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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I know why they call it Fall...

Because you have so much work to do before winter brings its icy chill that you work yourself neigh on to falling over every day! 

The past four weeks have been a blur of activity thanks to some seriously FABULOUS weather.  September into October can either be stunning (which it has been), or go to Hell in a Handbasket (which it hasn't).  The days have been getting alarmingly short rather quickly, but the daylight we have had has brought us light breezes, dry air, and temperatures in the 70s.  I couldn't possibly pass up that combination to work outside and built the addition to the chicken run.

One fine October morning I just started working on it.  Plain and simple, out of the house and started digging holes and sizing up walls.  I can't tell you how nice it is to have the supply of lumber and concrete and all those other building necessities just sitting in the barn, waiting to be used.  Before we settled down, every time we had a project, we had to buy all the materials for that project.  We didn't have room to store things.  I'm not saying I didn't make my normal million trips to the hardware store or lumber yard, but having the basics just around made things a little easier.

I no sooner walked down the hill with my can of marking spray paint and a 2x4x10 and every fiber of my body instantly remembered how hard construction was.  The falling into bed exhausted from a day of construction in the elements, keeping house, volunteer work, and herding a teenager.

I had an idea of what I wanted.  Basically it was a lean-to addition to the main run.  The birds needed more space, more shade, and a wind block.  Even on a sultry summer day, the howling winds would send them, feathers blown asunder, to seek shelter either under or in the coop.  The lean-to design would allow them another 100 square feet, would have windows that would open and close, a real roof, and solid walls.  With the windows open, wind would flow freely.  With the windows shut, air could exchange through the main run and, by extension, the addition without blowing all the feathers off the birds.

I wanted to continue to use the tipping wing on the east side of the old run to provide winter shelter and a rain shield, so the height on the run was determined by the closed position of the wing.  The height of east most end of the new run was determined by how far I was willing to stoop to work in the new run combined with the necessity of making the new roof have a functional slope.  I also wanted to be able to make the most of dimensional lumber whenever possible, with as little waste as possible.  What I ended up with was a high end of just over 4 feet, a low end of just under 4 feet, a run of 8 feet and a roof slope of 7 degrees.

It sounds all so meticulously planned.  It wasn't.  I had the whole thing on a napkin and in my head.  I just had to rally my body to get with the program.  For such a small project, and an easy plan, it was made ridiculously complicated by the speed at which it had to go up.  Sure, I was facing an ever collapsing window of amazing weather, but the real trick in timing was the order things HAD to be done in for the security of the chickens. Besides the normal order of things, Job A then B...  I couldn't take part "C" before "B", and couldn't install windows before cutting out the hardware cloth wall between the new and old sections or I'd be trapped in the new addition.  I couldn't install the windows without the sashes.  I needed the hardware cloth from the old walls to use on the interior of the windows.  Everything had to be ready and in place for the day I would cut that wall down.  Once the security wall came down, there was no going to bed until the addition was a fully secured Ft.Knox as well.

See how that would add stress?

That said, should we start?

The location was locked in, so I just needed to finesse the size.  8 foot wide would allow me to use 8 foot lumber.  Handily enough, I can get 8 foot lumber in my truck.  10 foot boards, I can only fit 4 as they have to sit up on the dash.  12 footers, well, those have to ride diagonally out the passenger window.  So I do prefer to keep the world to 8 feet when I can.  As for Plywood.  Sigh.  4 foot wide pieces will NOT fit in my truck.  It drives me BONKERS.  So while I was digging post holes, I was pondering what to do about the walls and roof.  But I digress.

First things first, the post holes.  I literally placed a scrap 2x4x10 on the ground marked at 8 feet, lining it up with the existing run wall and sprayed where I wanted the post to go.  I did the same for the other end and used a scrap 12 foot piece to make sure they lined up with each other.  I dug out the
 holes, with lots of help from our overly friendly construction overseers group, and tossed in 4x4 treated posts.  These were leftover from another project.  I sunk them about 20- inches deep and set them in concrete.  When they were fully dry a few days later I cut them to the length I wanted.

