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home  projects

October 24, 2013: OK, it's been a LONG time since I've posted an update, sorry. But - there's a good reason - we're pretty much done with the coop. Ohthankgod, it's finally done. There are still a few little details to wrap up like a little paint here and there, some trim work, and a little more work on the electric fence and chicken run. But anyway, on to the new stuff.
I got the feeders put together for grit and oyster shell. They are made from 4" PVC, and will give the girls plenty of grit (for digestion) and oyster shell (they will crave calcium to help with egg production). These were simple to build and will provide a good amount for them, so we won't have to refill them very often.

The door also got some trim work, too - I used 1.5" PVC trim, and notched it for the hinges behind the door. I also drilled a horizontal hole into the trim on the right edge, so the bolt latch could fit inside. It hides it quite well.

I continued on with the trim, taking care of the northeast and northwest corners of the coop.

I also took a little time to run some cable in the house. I got the battery monitor (a Victron BMV-600S) wired up, so we can see the exact state of our solar battery bank from inside the house. Which is awesome.

When I headed back outside, I dove into the "electric grid" around the chicken run. That's what I'm calling the electric fence surrounding the run. We have way too many predators around (raccoons, oppossums, coyotes, foxes, cats, dogs, bobcats, etc), and we've poured too much time/ money/energy/blood/sweat/tears into this entire project to let a dog rip its way into the chicken run and kill our flock.
So, I'm building an electric fence around the lower half of the outside of the chicken run walls. It'll be live anytime we're not physically inside the run or coop.

Even though the coop isn't really out in the open or at risk of a lightning strike, there's a lot of metal (all of the hardware cloth and the electric grid) exposed, so I went ahead and mounted a lightning protector with its own ground rod on the outside of the run. Really necessary? Nope. A nice $10 insurance policy? Yep. The circular green device is a high-voltage LED indicator that will let us know if the grid is hot at a glance. The second picture is the disconnect that will shut the grid down.

I'm having some challenges with the door - it is the only section of hardware cloth that isn't grounded, and the electric grid is actually inducing a voltage of almost 3,000 volts on that hardware cloth. I've tested it six ways from Sunday, and it is *not* an accidental short or anything - it really is that high of a voltage being induced just being close enough to the hot grid conductors. This means two things - the first being that the *rest* of the sections of hardware cloth would likely induce the same kinds of voltages if they weren't incidentally grounded (simply by contact with the earth), and the second being that I'll need to ground the hardware cloth on the door. So, because of both of these revelations, I'm going to have to actually run a grounding conductor to each section of hardware cloth. 3,000 volts will likely kill a chicken (and make us jump), and I cannot count on the incidental grounding that I have right now - as the hardware cloth deteriorates in the elements, I'll lose that "accidental" grounding. So, it *all* gets grounded electrically. Pain in the ass, but it's the safe thing to do.

September 27, 2013: Another week, lots of progress. We're so close, I can feel it. One of the last major components is the people door into the run - once that's complete, we can at least let them into the run and not have to watch them every second. So, that's what I tackled next.

While the door was drying, I got two coats of finish paint on the north and south soffits, and got the gutters up. I ended up extending them a bit past the west wall of the chicken run, so I could just run the downspouts down the wall at an angle to the water barrel that will be installed.

Finally, the door is finished and hung. Still have a little tweaking to do and a bit of touch-up painting, but it's in. It works. And now we don't have to babysit the chickens every second.

September 19, 2013: Yep, it's been a while. Here are some more updates. I primed a bunch more furring strips, as well as the fascia board for the south end of the chicken run.

More hardware cloth went up - we've gone through about four bundles of furring strips and probably 20 pounds of screws, but it's not going to let any critters in (or out!).

At this point, I realized that I hadn't taken any final pictures of how the solar system turned out. The panels are up and you got to see that, but I didn't post any pics of how it all came together. The first picture is the combiner box, which uses two Y-connectors to connect the solar panels together, then passes the conductors through a cable clamp assembly so it's all weatherproof. Then, there is a disconnect switch to completely disconnect the panels from the system, and the equipment bonding to make sure each individual panel and the pole are all grounded. The final pictures are the pull box where the ground is spliced in, and the ground conductor and rod.

I put the fascia board up. This allows me to start working on the guttering, too.

The hardware cloth walls are pretty much wrapped up now, just need to work on the floor next.

I finally got time to get the wiggle mold up, which let me start fitting and cutting the roofing panels. I could have purchased 12 foot panels instead of having to seam 8 foot panels, but I just didn't think the expense was worth it. This roof is over the run, if I don't get it perfectly 100% leak-free, it's really not the end of the world. I had to trim off the tops of the chicken run corner posts to get everything to fit.

With the roof up, I wrapped the edges down over the furring strips on the east and west sides. It gives the roofing panels a bit more rigidity (we get some VERY violent winds here), protects the top edges of the furring strips, and is a bit easier to deal with than building overhangs.

