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Personal blatherings, living simply, gardening, cooking, canning, dehydrating, knitting, spinning and more.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Frick and Frack Build a Chicken Coop

I wanted to build a portable chicken coop we could move around our little meadow daily. It was to be one I could move by myself. I chose the simplicity of Ana White's A-Frame Chicken Coop, but made some changes. I plotted it out being taller and 1 foot wider. I wanted the girls to have a full 4' x 8' space in the upper part. The original was too small for my little flock. I wanted to divide the doors on each side in half for ease of use. One long 8' door is a booger. I also designed the triangular sides to open for ease of access during the winter. A-frame style is perfect in my area, having heavy snows. I would not have to worry about snow loads with that style. I also added a top support beam so I could use hardware cloth on the top for good airflow and ventilation. We had the top caps in a pile leftover from when the previous owners added a small storage shed to the property.

The older girls were getting way too big for the kiddie pool brooder. We needed to get going on the coop, like yesterday. Here, they got their first day outside while we worked on the frame for the coop.

I had the coop with changes all graphed out "perfectly". We only have the gravel area under the carport to build anything. Our garage is a carport the previous owner made into a garage... if one has a wee car made for midgets and if nothing is inside. Even ground is not an option here. We only have an old skill saw, old jigsaw, an ancient electric drill that shocks one if you touch it just right (anywhere) and a cordless drill that if good for light duty. (We ended up splurging on a better heavy-duty cordless drill that did not curl your hair.)

I used 2" x 3" stud boards and plywood, and 1/4" hardware cloth. No minks or ermines can get through that.

We first cut the supports at the recommended angles and which I (wrongly) figured out- 30° for the bottom and 60° for the top of the stud. We set two together. It is NOT a 6' wide span, it was almost 8' wide of a span. Do we try cutting the angle, using a pattern I made on thin cardboard since we did not have a miter saw or change the plans? Heck with it, the chickens would have a large area underneath for the winter. It should not add that much weight. Jr. High school geometry was way too long ago for me to try to fix the angle, though I did not realize a problem would crop up until we were too far along to fix it. It meant I could not access the long sides without leaning in. A tad uncomfortable, but something I would not have to do often, if at all.

We put the studs together with the bottom stud at the ground level and the middle board right where the width for the upper floor would be 4'. After figuring out the 4' floor spot, we added the middle stud and then cut the 30° angled cross pieces for floor supports.This is the frame...

We then cut the floor, doing it in two pieces for ease of fit, cutting the hole for the trap door for the run underneath. We added extra floor support next to the trap door since the support for that part was on the other side of the middle a-frame support. (I know, clear as mud...) We measured from peak to the floor and cut plywood to fit the area from top to bottom for the triangular sides. After holding it to the sides, I marked with a marker where to cut for the triangular sides so they fitted perfectly.

This is when we found out uneven ground meant each piece would have to be measured and fitted separately. Oh yes, is is not exact. Anywhere. No interchangeable parts. laughing....

I measured each side piece while placing it in its spot and marked where to cut the triangles again for the doors, one having another door for the future nest box access. (That door is currently being used to toss dried meal worms in as a treat in the evening.) Before attaching the floors, sides/doors, I painted everything we had fitted first.

Warning: NEVER buy paint without looking at the sample outside in real light instead of fluorescent lighting. "Green field" (or whatever it is), is more of a green crayon, Easter grass green, way green. I wanted it to blend into our environment and the field area. It would for one month before things got a darker green as the summer progressed. Oh well... BTW- Behr's indoor/outdoor high gloss white water-based paint is extremely durable. It was hard to get off my hands. Next time I need to paint the trim and bathrooms, I am using this. It withstands chicken toes and scratching! I digressed... Painting the pieces makes it easier than if all built and then painting..

It also means that parts may have to be sanded again to fit properly and repainted. And do not forget to pre-sand the pieces before putting together unless you are a fan of splinters.

So all painted, and the sides attached, sans the doors. We lifted. It was okay. With the doors, removing the water bucket and replacing it after moving it to the meadow, it would work.

(uh huh....)

