If you have space, there are many reasons to raise chickens. Aside from providing an unlimited supply of free-range organic eggs, chickens eat insects, control weeds, and fertilize gardens. Like any living animal, chickens need food, water, and shelter. It is impossible to overstate how important the chicken coop is to keeping the chickens healthy and free from pests. While most Amish furniture is made from oak, cherry, hickory, walnut, or maple, the wood of choice for Amish chicken coops is cedar. Here are five reasons cedar is an ideal building material for chicken coops:
Naturally Resists Water Damage
In North America, cedar trees grow in the state of Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia. If there is anything those regions are known for, it is rain and lots of it. Cedar trees have developed a natural resistance to water damage and, more importantly, rot.
Rot is caused by mold, fungi, and other micro organisms that feed on the cellulose and lignan in the wood, weakening or even destroying its structure. Some tree species have developed the ability to produce chemicals, called extractives, that resist this process. The exact mechanism is not fully understood, although the extractives are believed to have antimicrobial properties. Regardless of the process involved, anecdotal evidence and scientific experiments lead to the inescapable conclusion that cedar naturally resists rot.
This is important for two reasons. First, by resisting rot, cedar chicken coops will last longer than chicken coops made from other species of wood. Second, because cedar chicken coops naturally resist rot, they do not require dangerous, and potentially toxic, pressure treatments, stains, paints, or varnishes to protect them from rotting. This protects the health of both you and your chickens, as there are no dangerous chemicals around the chickens or their eggs to be accidentally ingested or absorbed.
Naturally Repels Insects
In addition to rot, the wet weather of cedar’s natural environment invites insects. Cedar has developed defenses against these pests as well. Cedar wood is a natural source of thujone, a member of a family of chemicals called terpenoids. Terpenoids are primarily responsible for the scent of plants – terpenoids give eucalyptus, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cedar their distinctive smells. In the case of cedar, thujone also imparts an insect repellent property to cedar wood. Cedar chicken coops repel fleas, mosquitoes, cockroaches, termites, carpet beetles, and ants from the living space and fewer pests means healthier chickens.
Because cedar is accustomed to a cool humid environment, it naturally absorbs and releases water easily. However, unlike most woods, cedar resists shrinking and other deformation due to humidity or heat. In fact, cedar has greater resistance to warping, twisting, and checking (the separation of wood along its grain) than any other coniferous wood.
Again, this is important because it means that cedar chicken coops will last longer than chicken coops made from other woods. Moreover, it means that cedar chicken coops will hold together without cracking or separating at the joints, causing water leaks and letting predators into the living space.
Low Thermal Conductivity
Cedar is a naturally porous wood. It is well understood that air is a poor thermal conductor and an excellent thermal insulator. The pores in cedar hold air like bubble wrap. During the summer, cedar slows heat from passing into the cedar chicken coop. Similarly, during the winter, cedar slows heat from escaping out of the cedar chicken coop. The insulating properties of cedar keep the chickens comfortable and reduce the heating and cooling costs in extreme climates where additional heating is required in the winter or additional cooling is required in the summer.
While it may not seem like an obvious consideration, studies show that stressed chickens grow slower and are less productive. Specifically, chickens subjected to loud noises over 85 decibels eat 15% to 25% less than chickens that have not been stressed with loud noises. For reference, 85 decibels is about the volume of sound produced by heavy traffic, an air conditioner, or a lawnmower.
Because of the porous structure, cedar damps vibrations that transmit sound. By dampening sound, the stress on the chickens is likewise dampened.
Cedar chicken coops, with their resistance to rot, insects, warping, shrinking, heat, cold, and sound, keep chickens happy and healthy.