The last little detail I have a picture of is the electric fence disconnect for the chicken run. I got that mounted up on a few furring strip scraps so the handle would clear the hardware cloth. Once I get the door built, I'll get the electric fence put up around the run. The hardware cloth will keep coon and possums out, but it might not stop a determined coyote. I want that extra layer of protection in there.

September 06, 2013: More updates - I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, AND I'm fairly confident it's not a train! Now that many of these little dependencies are finally taken care of, I hit the chicken run with a vengeance. I started working my way around the coop and run working on the remaining hardware cloth - once I get it all enclosed, at least they can enjoy the nice summer weather while I get the hardware cloth installed on the "floor" of the run, and the roof overhead. I had to cannibalize the temporary run for more hardware cloth.

Along the way, I also got some primer and a quick splash of finish coat on the east wall, which let me re-mount the network junction box for good and get a corner of trim up. The trim was preventing me putting up the hardware cloth in the east gap between the coop and the run.

The hardware cloth is a pain in the ass to work with, and getting it around obstructions isn't easy. Several times I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that this is all for chickens, so it doesn't have to be perfect. I typically want to do a better, neater job that some of this. But really, in the end, it just needs to keep chickens in and not-chickens out.

With the majority of the hardware cloth up, we could let the girls out in the run supervised. The roof still needs to be installed, and the run "floor" still needs its layer of hardware cloth to prevent predators from burrowing in from below, but it's good enough to let them out and enjoy some fresh air.

While they ran around in the run, I made up a cable and attached a pulley to the rafter, as well as some rings on the side of the run. This is to hang a treat basket, and to be able to adjust its height.

The girls loved running around in the grass, foraging, and generally being idiots. While they did that, I worked on getting more of the high hardware cloth up, and installing more furring strips to hold the wire mesh permanently.

After putting the chickens back in (WOW, was that an adventure), I got the first finish coat of paint on the outside of the coop. The white spots are where I used some Quad on screw holes. I'll touch them up once the Quad cures.

August 26, 2013: MASSIVE update, part deau. I finally uploaded and processed the second batch of photos I've been sitting on for a while.
Not the smartest creatures on earth.

The girls have been in the coop for a few weeks now, and they love it. They're active, seem to be happy, and love being able to look outside. Now, I need to get the run completed so they can actually be outside. The major push is to get all of the hardware cloth up, around, and under the chicken run. They don't need a roof on it to use it, as long as they're supervised, so the priority is to get the run usable and finish putting the roof up afterwards.

It may look a little goofy, but I'm mounting round reflectors on all of the large run sections. My wife and I are both scatterbrained and tend to get focused on things. When we do that, we have a tendency to walk into things - doors, etc. So, with some reflectors (bought at a surplus store for $0.35 each), we hope to increase the visibility of the hardware cloth panels a bit so we see them before we absentmindedly try to walk through them.

While the morning was still cool, I got the rest of the solar system trench backfilled and compacted.

I also got the steps squared away. I dug a little pit underneath where the steps land in the run, and leveled it roughly. Then, I added rock and compacted it, leveling it as I went. Once I got done, the steps are level and solid, and no more shims. Plus, now I can hardware cloth the floor of the chicken run.

While chickens are cold-tolerant as long as you keep the drafts closed up, they can struggle in the heat. Missouri summers suck. I installed a wireless temperature and humidity probe in the coop, so I'll get an alert if it gets too extreme for them.

My buddy Kyle came over and helped with pouring the concrete for the solar panel base. I snagged a 14 foot pole from a surplus store nearby, and we got it installed, the concrete poured, and the cables pulled. I also mounted and wired the solar panel disconnect in the basement, and got the disconnect labeled per the NEC. It's up and running now.

I took advantage of Kyle being here (he's like nine foot twelve) and we got the ridge board up for the chicken run roof. This will allow me to work on the rafters.

Even though the rafters aren't as much of a priority, I still like to mix it up and work on different things here and there. I get bored doing one thing for a long time. So, I took a break from the other stuff and worked on some rafters. I got the rough notches cut and then fit them closer to size as I installed them. Blocks were installed between each one on the top and bottom ends.

Once the rafters were up, I decided to spend another hour on the run roof and get the battens up. The wiggle mold will be installed on these, and then the roofing panels will be installed.

If you recall, the door was going to hit the rafters. It was unavoidable, I simply ran out of vertical space on the south wall of the coop. So, I got out the trusty Sawzall, and modified the door so it swings clear. It doesn't look real great, but I can clean it up a bit with some trim board.

I also got the north side primed. The siding sheets are pre-primed, but I feel better putting a coat on myself. Especially after all the holes I put in them putting them up (and missing studs every now and again). While I was into the primer, I slapped another coat on some furring strips. These will be going up very soon, as the hardware cloth is getting closer to done around the run. Right now, it's just stapled up, which is temporary.

The last thing I worked on was preparing the north side of the coop for the hardware cloth that will go between the coop and the ground.

