First a Beekeeper, Now a Chickenkeeper

  1. Everett Kaser
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    Mostly completed - with lots of painting and landscaping to come later.

    November 18, 2014 -- I've been interested in bees and chickens (among a few other things) most of my life. I finally became a beekeeper two years ago, and now I'm in the process of becoming a chickenkeeper. I've been working on a design for my coop for the past week or two (mostly doing research and doing quick chicken-scratch designs on scrap paper). Yesterday I bought the first materials for the coop, and this morning I ordered 25 Rhode Island Red pullet chicks from Murray McMurray for delivery at the end of January. So, between now and then, I have a coop to build. Hopefully it won't be raining EVERY day between now and then. My current design is a 12x12 coop, raised about 18" off the ground, with an attached run about 12x24.
    [​IMG] Future home of the chicken coop and run. This is looking north along our back property line that runs north-south (our neighbor's grass field is to the east (to the right in this picture). Visible here is our garage with our house behind it, and our backyard hedge running west-to-east from the garage to the property line and then running north (away from us in this picture) along the property line. On this side of the hedge is a circular block structure covering our well head. The coop will be placed between the well and the property line, about 8-10 feet away from the hedge, and the fenced in run will extend from coop towards us.

    [​IMG] This is standing by the corner of the hedge, looking back the other way. The first picture above was taken from the left edge of this picture, just past the end of the flower bed, to the left of the near-corner of the blueberry enclosure (I don't like sharing our blueberries with the birds). The blueberry enclosure is about 40 to 45 feet from the hedge. To the right of the blueberry enclosure is our shop, and the corner of our garage can just be seen on the right-edge. The greenhouse structure beyond the blueberry enclosure belongs to another neighbor. The well is JUST off the picture to the right. If you were to walk between the shop and the blueberry enclosure, just around the corner on the far side of the shop you would see...

    [​IMG] Our beehives. This picture was taken on a sunny day in late February 2014 when I had four active hives (the nearest one had died out early in the winter). I gave away one of the colonies in the early spring. All three of the remaining ones swarmed later in the spring. Fortunately I caught all three swarms, so I'm going into this winter with six hives.

    [​IMG] I've now positioned the coop and, though it's hard to tell here, I've dug holes and placed nine pier blocks with the metal 4x4 post frames in them into the holes, so that the bottom of the 4x4 post will be pretty much at ground level. Half of the time was spent figuring out exactly where I wanted the coop, and then getting each pier-block positioned JUST so, so that the eventual coop will be square rather than trapezoidal. The three parallel 4x4 in this picture are actually laying in the metal frames of the pier-blocks to help get everything lined up and square. The 4x4 that's laying crosswise is going to get cut up into pieces to make posts to raise the coop about 18 inches off the ground, so eventually the other three 4x4s will be right where they're at, but elevated about a foot and a half. Then floor joists will lay across those (left-to-right in this picture, the way the fourth 4x4 is in this picture). I'll eventually run pressure-treated 2x6 around the three sides at ground level, connected to the 4x4 elevating posts. Those 2x6's will allow me to raise the ground level 3-4 inches (this area can get a little wet in late winter through early spring), and provide a place to attach hardware cloth upwards to the coop and chicken wire downwards and away into the ground (to discourage predator diggin). The nest boxes will be accessed on the left wall, there will be poop clean out doors (under the roosts) on the right wall, and the man-door will be on the back wall by the hedge. The chicken door will come out the near side into the run which will extend towards us.

    [​IMG] And at dusk (it was darker than it looks, thanks to the miracle of modern electronics) all of the posts are in and the 4x4 beams are sitting on top, everything nice and level and straight, which is a little bit of a miracle. I tossed one of the floor joist across the beams to enhance the picture. :) Before I put the floor joists on I need to go get some sandy loam to put in underneath the coop to raise it up a few inches for increased winter dryness. But that's for another day. The rains are coming back tomorrow, so who knows when I'll make further progress. But at least the bulk of the "foundation work" is done, so I won't be working in the mud (too much).

    November 20, 2014 -- Yesterday I hauled home a yard of wet sandy loam, not soppy, but definitely wet and HEAVY. My poor little pickup. I spread the loam under the lower side (the right side) of the coop to raise the ground there, as it can border on 'wetlands' in the winter. 3-4" of elevation and the protection of the coop should keep it reasonably dry under there year-round.

    [​IMG] Here you can see the loam spread on the "downhill" side of the coop, and I've also put in the floor joists, thanks to a break in the rain. Lumber still piled under the tarp is for the walls.

