Living in shoebox-sized apartments in Asia, I missed making things. Now that I’m home, I’ve resolved to fix that. I had cooking and photography to occupy me over there, but I find there’s something essentially human in building lasting, physical objects.
I had plans to start up woodworking – build a workshop, learn the art of joinery, start turning out small boxes and pipes and cutting boards. It’s an expensive hobby, and one I’m still dipping my feet into. In the meantime, I have some things to fix.
Namely, this monstrosity:
My mom had her eyes on some egg-laying hens while I was between stints in Korea and Taiwan and I said, “Yeah, I think I can build a chicken coop.” I guess I did, but it’s not something I’m proud of. That’s my garage in the background. I see this thing every day and hang my head in shame.
A few problems:
- Ugly as sin.
- Too small (chain-link run was added later to give them more space)
- Not enough roosting space
- Sagging roof
- No way to easily remove chicken sh… uh, “waste” from the roost
- No idea why I painted some surfaces and not others
So it’s been two years and these girls are slowing down. Chicken-and-dumpling soup this winter, I imagine. Then comes these:
Six one day, then another eight a few weeks later. And Mom’s looking through Craigslist ads to buy a chicken coop. I wouldn’t ask me either. Thought, “Screw it, I built that first one for practice… THIS one’s for keeps.” Made some mistakes again this time around. There’s some things I might do differently next-next time. But overall, I’m pretty damn proud of it.
I had a ten-foot wide space to fill in the open-air part of the converted barn. The roosting area is plenty big this time at 10 ft X 2.5 ft. Nesting boxes went on this side of the coop at 8 ft X 1.5 ft. I still don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to framing, but it’s for chickens so what could really go wrong. Everything ended up more or less square.
Reinforced the floor with some crossbeams. Framing only took two or three days, with a lot of time spend getting the fiddly bits of the floor cut out around the 2x4s and 4x4s. Moved it to the barn with some help. This thing was stupid heavy already. Not pictured, I added crossbeam for the doors, and two 1″ X 4″ X 10′ beams across the length of the coop for roosts.
I thought the floor was annoying. Paneling was just as bad. Maybe worse. Definitely a “measure sixteen times, cut once” kind of affair. I moved my work tables and just about all of my tools out to the barn at this point. One outlet. Five corded power tools. Sooooo much fun.
Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t so bad. It was nice knowing that I would be able to hide my mistakes with trim and that eased some of my worries. And seeing it get a “skin” helped motivate me to continue. I “dry-fit” each panel with a few decking screws to make sure everything lined up, then stripped it down and painted each panel separately before doing the final mounting.
I used pine 1″ x 2″ for the trim, painted white. Cheap, but time consuming having to paint each piece. Initially, I planned on mitering the corners flush but I got lazy and came up with this design instead. The roof and door to the nesting boxes had about an 11 degree slope, so I ran with it and mitered the angles of the trim to the corresponding 79 degrees. Made a few mistakes here, but learned from them. The window trim could be brad-nailed together BEFORE installing it on the door. Also, my window lines up with the support for the roost, which sucks and could have been planned better. Hardware for the side doors (same on both sides for scraping out chicken waste) was salvaged from an old front door, and the smaller hinges and latches were from Home Depot. For some reason, I bought silver AND gold hardware. Indiscriminately. Irritating.
Almost there. I was probably two weeks in by this point and slowly losing my mind. Put off making the roof for a few days to recover. It was a lot easier that I was imagining in my head and because it’s covered by the roof of the barn, it doesn’t need to be water-tight. At the back is a 10 ft 2×6. Figure out the angle, cut some L-shaped grooves at the right spots in some 2x4s, and overlay with plywood. Done. After futzing with trim and paint and mounting hardware, this part actually felt good. Paint it red, nail on some more trim. Good to go.
Added a 10 ft X 10 ft chain-link run, but with the additional eight chicks, this might need to be expanded soon. Total cost ended up being about $400, and coops this size look to sell for $1000 or more. Paint, lumber odds-and-ends, and some of the hardware were things I already had on hand.
I had a great time making this, even if some parts were frustrating. Like I said, I’m very proud of the way it turned out. There were a few things that helped me be successful. Part of it, I put down to planning. I’ve since tossed my sketches, but I had a very solid idea of what I wanted it to look like before I started. Some of it was being limited. There’s only a certain amount of space between those two beams, and they don’t sell plywood sheets any wider than four feet. I worked within those limitations and let them guide my finished product. The rest was up to me – recognizing that sometimes it’s best to put down the tools, let things settle in, and make some solid choices before setting back off to work.