Well, my once monthly post schedule continues, barely. For once, I can report that I have been quite productive. This will be quite a lengthy post. I know that this is supposed to be a woodworking blog and I have waylaid it for the past six months, but fear not, this post contains actual woodworking. I promise… look below. No, really…
You can read the earlier posts in this series here:
- Chicken Coop Project – Part 1
- Chicken Coop Project – Part 2
- Chicken Coop Project – Part 3
- Chicken Coop Project – Part 4
- Chicken Coop Project – Part 5
I ended the last post in this series with the hen house walls insulated and the insides sheathed in OSB. I’d also painted the inside and had chicks living in a brooder box in my workshop. However, the hen house still has openings in the walls for the nesting boxes and the poop pit. These will need to be closed up before the chicks can move in, so I’ll start there.
Looking back, I skipped over quite a lot as far as photos are concerned. I must admit the past month has been a little stressful as I was really worrying that I would not get things done quickly enough. It turns out, CHICKS GROW REALLY FAST! So, with the pressure on, let’s get building.
I started by making a door for the poop pit opening. It had to measure roughly 62″ x 14″ and I wanted it to be a little more substantial than just plywood. I decided to make it out of 2×4 douglas fir but was concerned about wood movement if I just glued up 4 pieces and made it a solid slab door. The time-tested solution to this is to make a frame and panel door. Also, I had really been missing doing some actual woodworking, and this was a great way to incorporate it into the chicken coop project.
First, the frame. I took some 2x4s and jointed and planed them s4s. Then I got out my marking tools and laid out my joinery. I marked all my lines with the knife and cut the tenons with a backsaw.
Then I chiseled out mortises.
To prevent splitting out the ends, I left the long pieces about an inch over length at each end. These “horns” can be cut off later after glue up. With all the mortise and tenons cut, I test assembled the frame.
I took a look in the scrap sheet goods bin and found some 5/8″ plywood. I cut a corresponding 5/8″ groove in the centre of the inside edge of each piece.
***Missing photo alert ***
I got in the zone and forgot to take any photos of the glue up, sorry.
With the first door done, I turned my attention to making the twin doors for the nesting box openings. I found that I didn’t have enough 5/8″ plywood to make the next doors and looked to see what I did have. I found a few pieces of 1/8″ ply. I thought that 1/8″ would provide no insulation at all, but then it occurred to me that I had plenty of it. Why not install two panels in the same frame? I’ve never seen it done before but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Also, trapping a pocket of air in between the two sheets of thin ply would add some insulation to the door.
It took me quite a long time to make the first door cutting the joinery by hand, so I thought I had better speed things up a little for the next two. Time is of the essence as far as these rapidly growing chicks are concerned. At the table saw, I cut twin grooves in all the pieces. I then cut tenons on the short pieces.
After glue-up and a reasonable drying time, I trimmed of all the horns and gave everything a good sanding. I broke all the sharp edges with some 80 grit paper.
I primed everything with Kilz primer and top coated with the same paint that I have on the exterior of my house. The rest of the coop will be painted in these colours later.
I waited for it to stop raining and installed all three doors on the coop.
Around this same time, I installed some linoleum inside the coop. This isn’t really needed, but it will make it much easier to clean out the coop later. I used some mastic that I spread with a notched trowel to glue down the linoleum.
Again… I forgot to take the “after” photos, but you’ll see the floor a little later in this post. I also made a frame to hold the roosts. It is made out of 2x4s and assembled with pocket hole screws. I completely forgot to photograph the build of this. In the bottom of the roost frame, I want to make a very large drawer that will pull out from the outside. This is the poop pit that I have talked about previously and hopefully will make the clean up of the coop much easier.
To make the drawer I milled up some 2x6s and cut them to final length. I got out all the tools I would need to dovetail the drawer together.
I cut the tails first on both ends of the two boards that needed them.
I cut the pins on the other boards. I decided to use 3/4″ ply for the base of the drawer so routed a 3/4″ groove in all the pieces.
I did the glue up for the drawer and everything went very easily. I usually feel a little stress or sense of urgency during a glue-up, but this one was a breeze. I hope this is the start of a new trend in my shop. The dovetails were nice and tight so no clamps were needed. I even measured the diagonals to check for square and they were perfect with no adjustments needed. Must be my lucky day. I left it on the bench to dry.
I flushed up the joints with a smoothing plane and a sander. I put a 3/16″ round-0ver bit in the palm router and rounded all the edges, top and bottom, inside and out.
It seemed a shame to paint over those nice dovetails, but I cut them for strength not for looks. The wood needs the benefit and protection of the paint. I primed it with Kilz and top coated it with semi-gloss.
To install the drawer, I used 36″ full extension ball baring slides. I spent a little time searching online for 36″ or 40″ slides and was amazed at how expensive they are. Most cost somewhere around $185. Not happening! The 36″ slides that I most encountered were rated for 500 lbs. which was much more than I needed. I found a pair of 250 lb rated slides in the 36″ size for $37. Much better, I ordered a set of these. I installed the drawer and the hardware.
Here’s a picture of the roost frame that I spoke of earlier. I used a template and the router to cut notches in the frame. These notches will hold and support the roosts that the chickens will sleep on. I have some madrone wood branches that I have had set aside for a couple of years for this purpose, but I wasn’t sure that they would work. In case I later need to remove the madrone roosts and replace them with 2x4s, I routed 2×4 sized slots in the roost frame.
I then needed to route 2×4 sized tenons on the end of each roost. I made a template, screwed it to the end of roost, and used a pattern router bit to flatten two sides.
Here’s how the roosts fit into the frame.
I was originally going to fill the poop pit drawer with sand. This would be very easy to clean out with a kitty litter scooper. However, I’m pretty sure that the chickens will scratch around in the sand and throw it about. This means that sand will get into the ball bearing slides. Not good. I decided to use pine shavings in the drawer instead.
The whole hen house will later be filled with pine shavings and I needed a way to keep the shavings inside when the door is opened. I used some scrap MDF to make a board for this purpose. I also made two cleats to hold the board in place.
With this board in place, it was tricky to get in and out of the coop. You already had to step up to get into the coop, so now having to step over the board makes things that much harder. I needed to build some steps on the outside of the coop so that you were already at the same level as the inside of the coop and could easily step over the shavings board to get inside.
I had already built some steps earlier on in this project, but wouldn’t you know it, they were too close to the coop to add a 3rd and 4th tier. I had to dig them up and re-position them. It was some extra work, but it turned out ok.
Next, I installed the waterer, feeder, and a heat lamp. I filled the coop with pine shavings and was ready for the chicks. I still need to make the nesting boxes, but there’s no hurry as I still have a few months before they start to lay.
I moved the chicks out to the coop. This gives them much more room than the box brooder that they were in. They are six weeks old and ready for this.
Well… I made it. The chickens are in their new home just as they were too big for their brooder. The other reason for this urgency was a planned family vacation to England and Spain. I uploaded all these photos to my site before I left home and have been piecing this post together in some free time while on holiday.
When I get back home, I’ll have to continue on with the coop and install the wire around the exterior run. I also need to make two man-sized doors to access the run, and a ramp for the birds to use to get in and out of the hen house. The project is finally nearing the end, but I will have to wait for spring before I can paint the outside.
This is probably my last post for 2015, so I will sign off and be back with you in the new year.
– Jonathan White