    [​IMG] The joists, of course, demanded that the floor decking be applied, 4 1/2 sheets of 1/2" OSB. Next job, the walls. That means I have to sit down and actually figure out how to build them, as opposed to the vague "wave of the hands" sketches that I have so far.
    [​IMG] First a few diagrams. This was a quick freehand sketch to help me visualize how the 'foundation' was going to fit together and the size of everything. This is supposed to show a concrete pier-block buried in the ground with a metal 4x4 bracket poking up to ground-level with an 18"-long 4x4 pressure treated (PT) post going up, the the 4x4 PT beam laying across those posts, then the floor joists laying across those beams. The floor joists are actually 3" shorter than 12' (the width of the coop) to allow for a 1 1/2" wide 2x4 running across each end of the joists so that the outer two joists and these end caps form a box. Then I put 1/2" OSB on the floor joists as flooring, which I plan to paint eventually to help preserve it from chicken nasties. Then sitting on top of the flooring is the base-plate and studs for the walls. The squiggly line to the right with 3 1/2 under it was representing the approximate fill of sandy loam I was putting in. Around the outside will eventually be a 12' PT 2x6 with 2' hardware cloth attached to the inside of the 2x6 and running up the outside of the coop to protect the area beneath the coop. There will be chicken wire attached to the outside of the 2x6 running down and out into the ground to defend against burrowing critters.

    [​IMG]This was an early sketch from the north side of the coop (the side against the hedge). It's no longer entirely accurate, but it does show the overall general design with the nest boxes on the west wall with screened windows above them (covered with shutters), a man-door on the north wall, two 12'-long roosts on the east side with a poop floor beneath them and storage beneath that. There will be doors along the width of the east wall for access to the poop floor so that the poop can be scraped out into a waiting wheelbarrow below. There will be vents along the tops of the walls.

    [​IMG] This is the actual to-scale drawing I did earlier this afternoon so that I'd know how to build the west wall. There are double-studs on each end for attaching the north and south walls and double-studs supporting the headers and such for the nest boxes and the windows.

    [​IMG] I finished construction of the west wall right at dusk (as evidenced by the poor quality of this picture--I'll try to remember to take another one tomorrow when there's better light). The flooring is black because it's covered in plastic to keep the flooring from getting soaked in the once-per-year rain we're scheduled to have at 4:00 am tonight--joking, of course, this IS western Oregon after all... So, the next time I get to work on it, raising that wall up and nailing it into place will be the first task. But here you can see that, amazingly enough, I pretty well followed my design plan above. The nest boxes will be constructed later, once the walls and roof are up. They will sit 6" off the floor and will each be about 12"x12"x12".

    November 23, 2014 -- Finally a little break in the rain and got a little more done.

    [​IMG] This is the sketch (to scale) of the east wall, with two screened windows to match the ones in the west wall (and they, too, will have shutters over them), but in place of the nest boxes that were on the west wall, the east wall has clean-out doors for scraping out the drop boards beneath the roost, and beneath that will be doors to access a 4-foot deep storage area that runs the full width of the coop beneath the roost drop-board.

    [​IMG] Here I've set up the west wall with braces to hold it, and it's been nailed in place. Also, the east wall is almost completed.

    November 24, 2014 -- Over the past few days, I've been thinking about the size of the coop and local building code. When I started, I thought I remembered that the limit without a building permit was 150 sq. ft., but then I started remembering things that made me think that the limit was 120 sq. ft., and upon checking, sure enough, it's 120 sq. ft. Sigh. I thought for a couple of days about just going ahead with the 12x12 (144 sq. ft.), as "what's the odds that anyone will ever notice that it's over the size limit and give me a hard time? Probably pretty small. On the other hand, if I did win that unlucky lottery, the county building department can be a real hard-*ss about things, and I really didn't like the prospect of having to tear it down, or apply for a permit after the fact and then make a host of changes to answer every little quibble and harassment from the county inspectors. So... since I was still at an early enough phase with the walls, I bit the bullet today and shoved the second wall I'm working on further over towards the first wall to get it out of the way, then proceeded to cut 2 feet off of the east side of the coop, dug up and moved those three pier blocks, then re-nailed and settled in everything. The first two walls will remain the same, the only real changes are that the last two walls will only be 10 feet wide instead of 12, and the roof will be at a little steeper pitch (which won't hurt it any, as it wasn't very steep to start with). So, now it's 10x12, 120 sq. ft., all legal. I lost one good day of construction, but at least now I'll be able to sleep easier at night.

    November 25, 2014 -- Another day without too much rain, and now with the square footage problem cleared up, I got TWO walls finished and in place today.
    [​IMG] First up, I finished the east wall and put it in place. Here you can see the windows up top, below which are short studs to the headers for the poop clean-out doors, and then just a single 2x4 between that and the storage area doors below the poop drop floor.

