coop rafters

Let me show you how I got the rafters framed up on the coop. This bit of the design required plenty of telephone conversations, wrestling with hypotenuse and getting my head around the concept of the rise and the run.

framed-roof

To design the coop roof I pictured what I wanted the slope of the roof to look like. I knew the width of the coop and the height of its walls, so I drew it all on paper. Then, I drew it all in SketchUp, which let me measure things out after, so I could play with information I had, incorporating what I’d drawn, til I had answers. I sent the 3D drawing to my father to confirm that it all worked out mathematically. I can tell you the following bit of information that he sent back was intimidating, but for those of you who like trigonometry, here you are:

Based on the roof angle (40 deg) and the width of the coop (60"), 
one can calculate the rise as follows:

Tangent (slope angle) = y/x
Y is unknown (Rise)
X is 60" / 2  = 30" (Run)

Formula is:

Y = Tan (40) * x

Tan 40 deg is equal to:  0.83909963117728

Substituting values and solving for Y:

Y = (0.83909963117728) * 30

Y = 25.17298835318394

Make Rise Y = 25"

Quite. 25″ rise and a 40º slope is what my original paper drawing expressed, but it’s best to double-check with a trusted mentor.

peak

I decided not to build trusses (triangles) flat on the floor of the coop, before putting the walls up. Instead I framed in a ridgeboard which rests on one 2×4 with two more sandwiching it, supported by the front and back walls. Critical to have a good level to hand, I have a tiny one and a standard large one, both very old but trusty. That sandwich piece, including the height of the ridgeboard, would be the rise. The children figure it looks like a lunchbox at this point.

side-view-rafters

Then I cut rafters (thanks to the kindly loan of a neighbour’s mitre saw, no more handsaws for all this cutting!) and notched them with a birdbeak which sits on the top of the wall. Simple strength.

rafters

Once the rafters were secure (I drill pilot holes and use deck-screws) I built the verge, the overhang, on each end. Rainy winters on the Pacific require it. You can see that the verge is anchored by a couple of flat pieces that attach to the main rafters, see? I laid one rafter flat to support these pieces. I love finding out how things work.

overhang

I’d planned the ridgeboard’s length to allow for 12″ of overhang on each end. Now it looks like a little house.

roosting-bars

The roosting bar design was a little bit inspired (see below). Now, there are cross-ties and there are chords, they complete that triangle from wall-to-wall or up higher. These give the structure of roof and walls strength, integrity. I decided to use these pieces first structurally, then practically, as roosts, and finally, socially, by staggering the height of the crosspiece, to give the flock a framework to express their social order. Each night we see who roosts at which height, and in which direction, based on pecking order. Yes, those are railings from the 1950’s house demolition.

Or, for another way to look at it all, a peek at my journals from that week:


30 june
the girls helped to mind the chicks, they love the playground under the maples, though i must enclose the area outside my potatoes. i fixed my problems after some tears – broke a drill bit, things were wonky. i managed to get things levelled, plumb, and my tall girl helped me to pop the ridgeboard in – yay! how grand! it looks pretty funny, but then i sorted through a couple of videos and worked through plain old fear, and i got the rafters worked out, one of them is up! not attached, but just there — and that was a moment of huge satisfaction. hypotenuse, kiss my -! i am so happy to have pushed through, i really thought it was going to fail. well, i’ve got it now, and i’ll cut from my template and then work out the supports for the verges.
i actually threw up my hands and closed up my writing desk, it is right beside the brooder and getting so dusty! i threw a dust cover over it. i give in! when the chicks move out i’ll return to it.

2 july
i made a mistake, and needed to raise the ridgeboard ¾” and cut the birdbeaks to my original plan. that worked, and i’ve cut 6 pieces for the support for the overhang gable. it has been mad, as it is all being done with small children visiting. the lawn needs mowing, and the thistles need to be pulled, and a front bed cleared of flowers before a tree felling.

3 july
cool and a bit windy today, but i was glad for it. i made great progress with the coop. i attached the middle rafters and with a chat with my dad and some more mad calculations i figured out the overhang. the verge. when a friend came we got it put together on the front! i am so relieved! very pleased. it will need the same again at the back. my friend was just brilliant, so practical and enthusiastic.

little birds were well and went to sleep easily. i have the heat lamp on, still. they’ve weeded the patch under the maple very well, and i think i’ll move them to a spot under another bush further on, tomorrow, where i can watch over them as i build.

i had a brilliant idea that came out of a conversation with my dad – to use the chords as roosting bars, yes, but to stagger the heights, descending toward one end of the coop like a ladder. i’ll end at wall height, and the highest must still have headroom. so that’s finally sorted. good. the next steps, then. i’ll be attaching the back gable verge next, and securing all of it, yes. i’ll need to add supports to the posts.

i’ll not be putting wire over soffits, instead i’ll just close them up and plan to keep the back gable screened.

i’m quite tired. and sore, from falling over on to a rock! slipped in the rain while carrying a couple of chickens, pippin and blue. i saved them, but not, literally, my own ass. ah well, more bruises.