August 22, 2013: MASSIVE update time. The chickens have reached the event horizon, so I've spent the last three weeks working pretty much every waking moment to get this coop done. We had a number of things that were show-stoppers for moving the girls into their new home - the nesting box, the people door, the roost, and their feeder and waterer.
I started on the nesting box. When I sided the coop, I cut it snug around all four sides of the nesting box. Probably not a great idea - I had to mount the hinges for the lid, and try to make it as watertight as possible. A brief rain shower impressed me by showing just how much water can flow down the side of a coop - there was an inch and a half of water collected in the bottom of the nesting box! Good grief. So, I set the depth on the circular saw very carefully, and notched the siding where the hingest needed to go. I strugged to get a strip of flashing slipped behind both the siding and the Tyvek, but I finally got it. It's not perfect, and it might be a temporary thing, but it seems to do the trick for now.

I got the windows trimmed out with some furring strips - this is for chickens, they don't need fancy oak trim or anything. Most importantly, this covers up the foam caulk rope around the windows, so they don't peck it apart.

Once the windows were trimmed, I took a few minutes to build a basic gravity feeder from a section of 4" PVC. It was very simple, and will provide them a lot of feed and little manual labor from us on a daily basis.

Intermission time. Some pictures of the girls in their temporary run outside, while the real run is under construction.

Chickens are horribly filthy beasts. Not swine type of filthy, but they're messy little bastards nevertheless. As such, I installed a drain in the floor. With the linoleum, a drain lets us get in there with a mop and water when we really need to get a deep clean going on.

The people door, all primed and ready to go!

They also need their roost to move in, so I went to town on that. The hinges needed to be mounted, the roost boards needed to be fixated so they wouldn't rotate, and then the entire assembly needed to be installed in the coop with a few tie plates on the ceiling to fasten it to when it's folded up and out of the way.

The people door was due for a good hangin'. So, we hung it. I am well aware that the top right corner of the door will hit the rafters of the chicken run's roof - there simply isn't enough vertical space on the south wall, so I'll have to adjust it later.

Since we are planning on using the deep litter method, we needed a "dam" of sorts to keep the cedar shavings from pouring out the door when we open it. So, a quick bit of work with furring stips and a bit of leftover 1 x 6, and we have a litter dam.

The nesting boxes are ready!

The major chicken containment items are ready!

The feeder and water are hung and ready!

I built a temporary grit and oyster shell feeder. When the chicken run is done, they'll have all of this available outside. Until then, we can use this.

Big HUGE check on the list.

July 30, 2013: Well, lots of progress on a few different fronts. While we're a week past when I wanted the chickens in the coop, we're nearing the end and we should be working on the chicken run very soon.
I got the linoleum installed inside the coop on Friday evening. No, it's not necessary, but it'll make cleaning the coop much easier. I finished it up the following day with some furring strips. We ran it up the wall for a few inches where we could.

Durbin had some trenching to do as did I, so we went together and split the cost of a trencher rental for a day. We started at his place and got his done, then ended up at our place to trench for the solar panels. We had about 75 feet or so to go, and there was no way I was going to dig that by hand in the hard, sun-baked clay. We got the trench completely done, so when we get the concrete poured for the pole, we'll be able to install the solar panels!

In a spare moment, I got a second coat of primer on the south, east, and west sofitts.

I also cut and mounted a piece of plywood to close off the chicken door until the run is finished.

The lovely Mrs. Benny worked on a temporary chicken run in the back yard, too. They're getting big, they're getting grumpy, and they need some room to play/forage/etc. It's not pretty, but it will give them some time to stretch their legs and wings while I finish the chicken run.

After installing the temporary chicken door, we started working on installing the hardware cloth over the windows. What a pain in the butt - four inch screws with phillips heads are HORRIBLE. Even with pilot holes, screwing four inch screws into solid wood is almost impossible with phillips heads - they start jumping, and if you're not incredibly careful, the heads will strip. But, the long screws are necessary, that cloth has to be solid.

Last but not least, my father-in-law worked for much of the day on designing and building a folding roost for inside the coop. It's not finished, but the design is sound and it won't take it long to mount it and finish things up.

July 24, 2013: Hallelujah, the siding is done! I started with the west end of the coop - not much siding there, the wall is almost completely window. So, it's not perfect, but I pieced it together. By doing that, I had enough siding to finish the project without buying another sheet.

Here's a happy moment - about to make the last cuts on the final sheet for the north side. I needed to cut a place for the power outlets on that side.

The north siding goes up!

Now that the siding is up, I took a few minutes to punch a hole through the east side to mount the network conduit permanently this time.

Thank god, the siding is done. I still have trim to put up to take care of the corners, etc, but the heavy lifting part is done.

July 22, 2013: We're on the home stretch now! The girls will be in the coop before the end of this coming weekend. And that's a good thing - they're getting huge. We took them outside one at a time yesterday and clipped their wings, and a few of them were pretty hard to control. Time to get them moved in ASAP.
This weekend was a lot of work (I was out working on the coop before 7AM both days), but boy did we get a lot done. A few updates from the second half of last week - I got the people door built. I didn't get pictures of the actual construction, but here it is after being glued and screwed together. All of the crap piled up is to weight it down and keep it as flat as possible while the glue cures. In the second two pictures, you can see just how out-of-square I let the doorway get when I framed the south wall. I'm sure my father is rolling in his grave (he was a carpenter and a craftsman), but I keep reminding myself - it's for f'ing chickens. I can't hang it quite yet, I need the siding up for that.

