangle Shade for extra shade on our patio during the summer, and I’ve had a few customers use them to shade their chicken yard, attaching a corner to their Garden Coops. They look cool, shade well, and are quite versatile.

Add a poop tray. For our chicken coop designs, this is optional. Instead of trays, we simply brush the soiled litter down from the henhouse into the run for further composting (deep-litter method). But you could slip a flat pan beneath the roosts in the henhouse if you wanted to collect their droppings that way.

For The Quail Hutch, you do need some kind of tray. We’ve used a flexible tray made of bamboo root barrier material and a couple of one-by-twos as handles (see the plans for details). We’ve also used a flat metal tray like this galvanized drip pan from Lumax, which happens to fit The Quail Hutch design perfectly.

Chicks. Check locally at farm and feed stores and hatcheries, or order your chicks online and have them shipped in the mail! My Pet Chicken and eFowl both ship small quantities and have lots of breeds to choose from.

Incubator. If you want to hatch your own chicks, consider incubating at home. We’ve done this a few times with quail eggs, which were harder to find locally than chickens. We have the GQF Genesis Hova-Batorand the Little Giant 6300 Automatic Egg Turner(different brand, but it fits the Hova-Bator). Note that if you’re incubating quail eggs, you’ll also need these quail rails for the egg turner.

We also got a pair of these pocket thermometers to make sure we held the fertilized eggs at the right temp as we gathered them and to confirm the accuracy of the built-in thermometer on the Hova-Bator (it has been accurate for us). You first need to calibrate the thermometers themselves, which is easy. The reason you want two of these if so you can compare the readings and ensure accuracy.

Brooder. A brooder can be as basic as a cardboard box or something much more elaborate. An excellent, fully secure DIY solution is to build the quarter-height module from The Garden Run enclosure series. When your chicks are fully grown, simply attach this unit to your outdoor coop to expand their secure day run.

Chicken Brooder CageOf course, if you’re building The Garden Coop, The Garden Ark, or The Basic Coop chicken coop designs, the henhouses in these coops can be used as brooders as well (if not already occupied by a flock).

A brooder cage from a company like Quality Cage (pictured is their chicken cage size 3624, which ships knocked down) lets you house your chicks in a garage, basement, or spare room. It gives protection from other pets and predators, and the wire floor and poop tray make it super-easy to keep clean. And you can use it many times over for a lifetime of raising and keeping chickens.

Chick feeder and waterer. You have options here, but for a small flock of chicks, a Round 1-Qt. Jar Feeder Base and Waterer Base are economical solutions. Just fill a 1-qt. Ball-style mason jar with feed or water, screw on the base, and set it in the brooder. The smaller openings on the feeder keep the chicks from scratching around in the food and wasting it.

Brooder Bottle nipple waterer. For clean water that your chicks won’t be tempted to swim in (or poop in), a nipple waterer is the way to go. You can start chicks on them from day one, but if you had chicks shipped in the mail, give them a few days with an open dish waterer as well to rehydrate.

Heat lamp and bulbs. A basic Brooder Light fixture can be clamped or mounted to hold a 250-Watt Heat Bulb. Get a couple bulbs in case one burns out.

Some chicken keepers prefer Ceramic Heat Emitters because they emit no light (light affects your chickens’ wake/sleep/eating patterns). Heat output on these looks to be comparable to the incandescent bulbs by wattage. To have enough heat to brood chicks, you could jump to a 150W or 200W emitter, but reviewers report that these get super hot and can scorched feathers that brush up against them. Ouch. A better option might be to get two fixtures and two 100W emitters.

Feed. You are what your eggs are what your chickens eat. We’ve used a variety of feeds and scratch mixes — everything from making our own to an organic mix to locally grown, non-organic pellets. You’ve gotta do what works for you and your flock. Fortunately, one of the best sources for feed around is available online: Scratch and Peck Feeds. If you’re distant from their center of operations, shipping may get costly, but check in with them about placing a bulk order to get that cost down. Have some land and wanna grow your own? Sustainable Seed Company’s Chicken Garden Buffet includes all the heirloom seeds you’d need.

Oyster shell. A calcium supplement, Crushed Oyster Shell supplements what’s in your chickens’ feed or natural diet so they have what they need to produce strong egg shells.

