More sunny weather allowed us to make substantial progress on our chicken coop yesterday. We expect to pick up with roofing late next week.
Work on the chicken coop continued thanks to the nicest weather we’ve had in all of 2021. All four walls are framed and up.
We also experimented with different lengths of rafters for the roof and the overhang. We settled on a 7-foot roof. It stick out about two feet in the front and 9 inches in the back. You can see the 2×4 we pinned up there to give us an idea of what it would look like.
Back to the grind stone–or should I say nail gun? Warm, dry weather allowed me to get back into the field and work on framing the chicken coop.
On Monday, I took advantage of the warm weather to work on the chicken coop. It was a productive day in which we finished the floor and completed framing both the front and rear walls, which are the load-bearing walls.
We started our framing with the rear wall, pictured above, because it was the most straightforward wall having nothing but studs on 16-inch centers. The front wall had two 32-inch opening which we will use to access the interior of the coop for cleaning it out, maintenance, and to check on the chickens. I inserted 4×4 headers over these openings. We used our experience from building the back wall to work on the front wall. It went together well, and I will provide photos in a day or two once we get it in place on the floor.
The 5-foot 4-inch height of the front wall used studs that were 59.5 inches in length. I had bought several 10-foot 2x4s, so we could cut two studs from each one. For the back wall, an 8-foot 2×4 yielded two 43.5 inch studs with minimal scrap.
The rough openings for the doors ended up being just under 32 inches wide and are 38 inches tall. Based on our elevations, this is plenty of room for me to stand in front of the opening and use a rake to pull bedding out.
I can’t count how many times I walk up to a store and see the mask sign, forcing me back to my car to get my mask. We’re seeing those signs come down.
We went to the hardware store today, a place I seem to visit weekly to pick up fasteners and other hardware, and as I parked the truck, I told my wife she didn’t need to wear her mask. This surprised her, but went with it. Sure enough, none of the employees were wearing them, and I only saw one customer wearing a mask–around her chin but not her nose or mouth.
There was some point in late January or early February when I went into the hardware store and noticed I was the only one in there wearing a mask. Ever since then, I’ve left it in the car. For my wife, It was her first public outing without a mask in months.
After we left the store, my wife commented that it felt weird not to wear her mask. Not freeing, mind you, but weird.
Framing a simply structure like our chicken coop sounds easy, but it is also an easy way to introduce all kinds of errors. Proper planning helps keep it square, plumb and true.
We’ve been getting rain storms on and off for the past couple days, so outdoor work on the chicken coop has ground to a halt. There are, however, things we can do inside for this project.
The chicken coop floor is going to be 12’x4’, so I cut a piece of plywood in half. When butted up against a full sheet, this will give us the full length. Then I painted both pieces with a durable exterior paint. I used an enamel because I wanted it to be glossy. I also painted the edges. When they dried, I flipped them over and painted the back side. Why do the edges and the underside of the floor need paint? To minimize water penetration and rotting.
Framing the Walls
I spent several hours yesterday taking the big-picture plans I have for the chicken coop and converting them into a detailed drawing to serve as a guide for the framing.
Warm, dry weather means its time to work outdoors, so we recently picked up where we had left off with the garden fencing project.
Work on our fencing project, the bee yard, and the chicken coop continues. We have installed H-braces for our fence corners and gateposts, as you can see above. We also seeded both white and crimson clover to provide a nectar flow for the bees. This will be in addition to flowers we will plant later. Because we live in a heavily wood area, I expect the bees will collect most of the pollen and nectar from the trees.
Installing the H-braces was pretty easy. I measured the distance between the posts and cut the bar to fit. Then I drilled one post, stuck a 10-inch long nail through it and into a hole in the end of the brace. This serves to hold one end of the brace in place while I leveled the post and marked the point to drill on the opposite post. Then we drive another big nail through that post and into the horizontal brace. This looks nice, but doesn’t accomplish anything until you use fencing wire to add some tension to the H structure with some fencing wire and a ratchet.
I watched at least half a dozen YouTube videos on how to do this, including videos sponsored by fence companies and by random homesteaders and farmers. I then proceeded, and it went pretty smoothly. We’re ready to pull fencing, but I’m going to wait until the chicken coop is finished.
As spring comes closer, we order our bee hive, bees, and chicks. It was a learning experience but we will plan better next year.
Earlier this week, I took advantage of the warm weather to spend some time in the garage and inventory my beekeeping supplies. I have a brand new hive bottom, a super with frames, and several spare large and medium frames. I also have a hive tool, a bee keeper jacket with hood, gloves, and a smoker.
When my daughter was in high school, she raised bees as a science project. When she went off to college, I inherited the bees. We had them for five or six years before we lost the hive to some unknown die-off. To get rid of any mites or disease, I burned the boxes, disposed of the frames, and packed away all the unused parts and accessories in case I had bees again one day. Looks like that day is almost here.
To construct a full hive, I ordered two hive bodies, an inner lid, an outer lid, a queen excluder, an entrance reducer, and an inside feeder that replaces a frame. I still need a bee brush and hive staples. I have a few cinderblocks that I plan to use as a base.
The three-pound package of Italian bees with their queen will show up in April. Then I will don the bee suit and pour the bees into the hive. I’ll add a second hive body once the queen is free from confinement and starts producing brood. Not knowing what will be flowering and providing pollen and nectar when they arrive, I expect I will need to feed the hive.
We get some professional advice regarding our chicken coop design and garden layout.
After having a zoom call with our friend who raises chickens and also works as a county extension agent, we have changed our chicken coop plans somewhat and changed the layout of our raised beds to help eliminate erosion by offsetting the beds.
My planned coop was originally 4’x8’, the size of a standard sheet of plywood (32 square feet). I have enlarged it to be 4×12 (48 square feet). I am building it with a divider so that we can split it in two if we raise chicks next year, want to introduce new chickens to the flock, or offer a broody hen raising eggs or chicks a private location we can do so. This could also be useful if we want to raise a batch of meat birds at some point.
I mentioned this plan to a friend who raises chickens, and he heartily endorsed the idea, saying that he had to add such a partition a year or two after building his coop and that it would have been easier building it in from scratch.
As gardening season approaches, we concentrate on chickens, bees, and appropriate fencing to protect them all
Lately, I have been reading, watching videos, and studying up on chickens like there is no tomorrow.
Having a “backyard” chicken flock has always been part of my long-range planning, even after one of our neighbor had more than 50 chickens and ran a free range chicken egg business out of her house. (Thank goodness our bedroom was on the opposite side of the house because she had a rooster.) So I’ve been reading articles and blogs for some time, but that has intensified lately.
I have made up plans to build a 4-foot by 8-foot chicken coop and made a list of building materials that will be required. The only unanswered questions I have are how much insulation will be needed and how much venting I need to have, plus do I need to cover up the vents on super cold days.