After the door, I started working on installing the Tyvek housewrap. I think Lowe's should help sponsor this entire project - I've spent eleventy billion dollars on this, AND advertised them with their housewrap.

Despite all my mutterings, putting up housewrap solo isn't the biggest pain in the ass in the world. Taping it is. I got rolling on that while my wife worked on priming and painting, and she jumped in on the end of the taping. She agreed, it was a pain in the ass. And that housewrap tape stinks.

The north wall gets its new paint.

The stairs are ready to go!

Construction in Missouri summers is a thirsty, thirsty business.

Then it was on to the siding. The siding is holding up several pieces of this puzzle, namely mounting the lid on the nesting box, hanging the people door, and installing the hardware cloth screen over the outsides of the windows. The east wall was first.

I started siding the south side, too.

I had to make a few cutouts for electrical stuff - I needed power in quick, but I forgot to take into account the thickness of the siding. The PVC is already glued, there's no going back, life goes on. I'll clean them up the best I can. The gap above the electrical disconnect is intentional, the top of the disconnect has to lift straight up to remove, so I'll have to figure out a way to make that look a little better.

Once I had the siding on the south up, I went ahead and enlisted some help from my wife to get the stairs installed. After a few SNAFUs with measuring incorrectly, we got them mounted. I actually mounted them on hinges, so we can lift them up and out of the way for cleaning or to get underneath the coop. I'll mount a cleat on the side of the coop so we can use a piece of rope or chain to hold the stairs up and out of the way when we need to.

It's looking good - half the coop is sided!

July 17, 2013: OK, no updates for quite a while, I've been too busy/exhausted. We're on the home stretch now - the chickens are getting HUGE, and they're starting to get a bit grumpy with each other in the brooder box. We can't go any bigger with the box - we don't have the basement space. So, I have to get the coop done.
I started the grind on the southern soffit and fascia.

It might be a bit overkill, but I installed a drip edge around the bottom of the structure. This will prevent water from following the bottom corner of the siding/sheathing and saturating the bottom of the structure. Plus, it was all of like $10 for all the flashing.

The fascia I had put up on the south side was a 1 x 4 like the northern one, but it didn't cover what I wanted - there was still a gap on the top, between the roof deck and the fascia board. So, I bought a 1 x 6, and actually mounted it *over* the existing 1 x 4. It actually turned out quite nicely, it covered the gap much better, and it closed the gap underneath.

Once I was satisfied with the southern soffit and fascia, I moved onto priming the west soffit and vent.

Since the cheeping bastards are getting so big and things are getting urgent, I took a day and a half off from work to continue on the coop building marathon. I started on priming the east fascia and soffit on Monday morning.

I was already in the priming zone, so I went ahead and slapped another coat of primer on a bundle of furring strips. These will be used for both "trim" inside the coop, as well as the framing for the hardware cloth that will completely enclose the chicken run.

Next up on the hit parade - I needed to get the nesting box built. Really, this is the last truly large hurdle, as it's a gaping hole in the east wall. They won't lay eggs for a little while, but I need to seal up the envelope. The people door is another, but that's a much simpler build. So, on with the nesting box. I started by drawing out a very rough pattern on some cardboard, and mocking it up somewhat. The measurements are rough, but it's close enough to tell what is going to work, and what isn't.

I then laid that out on 3/4" plywood, and cut one out. A little wiggling, a LOT of rasping, and I got it adjusted to a point where it would fit, and fit pretty well. I went ahead and cut a second one, and got them both fitting nicely:

This took quite a while, but I'm glad I took my time and fit everything carefully. I did some priming, and then used the original pattern and adapted it a bit for the two partitions between nesting bays. I cut them out and tested them for fit as well (the short little strip of plywood is just there to ensure that the back of the box will fit nice and flush once the partitions are installed).

At some point during the day, I also trimmed up the spray foam I used to somewhat seal up the gaps between the roofing material and the fascia board. A coat of primer went on that as well.

The next day was all about finishing up the nesting boxes. I got the lid cut which included beveling the top edge at 14 degrees so it will fit flush once the siding is on. I also got the partitions square and plumb and installed them, and then put a coat of primer on them.

July 08, 2013: It's been a long several days, but we got a lot done. I started by getting the rest of the inside of the coop primed and ready for paint, and got the electrical I had to move to prime back up.

I worked for half a day on July 4th - I wanted to at least get something done, but I also wanted to enjoy the holiday with my family, too. I started by cutting and installing a few trim boards inside the coop. They're not really "trim" persay, as they're just furring strips that I'm using to seal up some of the seams and corners. Trim, in my mind, is nice wood and mitered corners and such. These are just cheap wood and help clean up the appearance a bit. Nevertheless, they make things look a bit better.

