Being part of the farm again. 

For the last two days I have been able to go out and work a bit on our little farm. This is such a big deal for me. I have been unable to do anything for months because of the pain I had. “Had”being a key word. I amstill not pain free after the surgery but I’m able to be part of life again. That’s so huge.  I can’t do that many things physically out at the barn yet but I can do a little and I can give orders! 

It felt good being part of things again. It’s hard to put into words the things I feel right now. I’m such a mix of emotions all the time. But feeling like a normal human again at least some of the time is really awesome.  

I don’t have the stamina yet that I want but it will come. If I do too much I have pain.  I still have some of the pain I hoped would be gone as a result of surgery-but it comes when I do certain things which leaves me with hope that as I gain more mobility with my arm that some of these issues might go. And I’m told it may take a year to heal fully. There is a chance that some of the nerves that were bothered for so long may not heal 100%.  But I’m hoping for the very best outcome. 

But that’s just stuff I don’t want to worry about now. I enjoyed today -being outside with my animals. Just being part of the world again. I came back in before the gale force winds we are supposed to get began. I think it’s blowing away our Indian summer. I’m not looking forward to winter really I’m not a fan of the cold but I’ll not let that keep from being part of my little farm. I’m thankful I’ll be able to go out and enjoy the season. 

I took a number of photos today of basic farm happenings. But to me they are such a gift to be able to be part of such a place. The sights,the sounds, and the smells of a farm. Somehow I feel like farms are part of my soul. There is an amazing comfort for me when I’m on any farm.  I feel it’s where I’m supposed to be.  Well here and the beach and in nature.  I have a large soul I suppose! I’m lucky to have found my places where I can find my center. Some people search a long time for that. 

Hope you enjoy today’s farm photo s. 

Airy my mare

harley my gelding and the horse i ride.

asking for a treat!

the storage area pf our barn . it geta quite a collection of junk and needs to be tidied up periodically

looking out on the back forty. our land is only tonthe fence but i love backing up to preservation land!

molting hen. she is on her way to new feathers.

me standing on manure pile. sums up my life of late!

new 100 gallon water trough w heater!

inside looking out.

Building a chicken coop by non-handy people – part 2

Read Part One here!

Well here we are back again for part 2 of the chicken coop build.

We left of last time after we put up and secured the wall frame. Once we did that part we left it for a few days in the rain (its been a rainy spring in Central MD.). And the good news is that it didn’t fall down.

Roof Joists – After the wall frame went up Kevin cut the joists for the roof. It can be a little tricky. It is very clear in the plans and once you get the hang of it things go smoothly. One thing about putting up roof joists- they need to all be even. Later when we put the roof sheeting on we had a bump – a gap- whatever – a leaky place – which occurred bc one joist stuck up a little higher than all the others. We made it work as I will explain later. But just be careful so you don’t have to stress about this later on!

img_3871Pre-painting – I decided to paint all the trim and siding before we put it up. I knew we would have to touch up the paint once the walls and trim were on but it would be much quicker than starting to paint it from scratch when it was up. I have bad shoulder and it would have been too hard for me to do it that way. So pre-painting ended up working really well for us.

Choosing the colors is much of the fun for me and I chose a pretty golden yellow and a blue/green for the shutters and a basic white paint for the trim. I had the paint mixed at ACE. I can see where some might opt to stain the T1-11 siding as it sucked up a lot of paint- thus increasing the cost of the project (we used 2 gallons but bought a third for touchup etc. $30/gallon – yikes!). Again in hindsight I should have either stained it (if I could have found a stain in a fun color) or I should have gotten a cheap tinted primer first and then painted it with the paint for the second coat. We used rollers meant for rough surfaces and I still had to brush in the grooves of the panels. Painting the trim was straightforward.

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Siding – The plan calls for T1-11 siding. You could use whatever you like really. We stuck to the plan bc we are novices. We ended up getting the thickest of the T1 siding. You can opt for thinner. I just wanted to be sure we got a product that would not break down and this stuff seemed very durable. It was $30 a sheet. So it wasn’t cheap.

We made an error – well I made an error and it turned out ok but lets me tell you what we (I) did so you know what you are getting into if you make the change. When we went to cut the siding I wanted the siding to match our other coop and the other coops T1-11 siding has the panels running vertically and not diagonally. So we made that change. When we went to put up the siding on the sides of the coop the pieces were was a bit short bc there is a lip on one end that is meant to be used to join the pieces together. On the plan it said to cut that lip off- I am so glad we didn’t otherwise we would have not had a piece that fit at all. In our case we could still put the piece on and then cover the small gap with trim..it was a small gap.

In hindsight this is where I learned not to make a change unless you think it out or have more experience. Had we planned the change the direction of the siding from the start we would have been able to adjust the wall dimensions some to accommodate the change in direction of the panel. Which would mean making the side wall a tad less than 4 ft wide and the front and back a tad less than 8 ft wide. See how accurate I am being?! OR you can make the dimensions the same and use an extra piece of T1-11 and close up the sides using 2 sheets on each side. Or better yet just use the T1 in the horizontal position!

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Trim – The instructions say to cut the trim to fit the dimensions needed. So you need to measure and cut. The reason for this is that there is a variation in thickness of T1-11 siding. So we measured for our trim and we changed it up by putting the side trim up first and then the front and back pieces. It was working better for us because we needed some forgiveness on the side since we had short siding (see above under siding). Make sure you cut the back pieces at the 15 degree angels as noted. ALSO make trim flush with the siding which is hopefully flush with the roof trusses. We had a little issue with the roof board laying flat – see below.