    [​IMG] Then I sketched up the north wall, which I REALLY needed to do, given the angles and getting everything JUST right for the rafters and such. Again, I constructed this with the wall down on the floor between the already placed east and west walls, first cutting the base plate, then the two side studs that would be nailed to the corner double-studs on the east and west walls, then the top plate. Once all of that was in place, then it was a matter of marking off the spacing for the other studs, laying them in place and marking the proper length, cutting them at 9.75 degrees, and nailing them in place. I was surprised how fast this wall came together, as I wasn't thinking I'd finish it today. Pleasant surprise after 'wasting' yesterday cutting off two feet of the coop!

    [​IMG] And that brings us to the current state of affairs with three walls in place. I won't be sketching out the fourth (south) wall, as it's a mirror image of the north wall, just with a much smaller chicken door in place of the man-door. After I get that wall done and in place, the next task will be to install braces underneath everything between the foundation posts and the floor joists to "sturdy-up" everything. I should have put those in once I had the floor joists down, but I was too eager to see further upward progress. So now I have to go back and take care of that, but that won't take terribly long, and after that comes the roof! But let's not get TOO far ahead...

    November 26, 2014 -- All four walls are now 'completed' (ignoring the siding).

    [​IMG] This fourth wall was the simplest of all of them with the chicken door being the only non-stud thing that needed to be framed in. Also completed was half of the bracing on the foundation. I ran out of treated 2x4s for bracing or I would have finished all of it. I now have the materials to finish the bracing and put up the roof joists and roofing, which is next on the to-do list. But rain is forecast for today, and showers tomorrow, so further progress any time soon will be a dice roll.

    November 28, 2014 -- Quite a bit of rain today, but a couple of long breaks, too, so while it's getting a little muddy around the construction site, I got quite a bit accomplished today.

    [​IMG] Dimensions and design of the lower-end of the roof joists. The "30.4/32" got reduced down (let's not be TOO picky) to either 15/16" or 7/8", I don't remember which. At that scale and for rough framing, either one is close enough.

    [​IMG] Put the rest of the bracing on the other two sides of the foundation, got all of the roof joists cut and installed, and nailed down the first sheet of roof sheeting (notice the shadow on the back-left corner of the roof joists). I'm hoping for more weather breaks tomorrow so that I can finish the roof maybe.

    November 29-30, 2014 -- Lots of progress, slow and steady (mostly).
    [​IMG] Added cross-braces to the two outer roof joists (in the process smashing the crap out of my left thumbnail, see below), then put on the roof sheeting, a small fascia board around three sides (the fourth (lowest) side will have a rain gutter). The next day I was going to apply the roofing felt and shingles, but when I got up it was below freezing and there was a thick coating of ice from frozen condensation on the roof sheeting. So instead I worked on the siding on the south side. The pop-door is mostly cut into the siding, but I still need to notch out the corners with a hand-saw. By the time that was done, the sun had melted the ice off the roof, so I applied the first roll of roofing felt, and the first 4-5 courses of shingles.

    December 1, 2014 -- Roof!
    [​IMG] This picture doesn't look much different than the one above, but it's the result of 5-6 hours of knee-killing, back-breaking work. The roof is complete (other than a good hot day next spring to 'settle' the shingles a bit). It was supposed to be cold and raining today, with a chance of freezing rain this morning. Fortunately, the only part that came true was the cold. It's bad enough putting on a roof, let alone in the mid-30's (fahrenheit). Fortunately, there wasn't much wind, although what breeze there was seemed to be blowing in my face most of the time. Oh, well, my fingers have warmed up enough to type this. Next is siding, siding, siding.

    December 4, 2014 -- A couple of days progress, with a day off on account of rain...

    [​IMG] First, six days later, now that the swelling has gone down a little, and red-ish fluid has stopped leaking out of the side, here's the wages of sin...er...failing to hit the correct nail. Those eggs had better taste DANG good!
    [​IMG] The front diagonal. The upper holes will be screened (1/4" hardware cloth) windows with flip-up shutters. The lower holes will be the nest boxes.
    [​IMG] The back diagonal. Again the upper holes are screened windows with flip-up shutters. The narrow middle hole will have flip-up doors revealing the drop floor from which droppings can be scraped with a hoe out into a waiting wheelbarrow. The lower holes will be access to storage areas beneath the drop floor. On the right is the man-door. You can also just make out the cross-bracing on the right-side under the eaves between the outer two roof joists.


    December 10, 2014 -- Quite a bit of progress over the past few days (even with rain, sigh).
    [​IMG] Here's a view through the man-door at the drop-floor above which the roosts will eventually reside. The drop-floor is 3/4" melamine (the stuff they make cabinet shelves out of) which has a hard, smooth, white coating layer over very hard particle board. It is HEAVY. The floor took one whole sheet and a little less than half of another. It's notched so that the floor extends out to the outer edge of the clean-out door sills, so that when I'm dragging the smelly gold out into a wheelbarrow, it will slide right off the edge into free-fall rather than collecting on the door sill. The area under the drop-floor will be storage for bedding, tools, feed, etc.

