So here I am, a middle aged guy who's trying to become a little more self sufficient. It's just me and my golden retriever Mystie, with kids and grand kids that visit frequently. I like the idea of independence & growing my own food, and so last October I finally took the first step by purchasing a home on 1.4 acres that are zoned agricultural, and already have juvenile fruit trees and grapes planted. I can have farm animals too! Though I eventually would like a few goats for milk, cheese and meat & I've considered maybe having a hog at some point (I love bacon!), I decided to start with chickens. I started out lurking here on BYC and finally joined as there is so much great info here. I spent over a month trying to determine what coop design/size/etc would work best for me and the 30 birds I've ordered from Mcmurray to arrive the last week of May (Happy Birthday Me!). The coop design pages here provided a wealth of info and ideas! I did have one other personal issue that had to be taken into account... I did not want the govt involved and don't feel I should have to or need to pay for their "permission" to build a coop for my animals. So, my structure could be no larger than 120 square feet. I was also originally going to just keep all the birds (I ordered 4 breeds of dual purpose birds w/roosters for breeding) together, then realized that would not provide pure genetics. I mean, I can and wouldn't mind having mutts, but if folks want to get hatching eggs or chicks from me for a specific breed, the breeds have to be segregated. So after much deliberation and planning, the Hen Hacienda(s) have commenced being built. There will be 2 haciendas, each 120 square feet (10' deep X 12' wide), side by side, 10 feet apart. Each hacienda will be divided into 2; 6' x 6' chook areas with a 4' x 12' area for me to work in for feed, water, storage, cleaning access etc..
Here's the basic top down plan/view of the 2 haciendas and attached runs. The runs (4) are 11' wide by 20' long and will be completely enclosed/fenced and covered with aviary netting to prevent hawk attacks. The haciendas will be raised ~18-24" so the birds will also have access to an ~ 6' wide x 10' deep area underneath for shade and sand bathing.
The guy I bought the property from left me 2 huge stacks of lumber, including enough 2 x 10s (which we ripped down to 2 x 8) to do almost all of the platform & floor joists, and 2 x 6s to do the roof trusses I got the pallets leaning against the shed from work for free... they have 3/4" plywood tops that I intend to use as the flooring. Other stuff the seller left for me included 2 x 4s and other miscellaneous stuff I will use as I can (like several dozen concrete pavers to place around the runs and haciendas above buried fencing to prevent digging by potential predators). Next, I selected the area of the yard where my chickens are going to spend their "confined" time... I intend to let them free range in separate fenced areas of the yard when I'm around to keep an eye on them. There's a nice long open area along the back fence line that will work perfectly! It faces East, so the windows in the front overlooking the runs will catch the first light in the morning.
I hope the neighbors aren't too "put off" by my (and their) future alarm clocks My son has been a willing slave... ummm I mean helper, and assisted me in sinking all the posts on Saturday (right before the rain and snow started). He asked if he could continue to help with the construction. How could I refuse?! Absolutely! That's as far as we are right now. I'll update probably weekly as things progress! Stay tuned!
OK, so another week or so has passed and some more progress has been made. The sill plates & floor joists have been installed and one coop has been partially decked with 3/4" plywood which was removed from the pallets you can see in the background. (Should I ever forget, remind me that breaking down pallets is a LOT of work and time consuming!) My favorite oldest daughter came over & helped me breaking down some pallets. Underneath at the mid point, I installed a 1/2" hardware cloth divider. It is stapled to a pressure treated 4 x 4 which is buried between the support posts to keep the birds from digging under it. I just used regular staples as this will not be exposed to predators. The hardware cloth on the outside will be done with poultry stapes and most likely covered with wood trim. I installed this before installing the flooring, and learned from the first attempt to only install the 2 off center joists and not ALL of the joists before installing this! a LOT less climbing around between floor joists that way
Tomorrow is (once again) Saturday, and it's supposed to be upper 70s and windy. I hope to finish the flooring on both haciendas and start the framing on at least one. As a side note, I finally received the windows I purchased from CL (Craig's List). These are 6 brand new, 24"W x 36"H, single hung, double pane,vinyl windows, with screens, with a lifetime warranty. Hey, they were 1/2 the price of what I would have paid at Lowes for wood windows the same size!
I intend to have 2 in each coop on the front/East facing the runs, and one on the South side of each coop above the nesting boxes. These hens will have better windows than what I have in the house! I'll post some more pics after the weekend.