I painted a 2x6 to the coop run to add as a header and support for the roof on the run side of the addition.

I temporarily screwed a 10 foot piece of 1x2 to the old run and ran it out to the post to determine the slope of the roof.  From there, I was able to attach my 12 foot header from post to post and make it level, cut and attach the 2x4 end roof supports on both ends and trim the 4x4 posts.  Treated and painted 2x4s were laid on the ground and a 2 foot wide piece of hardware cloth was attached to the wood.  It was then tacked down with landscaping staples.  The hardware cloth will simply vanish as the grass grows up through it.

The windows are all salvaged from the local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.  They all needed a good scrape down, sanding and filling, and several coats of white paint.

Here's were it got tricky again.  I needed the windows to be flush mounted with the walls.  The opening had to be smaller than the windows, so that when closed, rain wouldn't find its way in.  My east end windows seemed HUGE! I didn't remember them being so big and swore I had purchased similar, but smaller windows.  After tearing the barn apart, and not finding them, I figured I had just remembered incorrectly and pressed on with fitting the addition to the new windows.

To make the opening for the windows, I measured the interior dimension of the windows.  This is where the 2x4 stud in the wall would be, and where the siding of the wall would be.  I centered my openings and put up the studs.  Once the siding was on, I would make frames to overset the windows and hinges.  The north end window is simply a permanently closed picture window, but the framing was the same.  The window on the south end is a flush mount window, so the studs needed to be right up  to the edge of that window.  Once the studs for the window were in place, it was time for the roof.

Since it was almost, but not quite flat, I decided to treat it as a deck and framed it as such.  The rafters are every two feet on center and there are plenty of cross supports. As for the plywood.  I decided to have them cut it into 2-3x4 foot pieces and 1-2x4 foot piece.  All of which fits easily into my truck.  I decided I wanted a slight overhang on the ends, so 12 feet of plywood left me short, so a scrap piece of 1x10 from the barn allowed me a little wiggle room.  The small difference in thickness is lost once the shingles went on.  The shingles were also from HfH and only cost me 3$ a bundle instead of $40 a bundle.

While this roof didn't need a second hand to put on, it sure did help and was appreciated.  Doc and I managed it in 4 hours with him cutting and me nailing.  I am sure at this point the neighbors thought I was nuts again.  Here was this big roofed monstrosity, attached to a giant BLUE monstrosity, and this one was WHITE!  What must they have thought?!  I know I must  provide great entertainment :)

I took a one day break at this point.  So far (not including concrete dry time) I was up to 4 days.  Saying I was sore was an understatement.  I decided to clean the garage from its summer of making piles and dripping mud.  This is when I found the two windows I KNEW I had purchased earlier.  They were smaller, but the window openings were framed and I was NOT going back!  While I cleaned I pondered the additions walls.  I COULD use plywood, like I had on the main coop.  Placing large pieces up on the walls, tracing the openings and then cutting them out, but I wasn't sure I was up for figuring out the piecing since I had areas that were over 4 foot and many openings.  It just seemed a waste of time and energy.  I decided on board and batten.

The number of 1x10s I needed were about the same cost as the same sq footage of plywood, and was thicker and of better quality.  I could certainly get it into my truck a lot easier.  I could also cut it to the exact length I needed on the chop saw (note to self, the chop saw only cuts to 8 inches- nothing a quick flip and second cut cannot fix.)

Once the walls were up, it started to feel like I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Sadly it was just an oncoming train.  There was no going in for the day when the last board went up.  I had to get at least two coats of paint on it before the rain came the next morning.

Two glorious days of clouds and gentle rain forced me to think about the next step; the elephant in the room step.  The addition had a roof and walls, and window openings, but no safety wires IN the windows.  Once I snipped the wire walls between the two halves, it would have to be a full steam ahead day.  NO stopping until the unit was secure again.  I stood in the old run with the wire cutters in my hand, chickens at my feet.  As soon as they figured out wire cutters aren't for them, they left me and my deep thoughts for the grasshopper infested pasture.  This was it, no going back.

snip, crack....the bolt cutter made short work of the first panel of the wall.