Once I got those up and a first coat of primer on them, I started setting up ladders and working on the north gutter. We intend to have a basic water catchment system so we can use rainwater to care for the chickens as much as we can. We may get enough rain in a season to do it, we may not. But it'll be nice to not have to haul water the entire year. I started by stringing a chalk line across the fascia board, and accounting for a slight incline so water will drain. I dropped about 0.25" across a 10' span.
With a chalk line to follow, I then mounted the PVC gutter brackets with screws. Once they were up, I cut the cutter section to install the drop outlet (where the water goes down out of the gutter), and then popped everything into place. The last step was to loosely install a length of black plastic mesh in the cutter itself, to keep some of the leaves out.

And of course, the ten foot section of PVC gutter I bought was about three inches too short, once I took into account the west overhang and the drop outlet. I stubbornly refuse to buy another full section of gutter just to cover that three inches. I may change my mind once I install the gutter on the south side, and I'll be short again.

Unfortunately, I had to work the day after the holiday, so I couldn't get a full day's work in on the coop. But I was still able to get about a half day in. I got the electrical roughed in for the IP camera that will help us watch on the girls, and figured out that the network box and power box for said camera were too close together, I'll have to move the network box. Oh well, not a huge problem.

The next day, I got started early in the morning since it was going to get hot. I had to dig the holes for the 4x4 posts for the chicken run. And oh lord, is that ground bad - it's heavily compacted, it's got a lot of clay in it, and it was as hard as a rock. It took me almost six hours of back-breaking work to dig six holes approximately 24" deep each. One of the holes was bad enough that each stab with the trenching shovel would only take about a quarter of an inch with each bite. That day just about killed me.

About halfway through that day, I deeply regretted not having Durbin bore the holes for the posts. But, the hole digger he has is a 12" auger, and that was a bit larger than I wanted, especially since one of the holes was right next to my two buried conduit runs for the power and network. So, I dug. And dug. And after that, we went to Lowe's. Durbin was coming over the next morning, so we needed to get all the treated lumber for the chicken run. Again, people, buy Lowe's stock. It's a pretty safe bet right now.

It was R-Day (chicken run day). It was also hot as balls, which sucked. But, Durbin came over, and he knows how to do this stuff very well, so it was infinitely helpful to have a second set of hands that knew what he was doing. We started putting up the run walls, without the concrete in the holes. It was the opposite of what I would have tried, but it made getting everything square, plumb, and level much easier.

July 03, 2013: OK, here are the pictures I took the other night, but never uploaded.
I got the west vent screened in - that wraps those up, they're ready for chickens except for priming and painting.

I added short 2x4 blocking mounted perpendicular from the sheathing out to the ends of the rafters, and then trimmed the rafters off with my Sawzall. That did a few things for me - it gave me a more-or-less level surface to screw the soffit to, and it gave me a consistent length for the rafters.

The Sawzall and I got a bit crazy on the west end - it wasn't real easy to balance on top of a ladder and trim these rafters cutting upside down, so I cut into a bit of the roofing along the edge. Not a big deal, I'll zip another screw in the short strip to the left, and seal it up with some Quad.

And then I mounted the fascia board, using the newly-cut rafters.

After the fascia went up, I commandeered the other 1x4 to build the soffit. I figured it would be better to get one side done than have two sides half done.

Once the soffit was up, I took a rasp to things and smoothed out a few rough parts. Once it was "good enough", I threw a coat of primer on it. Since this is an outside surface, I'll put three coats of primer on for extra protection.

When I was done with that, I moved back into the coop and finished up with the west wall's sheathing. It was just a bunch of little strips getting puzzle-pieced together.

To wrap up, I started priming the north wall.

June 30, 2013: Another week, and a lot of progress!
First off, the roof is done! Oh thank the lordy jeebus, the roof is done!

I also got the ceiling sheathed.

Before I called it a night, I insulated part of the south wall, and I roughed in some of the power.

And then, of course, I ran out of insulation. So, yet another Lowe's run. If you're into investing, LOW (Lowe's) is a pretty safe bet right now. On with the insulating:

I didn't really like the roughed in electrical, so I redid it a bit - the box on the right is the light switch, and the box on the left is a convenience outlet. Oh the bliss of having electricity inside the coop! Very convenient indeed.

The next day, I dove back into sheathing the inside of the coop.

The north wall got the same treatment the next morning:

For some damned reason, I stubbed out some Sealtite to the left of the light fixture. I don't know why, I think we had discussed putting the IP camera in that corner at some point, and apparently it stuck in my head. I went ahead and left it, terminating it in a four square for future use if we need it for a heater or something.

On to the vents on either end - these will be open during the summer, and will most likely be sealed up during the winter, depending on how much ventilation the girls need. I cut some 2x4s and framed them out. Cutting the angles was a challenge, but I think they fit together quite nicely.

I punched the conduit for the IP camera through the east wall. Unfortunately, the hole saw I have isn't deep enough to make it through the wall in one shot, so I had to take a run at it from outside, and then again from the inside. Of course, I didn't get them lined up properly, so I'll have to take care of the gaps.