    [​IMG] Yesterday, a combination of being tired of walking back and forth to the garage to plug in batteries for my saw and drill, and a pending weather forecast of the second coming of Noah, I decided it was time to run the power and water lines from the garage (a job I was NOT looking forward to and had been putting off). First I tapped into a water line in the garage and drilled a hole through the wall and ran the line out. Then, I ran the electric wire (100' of underground 3-12 cable) from the breaker box in the far-left corner of the garage, around the inside of the garage, then bore a hole for it and fed it through. Then, to protect the cable from errant shovels, rototillers, and moles, I started threading PVC pipe over the wire. I should have used 1" pipe, but I already had a load of 3/4" on hand, so I used it, which makes getting the 90-degree elbows threaded onto the wire a PITA. But, mission accomplished. Unfortunately, it started showering lightly by mid-morning, and by mid-afternoon I was soaked. By the time I quit for "lunch" at 3pm, I was wet to the skin, head to toe, and muddy from the hips down. But everything's in the ground and to the chicken coop with the mud... er... dirt back in the trench, all except the last 5-6 feet, as I haven't yet run the water line up into the coop.

    [​IMG] Here's the view from the garage. By the end of the day, I'd drilled into the side of the coop and ran the wire into the coop, across the walls, put in a switched light, an outlet with two ceiling lights connected to a replacement power tool cord that can be plugged into a timer plugged into the outlet. Eventually I'll run power also to another outlet near the chicken pop-door in case I ever want to automate that door. In this view you can also see the nest boxes now done (except for the internal dividers to divide each box into 4 separate nests) with their flip-up lids, and the two window shutters (held closed at the bottom with a barrel latch). Also (if you look really close), you'll notice that I've added a vinyl gutter across the eaves with a downspout running down the side of the coop (behind the ladder) and along side of the coop to drain out into the field.

    December 12, 2014 -- Doors, doors, doors...
    [​IMG] On the east side, we have window doors (shutters) at the top, drop-floor (poop) clean-out in the middle, and then storage area doors on the bottom. I ran out of barrel latches, so the doors are just "swinging in the wind" until I can make it to the hardware store. The slight gap you see between the clean-out door and the storage door is because of clearances to allow the storage door to swing up (I didn't want it swinging down into my way) without opening the clean-out door. Once painted it won't be much noticeable, the chickens don't care nor do I, but you can be sure my wife noticed it right away. On the north side, near the ladder, is the man door (latched). This brings me to the point at which I could install the chicks, if I didn't get any more done before the end of January, as all the outside openings are secured. But there's not much left to do on the inside (famous last words), although it will take plenty of time, as it's details, details, details. Next up will be inside work: finishing enclosing the storage area, edging around the drop-floor, roosts, screens on the other three windows (I already put up a screen on the first window), the pop-door, and probably something for flooring on the 'main' floor, as the OSB that's there now isn't all that tough and won't hold up well to any moisture and continued scratching and scraping. Plus mechanisms for holding the window shutters open, etc, etc, etc. And then, of course, there's the run...

    December 14, 2014 -- Lots done inside...
    [​IMG] Pardon the mess, construction zone... Looking through the man-door, the perches and drop floor on the left (4'x12') and the general scrimmaging area on the right (6'x12') with the nest boxes hanging off the right-hand wall and the (eventual) pop-door into the (eventual) run on the far wall.

    [​IMG] A better look at the next eight nest-boxes and the windows above them. Ignore the pipe sticking out of the wall, that will eventually spew water, hopefully not on the floor.

    [​IMG] A better look at the roosts (with a minimal ladder on the central support, in case anyone needs/wants it). The drop-floor is 2' off the main floor, and you can see light coming in at the top of one of the poop clean-out doors, and the screened window above it. You may also notice that I put a door into the storage area so that I can access feed and bedding from the inside of the coop as well as from the outside access doors.

    [​IMG] A view of one of the finished nest-boxes from the outside above. The nest boxes are about 11 1/2" wide, about a foot high at the (near) short end, and about 16" high at the (far, inner) high end, and almost 16" front-to-back. The lip on the inside extends 4" above the floor of the nest boxes which are 3 1/2" above the floor of the main coop. Also visible here is the drain pipe from the gutter and the water and electrical pipes on the right, as well as the latched, screened window above the
    nest boxes. The inside of the coop is rapidly approaching habitable. Primary remaining indoor tasks: vent screens in the eaves (west and east sides), the pop-door, hook up the water.

    December 20, 2014 -- I've accomplished a lot of little things over the past week: extended the drain pipe that you see in the above picture 30 feet to the right so that it will catch a lot of the run-off to keep the (eventual) run from flooding, finished wiring the rest of the outlets inside the coop as well as two GFI outdoor outlets, one on either end (north and south) of the coop, finished (most of) the indoor plumbing (insulated and protected from the beaks and claws of the (eventual) chickens), built stairs up into the coop in front of the man-door, and put down water-proof and hopefully scratch-proof flooring... oh, and molding boards on the outside corners of the coop... oh, and two outside "no-freeze" faucets (hose bibs).



