Chicken Coop Project – Part 1

My big project for this summer is not in the workshop, but rather in the garden.  The kids want chickens (I must admit I’m particularly fond of fried eggs) and I enjoy building, so a chicken coop it is.  I realize that this is not the usual topic of my blog and if you aren’t interested, I wont be offended if you read no further.  Tune back in this winter and I’m sure I’ll be back at the workbench.

I asked in an earlier post if anyone was interested in me documenting the chicken coop build here on my blog and there was some interest, so I’m going to post from time to time.  I certainly won’t do my usual in-depth, show-every-step posts, but there will be enough to show whats going on.

Here’s the bit of land that I’m going to clear to build the coop on:

The spot in my back garden that I chose to use for my chicken coop build.

The spot in my back garden that I chose to use for my chicken coop build.

The area has some small trees, but it is mostly saplings and other scraggly stuff.  I’m not going to take down any large trees as they are what I love about my property.

This is what it looks like from the other side.

This is what it looks like from the other side.

The big cedar is staying, but the little trees have to go.

The big cedar is staying, but the little trees have to go.

All this forest undergrowth will have to come out as well.

All this forest undergrowth will have to come out as well.

Before I could get started, I decided that I needed to run power to the barn/shed that I built a few years ago.  The barn is right next to where I plan to build the coop, so a sub-panel installed in the barn will supply power to the nearby coop.  Also, I have wanted lights (electricity) in the barn for some time now.  It can be very dim in there, especially in winter, and the chicken coop has finally pushed the barn electrical project to the top of my to-do list.

In the photo below, I’m standing on the ramp that goes into my barn.  I had the trench for the underground power supply cut from the house to the barn, and a dog-leg off that main trench that will led to the area where I plan to build the coop.

The first step was running power to my barn. I had a trench cut.

The first step was running power to my barn. I had a trench cut.

The barn/shed that I designed and built in 2009.

The barn/shed that I designed and built in 2009.

I installed a sub-panel in the barn with a 60-amp 240v service.  I used 2-gauge aluminum power cable for my two hot wires, 4-gauge for the neutral, and 6-gauge for the ground wire.  This stuff was not cheap and I needed over 200 feet. Ouch!  This will be more power supply than I can ever imagine using, but I figured that it was better to have more room for expansion than currently needed.  After all, you never know what you might need (want) in the future.

I then spent a few days wiring and installing lights and electrical outlets inside the barn. I also installed two exterior carriage lamps and an exterior electrical outlet.  When all the wiring to the panel and circuits was done, the last thing I did was to make the connection at my main power service entrance to the house.  Doing it this way, meant never having to worry about touching a hot wire while wiring the barn.  With everything tested and working well, I filled the trench back in.

After the conduit and cable was done and the trench filled in.

After the conduit and cable was done and the trench filled in.

 

I installed carriage lights and an exterior electrical outlet on the barn.

I installed carriage lights and an exterior electrical outlet on the barn.

The trenching process dug up a lot of rocks, so I put these to good use and extended the rock wall around the big cedar.

I used all the rocks dug up by the trencher to extend the rock wall around the base of the big cedar.

I used all the rocks dug up by the trencher to extend the rock wall around the base of the big cedar.

Before filling in the trench, I also installed the 12 gauge line that will supply power to the chicken coop.  I guessed as best I could where to bring the power line back up to the surface.  Hopefully this will be underneath the final location of the coop.

This cable will supply power to the hen house. (I hope its in the right place)

This cable will supply power to the hen-house. (I hope its in the right place)

I started pulling out all the small brush and saplings, and once they were removed, took a felling axe to the bigger trees.

After pulling down all the little trees and saplings, I felled one of the larger ones with an axe.

After pulling down all the little trees and saplings, I felled one of the larger ones with an axe.

The area opened up quite nicely and lots of light came in.

Gradually the area opened up.

Gradually the area opened up.