We put the 1/4" hardware cloth on the top peak 6" tall and 8' in length, then attached the long stud on the top of each side. That worked out, at least. The smaller studs (2" x 2") were deemed to be too small for my idea of the split doors on the long sides. We went with the original-sized studs. We set the wood on the sides to check the weight. Cruds. Okay, the wheels either had to be more substantial or it gets "planted". The width being almost 8' along with the 8' length. Yep, it stays in place. The chicken tractor will have to be another project.

Of course, all the hinges and other hardware we had on hand were not substantial enough or we did not have enough to make the coop or the wrong size. So much for saving money. The hardware cost more than all the wood for the coop and the tractor did. Seriously.

We measured and built each door. I painted the frames. We screwed the hardware cloth to cover each door. That was when I was holding my fingers out of the way while Himself used the drill to secure the cloth with a screw and washer- the screw went one way and the drill went the other way, taking the side of my right thumb in a neat plow-line to the nail. Himself almost carried me inside, he rushed me inside so quickly. Blood was spurting Monty Python-style. It did not hurt. Yet. We sterilized the wound and packed it with dried yarrow. Repeated 15 minutes later. Bleeding stopped. Once well-bandaged, we finished the door and called it quits. It was mosquito time of day anyway.

We had all the doors in their spots. Tried to lift. No way. If we had two young, well-muscled men to help, no problem. Yep, coop will be stationery. We laid down 1" x 2" heavy fencing and 8" x 16" cement blocks as the coop base to keep out digging predators. We did not add the doors permenently yet. We wanted it as light as possible as we moved it to its spot. Good thing. Moved halfway, set down, pick up and place. No dropsies at this point allowed. We got it perfectly aligned. The ground was not as even as thought. We moved it off and I added dirt in areas to raise the bricks. We moved it back, not as perfectly to the inch centered. I still had to shove dirt under the wire and bricks to even it out. No more major daylight between the base and bricks. Whew. Break time before adding the top and side doors and hinges.

Did you know that adding hinges changes the door fit? Really. Attached the doors. Sanded again and repainted where sanded and while still attached. I got heavy plastic tablecloth material at Wally World and cut pieces to fit each door. We then cut plastic corrugated roofing for each door to go over the plastic. The plastic is for winter to keep any chance of drafts going in through the doors. Since it was not wide enough, we added a small piece to the bottom of each door. Cutting roofing in half? Easy. In half long-ways? It cracks. When I replace the roofing down the road, two pieces in half with a big overlap. I got green for the back/roost side of the coop for privacy and shade. The green looked like it would blend with the green of the coop. Of course, it does not. At all. I should of got black, but it would be hot in the summer? Oh well... I used clear for the next box sides and the bottom section of the green roofing part. Maybe it will fade or something. The plastic and roofing is attached by bolts with nuts, nuts to the outside, so I can remove the roofing and plastic when it is warm outside and for the warmer summer evenings. I can take off just the bottom of the roofing, just the top part or all. The top ventilation area still "works" well, even if tarped over the top when it rains because the cap keeps the tarp from blocking the flow of air.

Oh yeah, use a wood burning pencil-thingie to make the holes in the plastic roofing. Not only do you mark where to drill the holes for the bolts, the holes do not crack if drilled.

After getting everything attached, we finished by putting 1" x 2" across the longer lower run to stabilize the hardware cloth and covering that with the 1/4" hardware cloth. The sides are all hardware cloth-covered. Cutting the angles and attaching it was a major booger. The doors to the lower part were easy, being unattached at the time. The plank is detachable. We ended up putting a big rock under the end to lift it a bit and take out some angle. The photo shows the doors opened. The doors that were a booger to open. Handles were found and attached.

The angle of the coop means I have to lean to get into the middle or use long-handled tools. If I come from the corners, no problem. I can easily access the coop from the triangular side doors. The hasps are locked with carabiners. Himself recently added chains to the hasps and carabiners so I do not have to worry where I set them down after opening one of the side doors. We did not add hasps to the roofing-covered doors. The handles and weight make them rather heavy for a raccoon to open. A grizzly- nothing would work anyway. The gangplank is painted with flat white Kilz. It is not slippery. I had, stupidly, painted the trapdoor in the interior high gloss. Slippery. I went over it in the Kilz so the chickens did not slide down the trap door to the plank.