    [​IMG] The plumbing, partly done, coming in the west side, then splitting and running out the right (north) and left (south) sides as outdoor hose bibs. Half of the insulation around the pipe is done.
    [​IMG] Left side of the plumbing. On the far end, you see a pipe headed upwards; it has a ball-valve on the top, and will eventually feed the watering system, once I figure out exactly what and how I want to do that. Initially the chicks will be fed from a small 'standard' water-er, but eventually I plan to try horizontal nipples. The boards laying in front of the plumbing is a cover to go over the pipe and insulation (see below).

    [​IMG] Inside (mostly) finished. The plumbing is done, the cover put in place to protect it from the chickens, and the floor surface has been installed to protect the underlying OSB from poop and scratching (hopefully).

    [​IMG] The floor surface is 4'x8' plastic sheet which is about 1/16" thick (estimate). It's a heavy plastic, but easy to cut with tin snips, seems fairly rugged, and was $20 per sheet. We'll see how it holds up. It was easy to staple to the OSB using a standard hand construction stapler. The staples are along the edges only, about 4-6" apart. Next up... probably the pop-door, as the rain is coming down heavy (2-4" predicted for this weekend). Once the rain lets up I'll be getting started on the run.

    December 23 -- Pop-door construction.
    [​IMG] The chicken pop-door is made of 3/8" plywood with a 'frame' for 1x2 screwed to it (on edge) to keep it from warping. A clothesline cord runs up through an eye-hook and out through the eaves-vent to another eye-hook, and down to the outdoors pull for opening and closing the door.

    [​IMG] A side view of the pop-door in its opened position. I used a pair of 2x4, screwed to the 'outside' of a pair of studs and set out away from the siding about a 1/2", just enough to let the 3/8" thick pop-door slide up and down freely. Then a couple of strips of 3/8" plywood was screwed to those two 2x4s to provide the rails that the door slides within (so the door is pinched between the plywood strips and the studs. Then there's a shorter piece of 1x2 screwed to the studs at the bottom to act as a 'stop' that the pop-door rests on when it's closed, and there's a longer piece of 1x2 screwed to the 'rail' 2x4s above that which provides additional re-inforcement across the bottom of the door. There's sufficient space between and around those 1x2 strips to allow any dirt and such that gets tracked in/out and drops down into that slot to easily fall out or be cleaned out so that the door doesn't get gummed up. The studs are on 16" centers, so the door opening itself is 14 1/2" wide and 16" tall.

    [​IMG] The pop-door, when closed, from the outside.

    [​IMG] And when open.

    [​IMG] The finished pop-door with a 6" wide 'roof' to help keep rain out/off, with beveled sides. At the bottom, a slanted piece of 2x6 is attached with a 1x2 cleat screwed to it so that the ramp, which will have a 1x2 cleat screwed to the end of it on the bottom, will sit on there and pretty much lock in place, although I may put one screw in to hold it, depending upon how heavy/sturdy it is. I plan to build it out of two 6' long pieces of pressure-treated 2x6, side-by-side, with crossing cleats on top to hold it together and provide purchase for the chickens.



    [​IMG] The pop-door pull on the outside when the door is in the open position. There's a not in the cord to prevent the piece of 1x2 from sliding down further, then a large washer tied to the end of the cord which can be slid over a hook to hold the door open (or higher up, when closed, to keep the cord from swinging around in the wind).

    December 27, 2014 -- Hardware cloth around the base of the coop, in preparation for starting the run.
    [​IMG] In order to start work on the run, I needed to first get the hardware cloth and "base board" around the bottom of three sides of the coop. Here's the view from the southwest corner. The hardware cloth is heavily stapled to the 4x4 holding up the west side of the coop, then a pressure-treated 2x6 was put down on top of the bottom of the cloth and screwed to the 4x4 posts and braces. Eventually I'll have to crawl under the coop and staple the cloth to the inside of that 2x6 (and maybe screw strips of 1x2 to it also to make SURE no critters can break through), but I'm trying to put that off until nicer weather in late winter (although the dirt under the coop isn't terribly wet at this point thanks to the coop and its drain.
    [​IMG] Walking to the left around the coop, here's the north side with the steps up into the man-door.
    [​IMG] And continuing on, here's the east side which also shows the small drainage ditch that carries off a LOT of water during storms.
    [​IMG] A closer look at the east side from the other end, before all the dirt has been put in place. The other two sides have the drain (which will eventually be filled in around and over with rock) to help discourage animals tunneling under, but on the east side and on all of the run, I'm attaching 18" wide strip of chicken wire to the inside of the 2x6, which then wraps around under the 2x6 and is buried out away from the 2x6. Those pesky animals can be determined, and I'm determined to be pesky to them.
    [​IMG] And just for the heck of it, here's a view under the coop from the south side looking north towards the man-door steps. The dirt that I back-filled with under half of the coop is still pretty rough, and when I crawl underneath to attach the hardware cloth to the 2x6 base boards, I'll also do some raking/smoothing of that dirt to make it more even. Eventually I'm planning to add 2-3 small 'doors' in the hardware cloth for easier access with a pole with a scoop on it: I have a hunch those dirty rotten sneaky lazy chickens will probably, at some point, lay some eggs UNDER the coop, and I want to be able to reach in with my scoop and retrieve them without having to go into the run and crawl under the coop. But that's a project for next spring/summer, as I won't have to worry about eggs before then.