5/3/14 OK, we're now officially into May. My day old chicks are due to arrive the last week of this month. Both units have floors and one has 3 walls framed up. I also got myself a pretty good sunburn today I hope that tomorrow I can finish framing the first one and make some good progress on the second one. I did realize I made one error that I'll need to go back and fix... The pop door locations are not raised to account for deep litter inside the coop. A simple fix really at this point. Just as an aside, one of my neighbors came over to chat for a bit yesterday afternoon while I was out working on them and commented that I was building them as if they were for human occupation. You can see the vent trap door cutouts in the back wall, the clean-out trap doors in the front below the windows, and the opening for the exterior nest boxes next to the entry door frame. I didn't finish the framing above the door because I don't trust my math on the angles and slope for the roof trusses I'll finish framing that in when the roof trusses go up. I'll have the same issue on the other side tomorrow.
5/13/14 Another week has gone by and now both coops are (more or less) completely framed out. I had hoped to have the roof trusses completed this weekend, however, mother nature is not cooperating and is sending a winter storm to make our lives more interesting. In the pictures below it looks rather dark/gray even though the pics were taken in late afternoon. this is the result of the incoming storm. So, I guess the roof trusses will have to wait till next week.
5/18/14 I must be gettin' old and slow... seems like hardly anything is getting done, even though I'm putting in the hours. I spent all day yesterday and today cutting the roof truss pieces as well as the OSB cut-outs to reinforce the junction points. I also framed out the main wall for the inside of the left unit. It made it a whole lot easier to get the trusses up and into position since the rear wall is 2 feet lower than the front wall. The previous owner left almost enough lumber to do all the trusses... I fell 5 2x6x8s' short. Since the new boards were purchased, cut, then added to the stack midway through, 4 of the 5 show up in the pictures below. All the remaining truss pieces are cut and ready to be assembled, though I still have a bunch of OSB cut outs to cut. I also placed all the lower hurricane straps on the left unit. Still have to add some upper level hurricane straps yet. The weather over the next few days is supposed to be hot with a chance of afternoon T-storms. Hopefully, I'll have the roofs on both units completed by next weekend. Then I can install the windows and start putting up the exterior walls! Still a LOT to be done!
5/26/14 My son was able to help me the past couple of days and as a result, I (we) got a LOT done! He was here for about 3 hours on Sunday, and then again all day today. I expect to spend the rest of the week doing roofing I'll work on the back sides (west facing) in the am, then move to the fronts (east facing) in the afternoon. That ought to make it a bit more tolerable. Will also prevent damage to the shingles from me crawling all over them when they're hot from direct sunlight. I put my grandsons to work as well, helping me clean up all the scrap and put it in the trailer (parked over there on the side) to haul off to the dump when it's all done. Starting to really look like something now Just as an aside, while moving scrap and waste wood from over by the shed, I moved a pallet and looked down to see a baby bunny! It was so young, I was able to reach right down and pick it up All the grandsons got to hold/pet it before I let it go back under the shed (where the dogs couldn't/can't get at it ) One of my grandsons says he looked under there and saw a total of 4. This is the kind of wildlife I LIKE to have around. NO foxes, racoons, skunks or coyotes thank you! Reflecting, I should have snapped a pic or two to put up here... Still a lot to do, but should move faster once the roof is complete.
6/4/14 I haven't been able to work on the roof as steadily as I need/want to. It's been a combination of issues from T-storms, to high winds, to high temperatures, to lack of energy... I am constantly being reminded in a variety of ways, that I am no longer as young as I once was! Anyway, I got the roof on the right completed and the roof on the left has the back side 90% done. I couldn't finish the last time I worked on it as the sun was beating down on it and I was getting burned every time I touched it! So I figure I'm about 3/4 done with the roof. Once that's complete, the next part; windows/siding/doors will go pretty quickly. That will leave the runs and fencing to have a functional coop(s). The way my chicks are growing, I'm gonna need it soon! They are now a week old and have doubled in size!
Here are the future/soon to be occupants of these coops: first is the day they arrived, next is today, one week later.
6/11/14 Rain... I can't complain... we live in a semi desert/high (dry) plains area, so we need all the rain we can get, but some areas have experienced flooding as a result of all the rain we've had here on the front range! Anyway, I FINALLY finished the roofing on both coops! I thought the rain would stop me again, but it held off just long enough for me to finish and get my tools all rounded up and under cover, then the skies opened up! Hopefully this coming weekend I will have one coop completely enclosed!