I had the header board ready and prepainted.  This board sandwiched the remaining top of the hardware cloth by the wing to the header board on the addition.  I also had the smaller 1x3 boards that were to cover the raw cut edges of the new opening between the runs.  I did one opening at a time, so I could protect the birds from those sharp edges of the demon wire.  You really have to watch this stuff.  It's amazingly sharp.  At one point I pushed the wire into the new addition, out of my way to make cutting easier.  JUST as I thought to myself, "watch out that it doesn't kick back and smack you", it did.  Right across the end of my nose.  Mercy it bled and bled and bled!  Two wires punctured and scraped.  I looked like I had had a fight with a snake!  Dealing with that took almost half an hour! 

With the panels between the two halves open and safe, I needed to move on to the window openings.  I used the large pieces of hardware cloth for the openings.  I had JUST enough.  The wire was attached with large nail in staples and then covered with wood trim, which further secured the wire to the structure and also covered up those raw edges.

It was now time to move on to the large windows themselves.  The North window simply screwed in place and was eventually trimmed and painted. 

The South window simply screwed into the opening and then the raw window opening was trimmed out.

The East Windows were just a tad more work.  But not much.  Remember the windows themselves are larger than the opening.  To install the windows, I measured and cut a 2x4 to the length of the top of the window, PLUS 7 inches.  I attached this header trim to the top of the window using heavy duty hinges.  I screwed this to the run so that the window was centered on the opening.  I then attached the left, right, and bottom trim - all 2x4s, leaving a gap around the window so it would not be hindered in its swing.

The original plan was to use a hook and chain to lift and hold the windows open at various degrees of open, but the windows were just too heavy.  I have found that a simply scrap of 2x4 is not only easy, but very sturdy as a prop.  I can still get many degrees of open.

I also added barrel latches to secure the windows.

The only remaining thing was to add the battens.  For those I used 6 foot lengths of lap attached with tack nails.  Three coats of paint later and the whole thing was done.

I went back in to add PVC feeders to the joists, not for feed, but for calcium and grit.  (Using them for feed has NEVER worked for us.)

I also have hung a mirror and added their mini ladder to play on. 

I also had to build them a new outdoor play roost ladder as I had to move the old one to open the walls. 

As long as I was dirty, I decided to finish off the nest box in the coop.  What started off as a 3 over 3 nest box, evolved into a two plus a basket over 6.  The basket was such a huge hit, that I removed the hard two boxes and added two more baskets.  I remembered that occasionally rain DOES come in the window above, which used to drip on to the nest box roof, which was now gone.  I rebuilt the roof and simply used pieces of 2x4 as front supports.  It's more popular than ever.

I then remembered that I had two plastic wall mount nest boxes and added those for the girls that just decide to lay al fresco on any given day.  They are a huge hit.  Even the rooster got in on it.  However this was NOT appreciated by the girls waiting in line.
Yes, HE is in there.

When the girls had pretty much denuded the grass in the addition, I added a whole bag of pine shavings.  Since I cannot stand up in the new addition, I will not be practicing deep mulch composting in this portion.  The old portion I add hard mulch and pine shavings to balance food scraps and chicken poo.  When it composts down, I can easily shovel out 10 wheel barrels of fabulous black earth!

The girls are loving their extra space and are crazy happy.  They now have 300 sq feet, which still gives me plenty of room when I let one go broody in the Spring.  It was a super project, but I am sure glad to be done!


  1. Caryl, It is a beautiful addition to the coop! I can see why the girls are so excited with their new addition. Time for you to rest!

  2. You must be shattered. Thank goodness you had fine weather.

  3. Oh my Gosh!!!! You sure have been busy and what a tremendous lot of hard work. You must be very proud!! Your hens are so lucky, they have a magnificent house. Go Caryl xx

    Now take some time out for you