I bought a 20 ft. chain from harbor freight, and using the trailer hitch on my truck, pulled out all the tree stumps.  All except one that is.  The one in the below picture was very stubborn and did not want to come out.

I used my car and a 20ft chain to pull out all the tree stumps, but this one wouldn't budge.

I used my car and a 20 ft. chain to pull out all the tree stumps, but this one wouldn’t budge.

I bucked the smaller trees into logs and split them into firewood.

The few small trees that I did take down yielded some decent firewood.

The few small trees that I did take down yielded some decent firewood.

It's a start, but there's loads of digging ahead.

It’s a start, but there’s loads of digging ahead.

All of this forest floor detritus will have to come off to get down to bear earth.

All of this forest floor detritus will have to come off to get down to bare earth.

My next door neighbor has a Bobcat and brought it over to try and make short work of clearing the forest floor.  However, the ground was so packed with roots that the blade on the Bobcat couldn’t dig in.  It would simply hit a root and then slide along the surface.  The Bobcat was starting to churn up the ground so we stopped.  We tried repeatedly to pull the remaining stump, but it wouldn’t budge.  My neighbor went home for lunch and I spent about an hour and a half with the pickaxe digging around the base of the tree. When he returned, I had loosened the stump enough that the Bobcat was finally able to break it out. Even so, I took ramming it a good 20 or 30 times to get it out.

My neighbor came over with his Bobcat, but it kept skipping over the roots.

My neighbor came over with his Bobcat, but it kept skipping over the roots.

It's going to take a pickaxe, shovel, and wheelbarrow to get rid of that mess.

It’s going to take a pickaxe, shovel, and wheelbarrow to get rid of that mess.

I spent the next few days with a pickaxe, shovel, and wheel-barrow removing all the forest floor spongy stuff and getting down to bare dirt.  You can really tell the difference as the forest detritus is a dark chocolate-brown color and the dirt is a much lighter beige.

After many days of shoveling.

After many days of shoveling.

Finally, down to bare dirt.

Finally, down to bare dirt.

Once down to bare earth, I gave the area a light pickaxing all over to break up the surface a little, and then aggressively raked the high spots to try and level the area.  I didn’t get a photo after the leveling, sorry!

Everything in this post took about two months to accomplish.  The digging was quite exhausting and I’m hoping that it was the hardest part of the build.  I can’t wait to get to the framing as I really enjoy that.

In the next post, I’ll build forms for the concrete footing and pour the foundation.

More soon(-ish)

 

– Jonathan White

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don't build enough - I need help!
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10 Responses to Chicken Coop Project – Part 1

  1. After seeing the ‘barn’, I can’t wait to see what the chicken coop ends up looking like.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Ralph,

      It will likely look much the same. I priced out T-111 siding thinking that it would be cheaper than the cement plank siding that I used on the barn/shed. Wow, what a shock. I think I can do the cement siding for less. I’m not going to the trouble of putting a gambrel roof on the coop though as I don’t need the extra interior height on the coop.

      All the best,

      Jonathan

  2. Mariano Kamp says:

    Great. Thanks for sharing. Please continue to do so 😉

  3. jenesaisquoiwoodworking says:

    Hey Jonathan

    The more I see of your property the more I like it. It is absolutely stunning. I cannot believe that you built that barn. It is a beautiful design and very well executed. Seeing that the chicken coop will be quite close to it, you might need to make it look similar in appearance. It will be the luckiest chickens in the world living in such a palace!

    Send my regards to the family, mate.
    Gerhard

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Gerhard,

      The barn was a really fun project. It was my first attempt at building a structure from the ground up and I learned a lot about how buildings go together. It took me six months from breaking ground to finishing the paint work. The coop will look similar, except I’m going to use a standard apex roof and not the gambrel roof that I put on the barn. I think you are right that they will be pretty lucky chickens. Perhaps I should rename the chicken coop the chicken palace. Considering the cost of building materials these days, I’m certainly not doing this for cheap eggs.

      Speak soon. All the best,

      Jonathan

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