    December 30, 2014 -- Starting the run...
    [​IMG] It was a sunny (but COLD-D-D-D) afternoon. I put in the footing blocks on the west side, 4 feet apart. The sun was rapidly sinking, so I took this photo, but then continued to get the 8-foot 4x4 posts in place, along with two temporary rows of 2x4s for bracing and positioning the 2-foot high 1/2-inch hardware cloth along the bottom. But it was too dim by that point to take another photo. I plan to make more progress tomorrow to prove that I've survived another year... The run will be 10' wide and 20' long, plus the 10' x 12' area under the coop. It will have 2 feet of 1/2-inch hardware cloth running horizontally all the way around the bottom, then 4'-wide 1" chicken wire running from there up the sides and over the top. So, the footing blocks for the 4x4 posts are 4' apart and will have 10' 2x4s across the top. There will be a door in the end of the run, pretty much where you see the last (nearest) concrete block sitting in the picture above.

    December 31, 2014 -- Further developments on the run...
    [​IMG] Footings in on the east side, along with 4x4 posts and 10' 2x4s to tie the two sides together. Also started work on the hardware cloth along the east side. I'll be attaching chicken wire to the bottom of the 2x6s that run along the bottom of this side and burying it (an inch or two), extending out about 18" to discourage digging animals. A few more work days should see the run pretty close to completed, but it's hard to put in more than 3-4 hours of work when it's so dang cold!

    January 6, 2015 -- Over the past week, it's been run, run, run (it's amazing how long it takes to put up hardware cloth and chicken wire when you're doing it by yourself...)

    [​IMG] The footing boards along the bottom of the run with chicken wire stapled to the inside and running down under and outside to be buried. The 2x6s get rolled up 90 degrees to the left and attached to the posts.

    [​IMG] The largely completed run (although lots of little details yet to finish), with the man-door access on the left side of the near end.
    [​IMG] Same from the left angle.

    [​IMG] The door into the run. The latch is high to keep young kids from opening it, and there's a piece of small clothes-line rope attached that runs through a hole drilled through the 4x4 post to the inside (escape hatch to prevent getting lock inside the run). There's no wire on the door yet, that's one of the details still to be taken care of.

    [​IMG] The run door from the inside.

    [​IMG] The run door latch showing the inside pull for opening the latch.

    Still remaining in the run is finishing the stapling of all the wire to all the framing, then adding more 2x4's over the edges and joints to reinforce and protect the edges of the wire, braces in the upper corners to provide side-to-side strength of the upper framing, wire on the door, cleaning up piles of dirt (spread it along the run base boards). Then the ramp into the coop, then 1x2 boards on the siding to make it look like board and batting siding. Plus painting later in the year. Plus landscaping around the outside, pavers for walkways, etc. But the to-do list is rapidly dwindling, which is good, as the chicks should be arriving in a little over 3 weeks!

    January 9, 2015 -- The project is mostly finished, as of today, other than minor details, like painting, walkways, chickens...
    [​IMG] This shows the 'finished' run, with two perches in the SW corner.
    [​IMG] Much of the past two days was 'completing' the run, even though the basic structure was done a couple of days ago. The hardware cloth and the chicken wire was stapled (1/2" staples) to the outside of the 4x4 posts and the 2x4 'roof' joists, and to the inside of the 2x6 baseboard around the outside. Horizontal 2x4s were then screwed onto the outside at the top of the hardware cloth, to provide something to staple to for the top of the hardware cloth and the bottom of the chicken wire. Horizontal 2x4s were also added on the outside at the top of the sides. (During most of these earlier stages, temporary horizontal bracing was screwed across the 4x4s on the inside so as to hold the 4x4s in place while the wire was attached to the outside.) Then I went back and screwed on 2x4s (everything in the run is pressure treated lumber) horizontally on the INSIDE of the run, pinching the wire between them and the outside 2x4s, and I screwed 2x4s vertically on the OUTSIDE, pinching the wire between them and the 4x4 posts. When done, all 2x4s are doubled up with all of the hardware cloth and chicken wire pinched between them, and you can drive a Sherman tank (or at least a 1970s Volkswagen bug) into the run and it won't budge... Overkill? Maybe. A little. I just couldn't stop...