Grit. Chickens need Grit for digestion. And while they’ll find little stones pecking around your yard, it’s good to give them a steady supply, sized just for them.

Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). Add Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth to your chickens’ feed, sprinkle it in their bedding, and dust them with it for fly and worm control. Good stuff. Be sure to wear a dust mask or respirator (see above) when handling it — not because it’s toxic, but because it’s so fine and sharp (that’s its mode of action against insects) that it can irritate your nasal passages and lungs. I try to apply it downwind from my chickens too, to give it a chance to settle. Here’s a Supplement Kit that includes DE, grit, and oyster shell all in one.

Turn kitchen scraps into protein-rich chicken food. I had my eye on this BioPod Plus Auto-Harvesting Black Soldier Fly Grub Composter for a couple years before taking the plunge. I wish I hadn’t waited. You’ll save on feed costs and all that, but the real fun is watching your chickens GO CRAZY over these little grubs. Chickens hunt insects naturally, and this system lets you restore that part of their natural diet, even in a backyard coop setting.

It may cost more than a DIY version, yet it was nice to have it ready to go out of the box. It comes with very thorough FAQs and support, plus there are lots of tips online from others who are composting their scraps — and indulging their chickens — this way.

I made some mistakes the first couple attempts to get the colony established. First time it was still too cold out (temps gotta average 40+ degrees F). Second time, I put too much food in, didn’t drain it properly, and it turned anaerobic. Yuk. Third time was the charm. Now it provides yummy treats daily. Open the lid, scraps in. Open the drawer, grubs out.

Quail egg cartons. Starting out with quail, we just stored their prolific little eggs inside regular chicken egg cartons. Filled up the fridge fast! Check out Sierra’s Suburban Quail on Etsy for the right-size cartons — plus blown-out eggs for crafting from her own covey (raised in our quail coop design). 

keeping chickens

Keep Chickens! by Barbara Kilarski (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

A Chicken in Every Yard: The Urban Farm Store’s Guide to Chicken Keeping by Robert and Hannah Litt (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

The Chicken Encyclopedia: An Illustrated Reference by Gail Damerow(Powell’s Books | Amazon | Read our review)

Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom (Powell’s Books | Amazon | Read our review)

A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens: Best Breeds, Creating a Home, Care and Handling, Outdoor Fun, Crafts and Treats by Melissa Caughey (Amazon)

gardening/farming

Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades: The Complete Guide to Natural Gardening by Steve Solomon (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farm Enterprise by Joel Salatin (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

How to Grow More Vegetables: And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible by John Jeavons (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

food and cooking

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

The Farmstead Egg Guide and Cookbook by Terry Golson (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey (Powell’s Books | Amazon)

diy

The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping by Erica Strauss (Amazon)

Seeds. Some good sources of seeds online are Territorial Seed Company, High Mowing Seeds, and Victory Seeds (lots of rare, open-pollinated, and heirloom seeds).

Fruit and nut trees. Request a free catalog from One Green World and enjoy shopping!

Succulents and cacti. I’m becoming a big fan of Succulents. No specific recommendation for a source, but the idea that they do well in the summer droughts makes me happy.

Drip irrigation. There’s no shortage of rainfall in Portland, except during the summer months when our plants and soil need it the most. Drip irrigation to the rescue. If you can’t find what you need locally, try DripWorks.

Garden planner. This downloadable garden planner and journal from Northwest Edible Life is way more organized than you (or I, anyway) ever will be, which is just what you want in a planner, right? Use it for years to organize your efforts and get the most out of your gardening.

Stencils. Stencils make it a lot easier to get just the right image or pattern onto your coop, both inside and out. Check out Etsy and Cutting Edge Stencils for a wide selection.

Outdoor signs and art. Bainbridge Farm Goods creates modern, colorful, clever aluminum signs to decorate your chicken coop and garden.

Posters, floursack towels, and more. Portland artist Joe Wirtheim’s poster art project The Victory Garden of Tomorrow is a contemporary take on mid-century propaganda posters. Homegrown meets the home front. Great designs, and the floursack towels are another way (other than eggs, of course) to bring your chicken love into the kitchen.