Before I called it a night, I installed the 1/4" hardware cloth screen in the east vent. I cut it for the opening, then sandwiched it against the 2x4 framing with furring strips. The strips are pretty low quality (they're just made from crap wood), so I used 2" exterior-grade screws and 3/16" fender washers. That way, if the strips split, the screen will still be secured.

June 24, 2013: It was a long, hot weekend. But, we got a LOT done.
We started on the roof. God, how I love that job - a swiss seat squeezing the jewels, kneeling for an hour or two on an incline leaning back against the rope while drilling and screwing and Quad-ing. Bleah. But, we got five sheets up. Unfortunately, we needed six (when I bought the roofing material, I wasn't sure how much of an overhang we would put on the west side). We'll get a sixth sheet tonight and finish it up. I will also pick up some more wiggle mold, the roofing material needs a bit more support along the top and bottom edges (you can see how much "slop" there is). I'll also be cutting off the excess material at the bottom.

We also got the south window installed.

After all of that, I was pretty wiped out and it was getting late in the day to start another major push. I fiddled around getting some small things done, like cutting out the space for the nesting boxes, cutting out the triangle-shaped ventilation at the top of the east wall, and weatherproofing around the windows with some foam rope.

The south and east walls are really coming together!

June 22, 2013: I've been really bad about taking pictures, but we have been busting our asses all week on the coop. I took a lot of pictures today, showing our progress.
Earlier in the week, I started sheathing the outside of the north wall. In the third picture, you can see how I notched the sheathing to slip around the rafters.

I had to wait on sheathing the rest of the north wall, as the double duplex box for the convenience outlets would have to be replaced (I accidentally dropped a 2x4 brace on it and broke two of the four mounting ears). The 1/2" PVC conduit feeding it would also need to be replaced (the one that I installed originally didn't take the thickness of the sheathing into account).
So, I started sheathing the south wall. It's the largest of the walls, but it doesn't have much sheathing at all - almost everything is either doorway or window. So, instead of cutting up full sheets of plywood to sheath it, I just pieced together scraps. As you can see, I did well with some of them, but not so good with others.

Because the power disconnect was installed before the sheathing went on, I had to kill power again and reinstall the disconnect and conduit running to the double duplex convenience outlet box on the north side.

Once the disconnect was reinstalled over the sheathing, it was a good time to rough in the power for inside the coop. We'll have two sets of outlets inside (one for the IP camera, one for miscellaneous maintenance/cleaning/etc.

June 18, 2013: After the weekend, I was pretty beat up - leaning back against that rope while straddling rafters and nailing roofing felt really isn't all that much fun. But, the chicks are getting HUGE, and I feel the clock ticking. No rest for the weary, on to sheathing the coop!

I just cut the sheathing to size/shape, and put it up - it's much easier to just get it up and then cut out the openings for the nesting boxes, so this view from inside the coop shows the space that I'll need to cut.

The west wall is almost entirely window - the one we got off Craigslist was 3' wide and 5' tall, so it literally is the west wall. Because of that, we just sheathed the wall using scraps of plywood, and I got the window in. I was running out of energy, so it's just nailed in for now. Tonight, I'll level and shim it properly, before fastening it in for good.

June 16, 2013: The past weekend was both a washout and a success. On Saturday, we made [yet another] major Lowe's run to pick up the bulk of the remaining materials. A little over $350 later, we drove all the way across the city to meet someone from Craigslist - we picked up a vinyl window for a great price. And it tilts in for cleaning! Yeah, yeah, overkill, but it's nice to find a window that was large, opens for ventilation, and under $100.
Unfortunately, a storm blew in just as I was setting up to start working on Saturday afternoon, so I really didn't get any actual work done. Well, it's good to have most of the materials now, in any case.
However, my wife's parents came up to help on Sunday. The day started out looking pretty shaky with a heavy mist coming down, but that finally quit about 10:00 or 10:30. It left the day armpit-swampy, but at least we could work. We started out by getting the east and west overhangs framed for the roof. I again remind you I'm not an expert, so I'm pretty sure my roof-building is a bit .. unconventional. It's pretty sturdy, though, and I already had a sistered 2 x 4 pair that I had to cut out of the west wall to fit the window we picked up. I figured that (and the extra blocking) would give it a little extra support. Once the chicken run starts going up, there will be a 4 x 4 in the corner to help support the extra wide overhang on the west wall.

Once the overhangs were ready, we cut and installed the roof decking. We used 15/32" plywood, mostly because of the lower cost. I would have rather used 3/4", but that was damned expensive. All three sheets are glued and screwed into the rathers. There's some wave to the deck, but that will straighten out a bit more with the fascia boards, the roofing material, and with some additional support I'm going to add underneath the deck to help support the seams a bit more.

We cut the roofing felt to length, plus about eight inches or so. I wanted some extra to wrap the edges of the deck when I start to trim it all out.

