Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Chicken Coop... The Design/Breaking Ground

So it's been a few weeks now and progress has been slow.  Being a "weekend warrior" means that I only have 24 hours at most over a weekend to work on the coop design and construction.  As the weather improved slightly, the ground thawed just enough to start digging out a foundation on February 28, 2016.  My plans are not yet complete, but I knew that I needed to dig down for stability and security.

My property is on a slope, roughly 13o. This means digging deeper on one end of the structure's base to level the foundation.  Since everything is dependent on a sound foundation, time is being spent to ensure a proper footing is in place. Once dug out, the area will be leveled and formwork will be added in preparation for concrete.  I know what you're thinking:  "Concrete?  Really? Isn't that overkill?"  My response is only that I have to make sure that the coop will be stable in strong winds and be able to keep out critters that will kill the flock.  Those critters include ones that burrow under fences.  A concrete base will help mitigate that potential.

So far, I've managed to dig down roughly two feet at the east end and one foot at the west of the coop base.  In doing so, I've come across two layers of "trash", compressed over the decades/centuries.  It's quite intriguing finding broken porcelain dishware, glass bottles of varying sizes, wrought iron components, an older version of a spark plug (I think) and yes, even a coin (1911 wheat back penny)!  We're considering getting a metal detector to find more "treasure" (as my son had called it).  We've also found discarded architectural details from our home:  a stone fireplace lintel, similarly as found in our parlor (seen here).  Another find was what I can only assume to be the daily meal of my home's former occupants.  Oysters and clam shells were found in extreme quantity throughout the trash layer with random bovine bone fragments.  My father, forever the pessimist, has kept fretting over my property being condemned for finding human remains... hasn't happened yet.

The coop/run design will have a footprint of roughly 12 feet by 6 feet and orientated west to east.  At the east end, an elevated coop "living" area will be built.  It will be 6 feet wide, 4 feet long and will be 2 feet above the ground.  The height of the coop will vary from roughly 4 feet to 5 feet.  The idea for it being elevated is to give the chickens a shaded area under the coop while in the run as well as making it harder for predators to gain entry into the more secure coop at night. The roof of the coop portion is still being considered.  I'm weighing the pros and cons of using asphalt versus cedar shingles.  The extra expense of cedar is just too hard to ignore, but cosmetically, more appealing.

The run potion of the design will be open on all sides not taken up by the coop to take advantage of as much fresh air as possible.  The roof will be either a clear corrugated panel system allowing sunlight to enter yet stopping rain and snow, a solid metal panel for strength or a plywood/shingled roof.

Conceptual views using Google's Sketchup CAD software (free download here):

A general list of materials being used will be ready-mix concrete bags for the foundation, embedded concrete anchors, Douglas-Fir 2x4s, pressure treated 2x6s, corrugated polycarbonate roof panels (maybe), CDX plywood sheeting, roofing nails, felt and shingles, exterior grade construction screws and washers, wood weather protectant stain, door hinges, vinyl flooring, masonry sand and pine shavings.  There are also miscellaneous wood components and hardware needed for the hatch and ramp (to be made from scrap).

Next up, the build.