6/14/14 Rain... again... Just finished putting down the Blackjack #57 on the interior floor and the T-storms moved in. Wanted to do it before it was completely enclosed for fear of fumes building up inside while applying it. So of course, the rain came in and is now a puddle on top of it before it had a chance to cure... I just hope it hasn't ruined it There wasn't a cloud in the sky when I started... I'm so hoping that the water will just evaporate and the stuff will cure as if nothing happened. Also had my son over to help and he installed hardware cloth up between the front trusses, backed up inside by regular bug screening to hopefully keep some of the mosquitoes out at night as well as slow down airflow on real windy days. Tomorrow I expect to fully enclose it, put all the doors and "hatches" on with all hardware, and then it'll be time to start on the runs. My chicks are right about 3 weeks and are trying to fly out of the brooder box. They spent last night without the red light on and did just fine! Temp this morning was right about 70 at their level in the brooder. I NEED to get the coop and runs done so they can be moved outside! Thunder is still rumblin' out back... more rain to come I'm afraid
6/30/14 One coop is basically functional and all the chicks have been moved into it, split between the 2 sections. So, instead of having 32 chicks in a 12 square foot brooder box, there are now 16 chicks each in a 36 square foot coop. I still need to do the outside trim and then paint, then complete the run and instal the pop doors. That should all happen over the next couple of weeks, then I can get to work on completing coop #2. I need to have both complete before the roosters realize what their main purpose in life is Sorry about the chick pic... didn't realize till well after dark that the camera had focused on the netting rather than the birds. However, you can still tell that they have plenty of space for now The concrete block is where I put their FF dish down when they get fed morning and afternoons. I'll be installing a PVC pipe w/nipple watering system shortly to replace those 1 gallon waterers, and a 1/2 PVC pipe or gutter trough system for their feed.
7/14/14 Finally getting some much needed rain. The T-storms have been all around us but we've gotten maybe a sprinkle or two. Even the present rain hasn't been much, but very much welcomed! OK, Had a really good weekend past and got a bunch accomplished on coop 2. I hope to have it basically completely enclosed before this coming weekend. Of course having said that, I worked over 10 hours today and expect more of the same over the coming days, so by the time I get home I'm just too beat to drag everything out to do more work. So here's what things look like now:
7/27/14 Coop 2 is completed except for interior sealant, painting of the roosts and nest boxes and nailing on the exterior trim. I will be doing my best to have all of that finished during the week so next weekend will be painting (YAY!) and start of the run enclosures (YAY again!). The chooks are no longer eating out of pie plates (above) as I constructed 1/2 PVC pipe troughs for them. They also have 5 gallon hanging water buckets with horizontal nipples (freeing up a little more floor space). I also constructed vertical PVC tubes for free access grit and oyster shell (which they are already doing their best to spill all over the floor).
1/25/15 I've been negligent here about posting updated pics as well as completing the haciendas... I still have not finished the runs Long story but has to do with getting older, aches & pains as well as lack of drive/energy. I WILL get there this spring though. Did manage to get both completely painted out before winter started so at least the wood damage has been taken care of and is under control for the time being. I will need to add another coat of paint in the spring though to cover the peeled wood in some areas (OSB walls). The sun here is very hard on exposed wood. OK, so here's a pic of where we stand presently. The tree trunk/sections are from cotton woods that were blown down by storms on the property, that I dragged into each run. One end of each will get propped up to create climbing ramps/perches as well as hiding places under them for the birds. Hard to see due to the snow but the base welded wire (2" x 4") is apron-ed out about 12-18" all the way around the runs including where the gate/doors will be located and I will be placing concrete patio pavers on top of that all the way around as well. There will be wire support across the tops of all those 4 bys and then bird netting covering the entire run area and extending down to the top of the 1/2" hardware cloth to prevent wild birds entering the runs and to protect from hawks and such. The doors will be completely covered in 1/2" hardware cloth. Note to self and others... pressure treated lumber is really bad about warping, so do NOT use it as posts where you will be installing gates! Better to get regular posts and then treat only the part that will be below soil level.
Also installed inside bucket water heaters to the 5 gallon hanging waterers with horizontal nipples. They have worked well down to -15 F. A couple of the nipples did clog w/ice over night, but a few minutes rubbing them with my fingers thawed them back out and they remained ice free during daylight hours. The broken up pavers in the bottoms of the buckets serve a dual purpose: keep the heating element off the plastic floor and walls of the bucket, and to act as a heat sink to help keep the water from freezing longer so the heater doesn't have to work as much or as hard. I've been pretty happy with them to this point.
That's it for now. will post more when everything is finally complete.