Next, I strapped myself into a swiss seat. I tacked up a 2 x 4 across the front (high) edge of the roof, and then threw a rope over the roof. The 2 x 4 was to protect the edge of the plywood and give a stronger edge for the rope. I attached to the rope and climbed out onto the roof, using the rope to brace myself (and catch myself if I slipped on the slick plywood). My wife handed up the precut rolls of roofing felt, and I laid and nailed it all down.

June 14, 2013: Well, I haven't really taken pictures this week, but I *have* been busy - I got all the rafters cut, and kind of figured out how the roof was going to go together. I'm sure it isn't the way real professionals build a roof, but, well - this is a chicken coop, not Trump Tower.
So, tonight I installed all the rafters. There are seven of them, not quite 16 inches on center (I opted to add one more and have less than 16 inches between, rather than one less rafter and a longer span). And here they are:

Here is a closer look at how I stabilized the rafters, and keep them from twisting. I cut 2x4 blocks to fit between the rafters on the upper and lower plates. I bet there's a better way to do this. I also bet this will work just fine.

And finally, I added a set of blocks halfway up the span. This will add stability and will stiffen the roof, and will give me an additional point to fasten the roofing panels.

Next up on the hit parade - the roof goes up tomorrow!

June 09, 2013: The fourth wall is up! I framed and installed the south wall of the coop today. The south wall is where the door and largest window will be, as well as the door for the chickens. Unfortunately, about half way into the wall, I realized that it wasn't completely square. By that time, I had glued and screwed an awful lot of lumber, so going back to tweak was mostly out of the question. So I made a command decision - I decided to erect the wall before it was finished.

Then, it was on to framing up the rest of the wall. I'm going to build the door instead of buying something, so if the doorway isn't exactly perfect it's not a huge deal. The window, however, doesn't give me that flexibility, so I wanted to make sure it was plumb and square. I started with the window sill and cripple studs:

Once I was done, the window opening was plumb, level, and square. If you look closely, you can tell that the doorway is not, while the window opening is. I'm not going to worry about that... This is a chicken coop, not a McMansion.

Once the south wall was done, I still had some fight left in me, so I started building the rafters. I did a little research on YouTube, and cut the bird's mouths on two rafters. They fit pretty well!

June 06, 2013: Progress on a few fronts this week... Our chicks showed up on Tuesday, and are now hanging out in a brooder box in the basement:

Here are a few pictures of the network and power that I trenched in. I got the permanent boxes installed last weekend but didn't get pictures of them. This is a 6" x 6" PVC pull box that I used to break out the two network runs I pulled. I used outdoor-rated direct burial CAT5 cable, type STP (shielded twisted pair). I did bury it in schedule 40 conduit, that provides a good layer of protection for the cable itself, even though it is rated for burial. I'd rather have it in conduit for the additional level of protection from moisture and physical damage. I used STP because it's only an inch or two from the power, so I wanted shielded so it wouldn't pick up all the interference from the AC current being so close. There are two runs - one to the garden, and the other will go to an IP camera inside the coop itself.

This is the electrical disconnect for the power. It allows me to de-energize the power to the coop and shed completely, and is required by the NEC. The second picture is of a double duplex box I mounted on the outside of the coop (and outside of where the run will be) to provide power for maintenance/construction/normal tasks around the coop and garden. It has a weatherproof cover that allows me to have things plugged in even when the weather isn't good. The entire circuit is protected by a GFCI breaker in the generator panel in the basement.

I framed and raised the west wall today, too. I just framed out the outline of the wall, because I don't have the window for it yet. Once I have a window, I can frame the rest of it for the correct size.

June 01, 2013: It's been a busy day! I didn't take any pictures of it, but I started with wiring up the permanent power to the coop and shed. I had been using a 25' Sealtite whip connected to the conduit I trenched in as kind of a makeshift extension cord. I mounted the disconnect on the side of the floor platform, and wired up a double duplex box with four receptacles on the north side of the coop for power. I then wired the Sealtite that I trenched to the shed into that box, so everything is nice and permanent.
Once I got that wrapped up, I started measuring and cutting lumber for the north wall. That will be the shortest wall - we decided to make it about 5' high. I'll have to lean down a bit, but the roof will slope up to the south, so that's OK.
I started by marking out the top and bottom plate of the north wall for studs:

Because the floor is essentially 4' x 8', I used two true 8' 2 x 4 pieces for the plates.

Once I got the plates marked, I laid everything out:

Then I applied the "Mike Holmes" method - glue it and screw it!

And then, it was time to raise it!

I jumped right in on the east wall. The nesting boxes will be on this wall, and will be about 12" high. They will actually jut out from the side of the coop, to allow gathering eggs without actually going inside. I am not entirely sure how I want to build them, but that's more of a trim detail than a framing detail, so I started by basically framing out a 12" high opening, and then put a light duty header over then framing in studs above.

Here is the finished wall, ready to install.

And here it is, after getting everything level and plumb.

