October 1, 2013

One Woman, One Saw, One Week...

In a few days, I'll be getting some laying hens from my sister along with a couple of Guinea keets! Since I didn't have a chicken coop, I had to design and build one (by myself). It's been an interesting process for someone with very few tools and very little clue as to what she was even "doing"!

There are some pretty elaborate "hen houses" out there on the Internet (complete with mood lighting, restrooms, skylights, and snack bars - or so it seems, lol), and while mine could have been "better", I'm still quite proud of it! I thought some of you might like to see it!

Since I'm working on a fixed income, I had to keep the cost as low as possible. Please keep in mind that the only tools I had for this project were a hammer, a circular saw, a tape measure and a screwdriver...oh, yeah, and my "brain" with it's limited understanding of construction. ;)

The idea was to create a portable, low maintenance unit, for up to 6 hens, that could easily be moved from one place to another around the property. What I've constructed (and I use that term "loosely"), however, is a bit LOT heavier than I was hoping for...so, if you (and 5 of your buddies) happen to be around in the spring to help me move it out back...uh, please stop by!

With your truck.

And...a winch.

The First Day...first steps of framing: I spent more time sitting and staring at the wood than actually "touching it"...trying to mentally "work out" how I was going to pull this off. I wanted to utilize the standard board widths and lengths to avoid as little scrap as possible, so the 2'x4' "coop" with attached 1'x4' nest box will be suspended over a run of 4'x8'. Doesn't look like much here...this is after the sides are built and stacked up to cover in case of rain that night.

The Second Day: With the help of my youngest son, we stood the sides up and started "putting it together". I highly doubt anyone could do this part without someone to help "hold stuff". Thanks, son! He also put up with my frustration and took orders like a champ (well, mostly) while cutting boards to my specifications. The roll of wire shown below is the green, vinyl-coated fencing - I got the 50' roll, 36" high, for $32. Chicken wire bends/breaks easily and rusts out really quickly. Not a good choice (for pretty much anything).

Day Three - doors and a floor: In case you've never thought about this before, it is really difficult to attach the wide sides of 2x4's together. I tacked mine in place with fencing staples in the corners (for the "gate" at the bottom), then used 4 short "scraps" and nailed them on kitty-corner in each corner. We did need to shave a bit off the bottom of my gate door though...everything was "squared" by eye, so...it wasn't fitting that tight space (probably also not "square") very well! Another tip, for the door you're going to use to open the hen house...be sure it is big enough to put things in and out of and to clean inside. Ours turned out pretty good (it gets new hinges later in this process though).

 Day Four - beginning of nest boxes, roof and some paint: Before adding anything more, I moved drug the structure inch by inch over to the edge of the driveway and placed it on somewhat level ground where it will remain through the winter (easier for me to access during the cold, windy months and will provide a bit of extra wind protection/shelter in this location for the birds). Luckily, we have lots of scrap lumber around, so I used these old fencing panels for the nest boxes and layered them on the roof as well. For the floor of the coop, and between the staggered layers on the roof, I tacked down large scraps of pond liner. This will protect the wood, keep the rain out and make it easy to clean up the floor inside. Some people use linoleum over the floor. 
 So, I have to tell you...I REALLY got lost trying to figure out this whole "framing for the nest box system" thing...as you can tell.
 Side Note: My thrifty son found this (usually REALLY expensive) exterior latex paint (28 ounces) for only ONE dollar on the "mis-tint" shelf at Menard's! I wasn't about to spend $25 some-odd dollars for PAINT for the thing...but needed to weather proof and protect the wood a bit. Great find, son! Some people have put paint (or paint over Kilz) INSIDE...but it is my understanding that chickens will peck at anything and it doesn't sound too healthy for them, in my opinion.
Days Five and Six sort of just all run together in a mass of confusion, frustration and ignorance regarding the whole nest box area! On the other hand, the back of the coop went exactly as I had intended. I did have to have a friend use his table saw, though, to notch out the 2x4's where the sliding "pop door" moves up and down. I might be good with the circular saw, but I kinda wanted to have fingers left in order to type and share this adventure with you! Note that the new hinges are on the main access door to the coop now and all the hardware (so far) is installed. A word of advice: Put on a glove BEFORE you go screwing in those hinges and latches! The blisters on the palm of my hand are healing now, but wow, were they tender for a bit! 

 Great idea and then a stupid one...instead of having the entire roof lift up to access the eggs/nests (as originally planned), I decided to have just the lower half lift - this still allows easy access, won't put strain on the "main structure", won't cause a lot of heat loss when opened in winter, and won't be too heavy for my grankids to lift. The stupid thing tip I want to share is to put the hinges on first and THEN put pond liner down (or whatever you're using) OVER them. The hinges were later moved underneath the liner with a new piece added to make up for the places where water could get in before when opened.

 Next to the side gate (which I positioned in the middle and made large in case I need to reach in to remove a dead chicken or something), this is my favorite accomplishment for this coop. The pop door allows the chickens to get into the run by sliding up and down, and I can operate it very easily from outside of the structure!
Day Seven - finishing touches and catch up on a week's worth of neglected housework!: The rest of the painting is done, double-checked all the fencing staples, security of the joints, added a few nails here and there, made a ramp, put on the remaining hardware (no need for glove, my hand is pretty "tough" now, lol), and painted on some fun "decor". Somewhere in the steps above I had also installed a roost inside...must have been during the "haze" of days five and six! All that is left is tacking on a few shingles on the nest box roof! Total cost including a set of new blades for the saw came to under $150.
Welcome to the "Ramada Hen". Your complimentary issue of "Cosmipolihen" is waiting for you near the pool, and hors d'oeuvres will be served at three. In-room movies for the month of October will include "Bride of Cluckie", "Henboy", and "Fryday the 13th". ;)
 Psst...you see that spot waaayy out there to the right of the old shed and just in front of the corn? That's where it needs to be moved to in the spring (hint, hint)!

Inspired by her Native American roots and Bradbury lineage, Polly Taskey is a writer and grandmother in the northern USA.  She shares her wisdom and pagan interests through Pagan by Design and The Moonlit Grove.


Pat said...

I am "so" impressed Polly !! The hens will be very happy there.

Polly said...

Thank you, I can't wait! But first, some more "vacation fun" and "turkey and elk hunting" (equipped only with camera, of course!)

I can't wait to see the reactions of the hens when they first check it out...it could be like watching an episode of "House Hunters"...."Oooh, look Louise!, there's already a handicapped ramp installed for you!" heheh

Magic Love Crow said...

So much fun!!! Polly I am impressed too!! Hugs ;o)

Magic Love Crow said...

I like the Ramada Hen! LOL!

Polly said...

Aw thank you Stacy! Not sure I would call it "fun"...well, at least some of the time, lol, but it was definitely an adventure and I learned quite a bit in the process. ;) Hugs back!

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing your comments!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...