jigsawing doors & windows

Once the long walls of the coop were complete, they needed to be sheathed with 3/8″ plywood that I hand-sawed down to size, which was surprisingly quick and accurate. Then I clamped, predrilled and screwed the wood into place along each stud with deck screws, using my father’s trusty 1960’s drill.

sheathing-walls

Time for doors and windows!

jigsawing-windows

An equally old, equally trusty jigsaw did the trick for cutting out the windows and doors. First, measuring and marking, then drilling pilot holes for the blade to fit through. Working with 3/8″ plywood is terribly difficult, a thicker material is far easier to cut accurately. I prefer hand-tools for their gentle sounds across the lake, and the slow, simple, human speed, but I’m grateful for that jigsaw!

window-cutout

Little chicken coop windows! Tra-la!

drawing-arches

I’m sure there’s a proper way to mark an arch, but as I only know how to draw on paper with architectural tools, that’s what I did. Solving problems is good enough, sometimes. I’m not gifted with numbers, but triple-checking my measurements, and working visually to make sure that I got each nestbox pop-hole and little window to fall between the studs, and evenly, wasn’t so difficult. Don’t let them stop you, those numbers.

A project like this alters as needed, so the drawing evolves into the real object. So far, adjusting the number of windows to pallet sizes and that sort of thing is no problem.

nestbox-cutout

I can just picture little hens popping through these arches into their comfortable, straw-filled nestboxes, to lay.

roosting lessons

Our little flock at a few weeks old, falling asleep to a lullaby. It is so brief, this moment of growing in feathers, and napping in the day. The chicks remind me of every other baby I’ve known.

They grow much faster than the coop, I dare say. Plenty of work ahead, to make them a safe home.

the coop platform

With the platform sited in a protected corner of the garden, I set about getting it level and standing up on legs. I designed the coop on four legs to provide an undercover area for chickens to hang out on rain days, and to keep rodents from easily gnawing through the floor.

Working one footing at a time, I dug out a square of turf, then a bit of earth, replaced it with gravel, and tamped it down well. I slid the concrete footing back, and worked with a level on my platform til the whole thing was level in every direction. This was unexpectedly easy. Quite unusual.

On the other hand, three pallets, bolted and framed, are quite heavy! I used whatever I could find around to raise the sides bit by bit, doing very little lifting. I tried supporting just the left and the right, and watched the whole thing fall over as I was clamping one leg. Oh dear. Best to support all four sides, not unlike the fellows who raised my parents home off the ground thirty-odd years ago, using stacked railway ties.

platform-raised

In preparation, I cut my reclaimed posts to size and set them soaking overnight in a bucket of preservative (an ecologically sound, locally made product that the good folks up at Eco-Sense recommended). I picked up metal pieces built to hold the base of each leg and has a bit of rebar that pokes through the hole in the footing and pins into the earth. The name escapes me. Each leg needed clamping into place against the platform, checking for level again, along each side, and across each corner. Such a relief to have that in place! Then I drilled holes through with a very large bit and knocked through and tightened two carriage bolts on each leg.

platform-covered

Everything must surely be easier after completing a step like this. I cut 5/8″ plywood and predrilled, then screwed it into place on top. A raised platform! A chicken coop floor!

I knew how to do little of this and needed to ask questions of mentors all the way through, I assure you. Let me show you how I cut out the doors and windows, next.

training chickens

When the chicks were quite small, some of our play with them looked a bit like training. We’d see if they’d come to our call of “Here, chickens!” and later, to their own name. We asked them to be gentle when pecking food from our hands, and later, in their own daily negotiations of social order. “Be gentle!” This is a little video of them responding when we asked them to jump up.

Aside from being delightful, the idea behind training chickens for us is to make it easier for us to keep them safe. We can give them more freedom in this predator-ridden area, when we know that “Here, chickens!!” works to round them up. We’re also learning their language of warnings and expressions of joy and worry and hunger and sleepiness. We wonder at their intelligence every day, they are fascinating creatures.