Here is a closer look at the opening I framed for the nesting boxes. The coop is small and the roof will be very light, so I didn't bother with a real 2 x 8 or 2 x 10 header across the opening - a pair of sistered 2 x 4s will carry the load just fine:

May 29, 2013: Well, one of the footings we poured back in April turned out to be bad. It was like the hole stayed too wet, or perhaps one of the bags of Quikrete 5000 didn't have enough cement in it, but it just fell over when I took a Sawzall to the J-bolt in the top. It literally crumbled and fell over. So, I wasted a lot of time digging that back out.
We got that taken care of two weekends ago; I opted for the lazy way out, and replaced the 8" sonotube with a 12" tube (that was the size of the hole, I figured it'd be considerably easier to just slip it snugly into the hole and be done). That has had time to cure, so onwards!
Here is the base now, with the one large footing. It looks goofy, but I was tired of wasting time. You can see the temporary power pulled through - that's the Sealtite running from the J-box to the shed.

We also got the garden worked up with a hand tiller (I dubbed the tiller "The Destroyer Of Worlds and Benny's Back"), and got some plants in the ground. They're not all going to make it, but they're looking pretty good for the first year so far. These pictures are from a little over a week ago, so the plants aren't all that visible yet.

I tilled up a separate patch for asparagus:

I also got the hot and ground feeds trenched in for the electric fence around the garden. Because I'm alternating hot and ground wires, I can't just rely on earth ground, so I trenched in two separate 1/2" conduits. I installed a high-voltage disconnect on the side of the shed, so we can de-energize the garden fence while we're working out there, while leaving the fence around the chicken run hot.

Here is one of the lightning protectors installed on the garden fence. It's kind of out in the middle of an open area (and we live on a hill), so I wanted to add some protection. This unit will shunt a lightning strike to ground through a little gas tube underneath the plexiglas cone at the top. Also notice the yellow warning sign; there are ten of them around the perimeter. That's just CYA in case an idiot gets shocked and tries to complain that they didn't know the fence was hot.

Speaking of idiots, I've got an IP camera watching over the garden. That's just as much to watch the wildlife, as well as evildoers hitting the fence.

We also have strung out some soaker hoses. We're just about floating right now with all the rain we've gotten, but that'll change later on in the Missouri summer.

April 15, 2013: Yesterday, we poured the footings for the chicken coop. I used 8" sonotubes, one in each corner. We ended up using just shy of 1100 pounds of concrete mix (that's just the dry mix, much more once water was added and mixed in). That totals out to about 8.1 cubic feet.
We filled the bottoms of the holes with concrete, then set the sonotubes in and starting filling the tubes. Once the tubes were solid, we added rebar and plumbed them up. A little backfill to keep them in place, and then we filled the rest up and sunk a J-bolt into the top. That's what the metal brackets will fasten to:

I also got the conduits punched through our crappy siding and run to where they need to go - one to the generator breaker panel for power, and one to a J-box for network. We're planning on having a few IP cameras in the coop, so we can keep an eye on the girls:

I screwed up when I measured my conduit, it's about seven or eight inches from the footing. I can't have it unsupported, so I'll probably just dig up the elbows and extend them another six or eight inches, so I can fasten them securely to the new concrete column:

April 07, 2013: Wheeee, we finally broke ground on our chicken coop! A buddy of mine came over with his tractor, hole auger, and plow. There's a lot to be said about having the right tools to do a job - he was able to bore five 12" holes for footings, and plow and till the garden in two hours. It would have taken me four or five days, and it would have been backbreaking.
The solar panels are going to be mounted on a pole south of the house, where there are no trees to shade them. I had originally planned on putting them directly west of the house, but they'd be partially shaded in the winter, and I'm not 100% sure of where the septic line runs in the back yard. So, last minute change, we bored the hole for the footing right south of our grill patio. It'll make for a longer cable run (which isn't good when dealing with low voltage DC current), but it'll have better exposure to the sun. If you click on the picture to view the large image, you can just barely see the ground rod sunk next to the hole. This will be for the equipment ground at the panel:

The chicken coop will be directly north of the house, next to our ramshackle shed. The coop will be 4' by 8', and will be surrounded by a run. The total footprint will be about 8' by 10' or so. The four footings are approximately 4' x 8', and will be directly under the coop:

The garden is going to the north of said shed, where the previous owners had corn. Durbin and his tractor plowed up the terraces that were there, and then tilled the soil. It's still a little rough, but I can knock the rest down with a hand tiller:

We live in the country, and with country living comes critters. We have critters, and lots of them - opossums, skunks, racoons, deer, rabbits, dogs (strays and dogs that run), just about everything. Unfortunately, all of the above will destroy a garden. So, we're putting an electric fence around the garden:

It's going to have seven strands, alternating hot wires and ground wires, and surrounds the entire garden with a three to four foot border:

The little green doohickey at the top is a Gallagher Live Lite - it will flash with every pulse from the fence charger, so we know at a glance if the fence is hot or not. I'll be installing a few high-voltage knife switches, so we can de-energize the garden fence while we're working on it, or de-energize the fence that will go around the chicken coop while we're taking care of them.

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