6 july
i took on the north gable verge, banging my head repeatedly, in the rain, swearing. i did it alone, save two minutes from our tall girl. clamps ‘r’ us. the chicks were happy in their enclosure all day, and i’m glad to have had help to move them inside. now the framing is complete, topping out ceremony traded for an epsom salt bathe.

potager design

Each year I sketch the kitchen garden to picture what will live in the protected, somewhat rabbit-free potager and what can thrive outside it, integrated into the beautiful perennial garden along the lake. I learn more every year, happily. Last summer’s disaster of crashing tomato vines, at once productive (for the tomatoes) and destructive (for everything else) has led to this redesign.

potager-design

After much gazing through images of arches, bamboo sculptures, wires tensioned like bridges, and obelisks, I’ve made a plan. I hope to build traditional trellises, the tuteur, out of cedar. The obelisk is such an old fashioned feature of an English garden, and should lend my funny veg patch some order. See the circles in my drawing? There they are. I can grow peas up them early in the year, and tomatoes later on, benefitting from the nitrogen they’ll set. They ought to be very strong and very tall, and in place well before the vines are planted, quite in contrast to last summer’s toppling bamboo frames. They might be quite pretty through the winter, too. I like that the pyramid-shape will keep the tomatoes from shading out too much of the garden, though a wall of tomatoes is quite tempting.

Below the drawings I’ve listed all the plants that might do best in the potager, with some vague ideas about the shelling pea bushes giving way to pepper plants, to be replaced later on by kales or purple-sprouting-broccolis. Spinach or lettuce might like to live in the center of the wide obelisks in spring, to be shaded out by vining tomatoes by summer to give them a little more time. Beans will enjoy growing up the bamboo that live at the north end, or along the fence. There. That’s the idea.

In one section I’ll swap out a cucumber frame for coldframes, after harvest-time. I hope to keep a series of seedlings at the ready to plant into this space throughout the summer, and leave us with some plants that can weather our maritime winter.

I’m quite fond of dotted-graph paper for its subtle order, in which 1 square: 1 foot, loosely measured off of our unruly garden space.

First I’ve laid out a hose across the land to get some idea of how the new path will run, with modifications for the irrigation system. Oh right. Later I’ll toss down some wood shavings, then wood chips to mark off the path. For now I must move slowly, recovering from an illness, yet compelled by tiny seedlings appearing under the coldframes. Wish me luck with the tuteur construction!

raising the coop walls

As in all barn-raisings, we went with the tradition of inviting neighbours round to help.

platform-stacked

Many hands made very light work of standing each wall,  right-wall

And bracing it in place once it was plumb. Just a temporary screw into the platform, and into the top of the wall, really.

east-west-walls

Tra -la. Thank you friends.

north-wall

I added another temporary piece across the top for extra strength while I set about framing in the north stud-wall. Can you see the jig-sawed arches for the nesting box pop-holes?

north-wall-sheathed

I’d already jigsawed the sheathing, and it wasn’t difficult to attach by myself. Never underestimate the friendly support of a few good clamps.

framed-south-wall

Here is my pride and joy, the south wall. I cut all of it by hand, as I had the whole coop to this point, with the exception of the jigsawed shapes. My father talked me through the principles of framing for a door, the layout of which produces such strength. My telephone support. How interesting, to build something the way it is properly, professionally, historically done, and to do it accurately, by hand. Quite satisfying. south-wall-preparation

I’ve framed this front wall to fit the cupboard doors that I found in the 1950’s house demolition. I wanted to be able to open wide doors, to easily get into the coop for cleaning and such. The height works well, too.

south-wall-clamped

Because I built the long walls out of pallets, connecting them at the corner was a bit tricky. Can you see those holes in the studs at the end of the walls? I predrilled the front wall so I could slip a bolt through on either side, and those holes allowed me to tighten a nut onto the bolts. The solutions are satisfying, but like any retro-fit, there are many solutions required! Luckily my father completely renovated his home from a 1950’s bungalow, so he’s my perfect mentor.

south-wall-door-framed

That’s it. Four walls for the chickens, and a thorough education for me. Next – there’s a roof to raise!

An excerpt from my journals of that time:


june 22

we have a third wall! the north wall, where the nest boxes will go. i am quite proud as it is reasonably plumb and all fit in nicely, though it took all afternoon with plenty of brain. it was very relaxed, however, and i had a nice chat with my neighbour as we pulled out a bit of lumber for the framing, and she gave me some sunchokes for the chicken garden. i am so pleased to have this wall framed in! tomorrow i’ll attach the plywood i’ve clamped after i cut the framing to match the jigsawed nest-box pop-holes.

i also mulched the poor currant and a potted tree, and weeded a fair bit. we tried a thistle on the chicks, no one was wild about it, but they sometimes need a couple of introductions. if they would eat my thistles i’d be delighted!
the chicks were blissful under the trees behind the coop, plenty of weeds and lots of earth to bathe in. i think they may have been out with me for three hours, so when i heard them singing their sleepytime song i called all the children to carry them in, and the chicks came to me gently, let me pick them up, only a couple ran away. now they are snoozing in the brooder after a nice cuddle with the girls and boys. they’re a month old.

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.

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.