    [​IMG][​IMG] The completed run. I ended up not putting any braces in the upper corners of the run, as with all of the extra 2x4s the thing is quite sturdy without them. I was planning on braces, just didn't need them.

    [​IMG][​IMG] Next step was building the cover for the water and electrical. This cover basically rest on the drain pipe and hangs from the cleat on the side of the coop above the pipes. The cleat is a chunk of 2x4 screwed (from the inside) onto the wall edge-on. It then has a piece of 1x2 screwed onto it that is spaced JUST over 1 1/2" away from the wall (the width of a 1x2). Then the cover has a matching piece of 1x2 nailed inside of it near the top (see the second photo) that will rest in that 'notch', side-by-side with the other 1x2, keeping the cover against the wall. The cover itself is a couple of 2x6s with pieces of siding nailed onto three sides. I also put a piece of siding on the coop behind the pipes, so once the cover is in place, it's not air-tight but it pretty well encloses the pipes on all sides, protecting the water pipe from freezing temperatures.
    [​IMG][​IMG] The next step (today) was to install mechanisms for keeping the doors and windows open. Here we see the three openings on the east side (there are two sets of them, but they're identical). Look closely at the left photo and you'll see a chain hanging down on the left side. It is attached to an eye-screw at the top and has an S-hook attached to the bottom end (with that end of the S-hook squeezed together). The door to the storage area (the right photo) has another eye-screw on the inside which the S-hook ...uh... er... hooks to, to keep the door open. That same chain and hook is also used to keep the clean-out door open for access to the poop-floor (left picture below). The garden hoe in the photo above-right will be used for dragging the poop out and into a waiting wheelbarrow. The blue plastic storage bin contains a sack of chick starter feed for the soon-to-arrive chicks (end of January). And a bundle of bedding.
    [​IMG][​IMG] The poop clean-out door held open by the same chain, and the window above held open by a 1x2 stick. I screwed a small piece of 2x2 to the sill of the window for the 1x2 to wedge against. I'm not entirely happy with this scheme and may eventually implement some form of clothes-line 'pulley' mechanism for opening the windows. We'll see...

    And that pretty well brings the project to a close for now, with a few outstanding items:
    1) Crawl under the coop and staple the hardware cloth to the 2x6 base boards, and screw some boards to the inside to pinch the cloth.
    2) Add concrete paving stones to create walkways from our patio to the coop on all three non-run sides.2) Add vertical 1x2s to the siding to cover the 'cracks', to give it a "board and batten" look.
    3) Add rock to cover the drain pipe.
    4) Paint the coop.
    5) Once the chickens completely eradicate anything green within the run, start adding dirt to raise the ground a little for improved winter drainage.
    6) Maybe someday install a timer-controlled electric pop-door opener.
    7) Make whatever changes become necessary once the chickens hit the ground (so to speak), such as access 'doors' in the hardware cloth around the base of the coop. I'm sure some of the chickens will decide that it's a great place to lay eggs, and once they show me where they're going to do that, I'll need to put in one or more small doors so that I can scoop up the eggs with some kind of scooper on a stick.

    But, except for the first three, most of those can wait for spring and/or summer.

    Things I'd do differently:
    1) Build it in the summer instead of in the winter. I *hate* mud!
    2) Make sure of the local building code, so I don't have to make major changes in the middle of the project. :)

    Other than that, I'm pretty happy with how things went.

    January 26, 2015 -- The chicks arrive...
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    February 12, 2015 -- Screen Door. The chicks are large enough that they're starting to "catch" quite a bit of air. Also, once they're roaming free within the coop, I didn't want to open the man-door and have a chicken rush out... might never get it back inside before it gets eaten or dies of exposure (if too young). Since they're getting their wings under them, I was also afraid one of them might accidentally make it over the temporary "brooder wall" that I'd put up around them, and then not be able to get back in where the heat lamp was. So, today was a beautiful sunny day, so I spent the afternoon constructing an inner screen door. It will allow me to open the man door and see what's going on inside, so I can slip inside without risking a prison break, and it will also give me another option for ventilation during the daytime. You can never have too much, right?
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Here's a view from the outside. The screen door is constructed of 2x4s arranged "flat" (so the door is 1 1/2" thick, minus the 1x2 stripping that reinforces the 1/2" hardware cloth, to make sure staples don't get pulled out. The door is hung so that the OUTSIDE face of the door 2x4s are flush with the INSIDE of the wall 2x4s. That leaves enough space between the screen door and the outer door for the 1x2 stripping and the latch. It probably could have been set inside the door frame so that the INSIDE of the door was flush with the inside of the wall, but the spacing would have been MUCH tighter, and I didn't want to have to worry about it. The door latch is just a simple barrel latch with a hole drilled into the door frame. The screen door opens outward, so that makes for a plenty sturdy latch.
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    On the inside, if you look closely, you'll see another 2x4 screwed onto the wall going up the right side of the door frame. This 2x4 extends about 2 inches into the door space (from the right, as we're looking at it), and it's to this 2x4 that the screen door is attached via two 3 1/2" galvanized hinges (you can see one, the dark strip in the crack, just below the top of the hedge). This set's the edge of the door and the hinges far enough over so that when the screen door opens outward, it can open a little more than 90 degrees before hitting the door jam, allowing good access in and out. Also I attached a simple twisting wood latch on the inside that catches the door on the door frame, to prevent any jail breaks while I'm inside the coop (since I can't close and latch the outer door from the inside because they both swing outward). At the bottom and top corners (on the left in these inside pictures) are blocks that prevent the door from being pushed any further inward than flush with the wall. So once the screen door is latched from the outside, it's very sturdy and resistant to being opened inward or outward. Right now the metal brackets on the inside and outside corners are holding the door nicely square. If it starts to sag over time, I'll add a diagonal board on the inside, running from the upper-right to the lower-left (in this inside view).

