Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chicken Run Awesomeness

We built it.  (A few months ago, but I've been busy.)  It's amazing.  I'm so proud.

We started with MY OWN DESIGN.  (I say as I puff my chest.)  There were few designs of runs that I found that I liked so I tried my hand at designing.

There were a few parameters that I knew I was going to work with:
* It had to be tall enough for us to somewhat stand up in.
* It would be made out of 2x2's.
* It would be light.
* Predator proof.
* Bigger than the old run.
* The doors had to be easy to open and close.

So I got to drawing.  I drew out several rough draft plans.  Some changes and redrafts had to be made based on how long the treated 2x2's were that were sold at Lowes (not sold at Home Depot), how tall it needed to be for us to kind of stand in it, blah blah blah, including some of my own brain farts that I discovered along the way.

After several weeks of drawing and thinking and examining the blueprints in my brain, we decided to go shopping for supplies.  Here is what we bought on the first run:

*12 8ft treated 2x2's
*A box of galvanized 2.5 in nails.
*3 8ft x 26in corrugated pvc panels.

This totaled about a hundred bucks.

The building process went as follows:

Build the frame for the floor.  Line with poultry netting to predator-proof.

Then make the walls, keeping in mind how wide the poultry netting is, and how it will be tacked in, as well as where doors are going to go.  We were lucky to only have to make three walls instead of four because the coop would act as the fourth.

Short wall.
Tall wall.  The small area underneath the netting is for the chicken-access door.
Attach the walls to the floor.

This is upside down.
Put on the roof.  We had to cut the three pieces of PVC a little shorter, but as far as the width goes, the three pieces fit perfectly, including some overlap to make sure it wasn't leaky.  Poor Shawn gave himself some bloody knuckles screwing in all the screws, but we made sure it was on nice and tight to keep the ladies dry once the rains start.  Then we attached the doors, for both humans and chickens.  We got a really cool latch from the ReStore that I'm really excited about.  (That might be my favorite part of the run :))

The human door in the middle and the chickie access door to the bottom left.
Then all we had to do was attach it to the coop and ta-da!!!

They look so good in there, huh?
In the middle of construction we had to go buy 4 more 2x2's due to my lack of planning but that was it.  Most of the hardware was stuff we had leftover from coop construction.  So the whole run cost us just about $120. 

So in conclusion, on the whole, our chicken housing cost us $400, plus some labor.  We got exactly what we wanted in a chicken house and provided ample space for the ladies to hang out.  I just hope that it does well in the winter... though I already know that we won't have nearly the same flooding problems we had with the last place. 

Finally, to prove how awesome we are, please refer to exhibit A and B.

That is all.  We rock.

P.S.  I know that this post is not complete enough for someone to come along and build what we did based on what I have written.  Please let me know if you'd like more info and I would be happy to share more details with you.  Just leave a comment below with your email and we can totally chat!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Slappin' it together.

I think building a legit chicken coop has made us pretty confident in the power of a hammer and nail.  'Cause when we realized we needed a compost bin, we slapped one together like it was easy as pie. 

In the old place, we had a corner of our yard that had a concrete wall that was perfect for a compost pile.  It was pretty big, and made it really easy to just toss whatever we needed composted into the corner.  It was accessible to the ladies to turn it while looking for worms, which made it a pretty good system.

Unfortunately, the new place has no such corner.  So we had to build a compost bin.  We though about buying one, but they're pretty expensive.

We started with a piece of grape stake fencing that we originally picked up as possible material to build the coop.  It was pretty old and rotten on the edges, so we cut off the ends of the vertical slats down to the 2x4 cross pieces.  This got rid of the rotten parts while maintaining stability.

Brackets, random pieces of plywood, nails, screws...
Then we cut the whole thing into 3 pieces to make the back and 2 sides of the box.  Those were secured together with random brackets and things we had lying around.

We really just slapped it together.  It's pretty rickety.  I wouldn't trust the stability even for a doghouse.
At this point we decided to move it to it's permanent home since it was still light enough to move.  But in order to do that, we needed to do some concrete work.  I had never laid any concrete, but Shawn had, and my dad is quite the home concrete-laying veteran, so we were able to pour a slab down in no time.  We decided a concrete slab was necessary since on the other side of the fence is a veritable wall of blackberry bushes that I wanted to prevent from growing into my compost. 

And what happened right after we poured it?  The cats walked in it of course!!!
Once the stab was dry and set 2 days later, we moved the incomplete bin to it's final destination.  I was a little sad to say goodbye to the cute little kitty footprints.

Next we tacked on a piece of plywood 10 inches from the bottom to create the front wall.  A second piece of plywood was cut to (semi) fit the bottom part.  This way, instead of digging down to the finished compost next year, we would have a door for instant access to the black gold when we need it.  The door is made so that it can be slid in and out (up and down).  This was done by tacking on two small pieces of wood into each corner to hold the board in place.  The current board we're using isn't quite the right size, and we do have some plywood that we can cut to fit, but we'll get to fixing that when we get around to it.  The key was getting this whole thing made quickly so we could actually put stuff in it, since chickens keep pooping whether you have a compost bin or not.

This was a few weeks ago.  It's way fuller now.
The last part of construction was to attach a roof to the top with some hinges so we can easily open it up and drop stuff inside.  The plywood we used for the roof is pretty thin so it's really easy to open it with your elbow when you have a handfull of stuff you need to throw in. 

So there you go.  Who knows how long the actual bin will last, but for now we have a place to put all the chicken crap, garden garbage, and food scraps.  We've been watering it down every few weeks to maintain moisture and promote decomposition, and we'll probably turn it here soon to see how things are looking towards the bottom.  I'm happy to say that all the materials that went into the construction of this bin was stuff we had lying around so basically we got a compost bin for free, plus some elbow grease.  Oh wait, we did have to buy the concrete.  So we got a compost bin for $15 plus some elbow grease.  Still a good deal.

Sunday Harvest

Oh jeez.  Three weeks it's been.  And I didn't take pictures of everything I harvested before I ate 'em.  Oh well.  Here's most of what I collected in the last few weeks:

Some exciting things to note:
* The potatoes are just a third of what we have.
* The onions that I ended up with are awesome, but the rest were a fail.
* The beans, cucumbers, and zucchini are done.
* The tomatoes are just getting started, and with the 80 degree weather coming our way, things are looking good on that front!
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