I put the big feeder inside to the run area after the chickens lived upstairs-only for a week, getting used to the coop. During that time, we realized that all of the sides needed sides, "berms", to keep the bedding from bunging up the hinges. Opening the roost side to get the chicken patties off the oil pan under the roosts meant litter spilling out. Of course, they kicked most of the litter from one side to the roost area. I tried using the PDZ stuff for easy scooping under the roosts. I must of bought the wrong type. It was powder. It dusted up the coop. Not good for the chickens to breathe in either. I cleaned the coop completely and used pine shavings and used the blower on the interior and roofing panels to remove all the dust from the powder. Much better.

The 4 younger chicks were still in the ratty phase of getting their head feathers. They seem to all like the coop.

When they were finally released to the run area underneath, we worried about whether they would be leery of the gangplank and all that. No problem. They skittered down. There was hundreds of dandelions coming up in the area. They were gone by the next day.

The first day, they did not go upstairs when we thought they should. We tried to lure them up. A couple came up, the rest ran around looking for the treats the other got. I opened the lower door and put each to bed, going through the next door for quick stuff-and-shut. The next night, same thing. One younger chick was quick, hard to catch. It would dash for the treat-lure and away before we could grab it. We finally got it to bed. The third night, repeat catch and going through the next door. I got online and read up. We did everything "right", so why were they not going to bed/roost at night? The fourth night, we left them alone. Surprise, at dusk, they were to roost. If we did not mess with them, putting them to bed early, so to speak, they would of gone to roost without any "help" from us. If anyone had been watching us try to get them upstairs, it would of been great entertainment, that is for sure.

We must get that tractor done soon. I have been giving them the cutting from trimming our growing veggies, bugs found while tending the beds and on-sale watermelon halves. They need better foraging time and areas. When I open the nest box door to toss in dried meal worms, they rush to the door, making it hard to scatter them. If I open the lower door to shove the giant pot bottom I use to hold greens, they rush the door, pecking at my hands for treats. It is rather funny.

Oh yeah, of the 4 younger chicks, it seems we got 3 cockerels. Not 1, but 3. One goes back up to make sure everyone came down in the morn, checks out all cleaning when I open the trapdoor after tending to the upper coop and he breaks up the chest-thumping of the other two cockerels. Finding a good rooster is hard, according to one best friend. So he will most likely not be Stew or Potpie. We are not assuming they are males until they either crow or not lay eggs. The odds are they are cockerels from their combs and wattle size, though. laughing...

Miss Sally loves chicken TV. She gets miffed when they are in bed at night, missing from her area of view. In the morn, she barks at me if I do not open the trapdoor fast enough for her. She runs around the coop before doing her business, every time she goes out. When we work in the garden, she periodically checks on them. She gets on her tummy and slaps her paws on the ground, play-barking at them, trying to get them to come out and play. Only one dashes away and back a few times and "plays", even with the fencing between them. They both get nose to beak after the paw-slap-bark and chicken dash, then repeat the game.

Oh yeah, I put the bucket with 4 nipples up. I TRIED to put it in place, filled. Of course, it was too heavy to lift and I dropped it on my left hand, crushing it. The bruising on the index finger-side of the outer knuckle on the pinkie side of the outer knuckle is now gone. I must of bruised the bones. The hand is definitely not broken. It hurts when I move it in certain ways or try to use it for heavy stuff. Bruised bones and soft-tissue damage takes longer than broken bones to heal. sigh...

Finally, the $150.00 chicken coop ended up costing $390 after hardware and paint was added. I had cleaned out our old paint last year, so had to buy the new paint. I did not get the cheapest. I did not want to have to repaint it yearly. The 1/4" hardware cloth is 3' x 50' and was just enough for the whole coop. I got that for $48, a steal compared to prices elsewhere. Though the coop is not perfect, it is very sturdy and stable. It has been easy to deal with and the chickens seem comfortable with it. Once we can get the trees that need removing, the biggest and worst right next to the house and coop, we can add a fence for extended run while we are outside. The spot is still heavily treed enough to keep the eagles from being too much of a threat, along with us being right there to observe.

1 comment :

  1. Congrats on the wonderful chick hotel! I made your "chick blocks" and my girls and Robert Redford their rooster man loved it. Good job!