    So, the chicks are now released from their brooder area and are free to start exploring the floor of the coop. We'll see how old they are before one makes it up onto the poop floor under the roosts...

    March 30, 2015 -- update
    Some of the chickens started hopping/flapping up onto the poop floor 3-4 weeks ago, and a few of them starting getting up onto the roosts about 2-3 weeks ago. Now, about half of them spend the night on the roosts, while the rest still snuggle down on the floor. They also now, in the past week or two, getting braver about going out into the run, but still spend most of their time in the coop. Here are a couple of shots of some of them out in the run (taken yesterday, so just a couple of days over 2 months old):
    [​IMG][​IMG] They're all Rhode Island Reds (RIR) except for the one "freebie" which I THINK is a Black Cochin. They're all hens except for the Black Cochin and one RIR (which was probably the 'extra' chick that Murry McMurray throws in for free when you order 25). Here's closer pictures of what I think is a Black Cochin:
    [​IMG]

    So far, I'm happy with the design of the coop and the run. If I were doing it over, I'd probably make the two doors into the storage area THREE doors, and make them open sideways rather than upwards, as they don't open up far enough and make access to the storage area more awkward than I'd like. But other than that, I do like the storage area, the poop floor, the clean-out doors for the poop floor, etc. It's very easy to rake the poop with a garden hoe and scrape it out into a waiting bucket. So far I've been using a round 5-gallon bucket, but I need to get a square bucket that will sit against the side of the coop and make it easier to scrape poop out into it without missing the bucket.

    April 21, 2015 -- Eggs!
    [​IMG] Our first egg (the one on the left) showed up 4 days ago, not much bigger than a ping-pong ball. The second one showed up the next day, a little bigger, then she missed a day, the third one yesterday, and a fourth one today. They're still on the small size, and only one of the 21 hens appears to be laying so far, but it's fun to finally have a surprise!

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  1. Everett Kaser
    Thanks, mamalaoshi! So far, everything is working great, except that the doors into the storage area should have opened horizontally instead of vertically (I may change that yet), and right now I'm working on putting opaque polycarbonite roofing (the "rippled plastic" roofing you put over patios) over the run area. The run and the south side of the coop get NO shade from trees, and we're looking at high 90 to 100 F temperatures this weekend...
  2. mamalaoshi
    I love your coop. It's so sturdy and functional.
  3. PaulandDoris
    LOL! Bring her with you, I can take her shopping or to the beach while you and my husband work on the coop :) Or, my mom can take her to the casinos...
  4. Everett Kaser
    Sure, I'll get my plane ticket right away. Oh, wait, I'd best check with my wife, too... och, sorry, she says I'm already 'booked' for the summer. Go figure. :)
  5. PaulandDoris
    And yes, that extra bird is a black cochin.
  6. PaulandDoris
    That is an awesome coop! Want to come to Mississippi to build one for us? ;)
  7. aart
    Nice stuff........groaned over the size reduction but good on you for fixing it.
  8. Everett Kaser
    Sorry to hear that, Free Feather! No, it did NOT feel good. 12 days later, it feels MUCH better. :)
  9. Free Feather
    Your finger looks just like mine!
    Does not feel good.
  10. Eagleeyeice
    Wow, that is looking great, and it's obvious that you've got everything well thought out.
    Best of luck,
  11. N F C
    Looks like you're off to a great start! All that planning will pay off in the long run. Hope you get some dry weather to be able to continue. We were very pleased with the chicks we got from MM in April, they have really grown well and are wonderful egg producers...you should get plenty of eggs with all those RIR's. Keep us posted on how it's going!
  12. ChickyChickens

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