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Roof – So the roof- that feels so great getting to the roof. Its like so close to the end right?  Well the roof was a pain. I don’t know if it was because we turned the siding or our measurements were a bit off but we could not follow the roof directions as explained in the plans. We could not cut three pieces of plywood and make the roof fit. So we ended up having to get another piece of 1/2″ plywood and we made the roof out of two pieces cut to fit. We almost had Armageddon over this issue but in the long run who cares what went wrong- we just needed to get a roof on and thats what we did!

So once the roof was on we realized that one of the trusses was a bit higher than the others so a gap was created in the roof. Gah! It seemed like it could be a big deal but we solved it but adding a drip strip to all sides of the roof. It lays on the roof and helps direct the rain off the roof. It also hid the gap in the roof – yay!

We were lucky in that we had some roofing paper and shingles already in our barn. This is why you never throw stuff away on a farm! So we laid the paper on and I think Kevin put the drip strip on after the paper. Except the back side where the issue was – he put the drip strip on just before the final shingles went on as we had not planned on having a drip strip in the back at first. (hey we aren’t roofers lol!) Kevin watched a number of videos on laying roof shingles. Youtube was a huge help during this project! Once the paper and drip strip were down Kevin put on the shingles. The roof came out great. You could choose do cover your roof with many different materials I am sure – I kind of wanted a metal roof but we had over spent on the project already so using the existing material was a must.

I will report it has rained a ton since that roof went on and there have been no leaks. Yay! I do think in the winter I may add a layer of insulation to the underside of the roof to add some warmth for the girls.

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Door/ Chicken door – For the front door we pieced to leftover T1-11 siding that i painted in a pretty blue green. You must measure your door and if off square build to fit. Our door was not square we built it 1/4 smaller (see directions in this blog for help).  I bought Kevin a small Kreg pocket tool for this project. It is the mini one and it worked really well for the door frame assembly. We also had a sander to help if there were any sticky parts. But the door went on really easily. Kevin got some nice hardware for it. Kevin had been stressing about the door and he did a great job on it. In fact he took what he learned and applied it to build a new chicken door on my run that is part of the other coop.

I built and installed the chicken door. Well Kevin cut the hole but I painted the trim and door and installed it. I attached a hook and eye so the door can be latched in the open position. I think it is so cute.

Can you see how cute this coop is?

Shutters – For the shutters the original plan was that we would put mesh screen across the windows and have working shutters that cold close in the winter. Again – I learned something in hindsight. I went to build the shutters and realized we would either have to cut a piece of 1×3 in half to make two shutters that would fit together (so 4 1x3s and 1 1×1.5). We didn’t have a table saw to make a clean cut like that so we had to go with shutters that were too narrow. Had I planned this all out better we could have set the trim pieces in more on each side of the window to allow the shutters to fit.  I made the shutters after we installed the trim – and yes we could have unscrewed it and moved it but I was too lazy. We decided to just live with the shutters that don’t close well and in the winter plexiglass the windows – leaving some ventilation – for warmth and protection.

I will say I had fun building the shutters. I winged it – not like me – but the plans didn’t really explain how to build them. This is the first time I ever used a chop saw (Miter saw) and I must say it was fun!

For the shutters I took 1×3’s cut to length and measured a cross piece (x2 for each shutter). I lined up the pieces- used glue first and laid the cross piece on top and then nailed it together. My son, Zach, gave them a sanding since furring strips can get splintery. I painted them and let them dry overnight. We installed them and added hardware and aside from the fact that they don’t really fit they are super cute!

So now we are just about done! I went back and painted the trim and touched up the siding.

Kevin added nest boxes for me. I bought big plastic nest boxes that were going to mount inside. He hated them (they were ugly). We opted not to have an external nest box because we were not feeling 100% confident building something that hung off the coop. So Kevin built three nesting boxes inside. It may be hard to collet the eggs since they are so low but I have some ideas if that is the case. Think doors like the chicken door!

Kevin added a couple roosts above the nesting boxes. I hope they work but we can always move the roosts if needed. I wanted to leave them above the nest box platform in hope that maybe I could clean that platform often and the rest of the coop less often – but we will see!

All I can say every time I walk by the coop is “It’s so cute!” and to be honest I still cannot believe we built this and it looks so great. Is it perfect? No! But we learned a lot in the process.  I think in the end I may have enjoyed this project more than Kevin did. But he did the bulk of the work and he did an awesome job. I think there could be a she shed in my future- just saying.

But in the meantime isn’t this coop stinkin’ cute?

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Coop Building by non-handy people – Part one

My Husband, Kevin, and I are not naturally handy people. I have picked up some handiness over the years and so has hubby. Just owning a little farm requires one to learn some tricks of the trade because something is always broken on a farm and it is expensive to get everything fixed by a pro.  I like to jump in and learn new things and so does Kevin much of the time – but we never have really built anything like a building or anything but ..there are times where one needs to step up…and we were heading into one of those times…

Recently I got some chicks to replenish those we lost over the last 2 years – and since I have two roosters who are now separated bc they fight I needed to find a coop to house the new chickens and rooster Clark and his one girlfriend.The coop they are in now is way too small for 8 chickens. My other rooster- Lucky -has a nice home of his own with his 7 girls.

I love chicken coops- yes its a thing for me –  and we began to shop for one at the fancy store in a nearby town. We got a rather decent deal on a coop a few years back at that same store. But when we looked at the prices our jaws dropped. There were none in our budget. So I began to shop online and everything in our price range was crappy. I know this bc I bought a crappy coop for a few hundred dollars a couple years back when I got ducks. It would fall apart and we would slap it back together and it began to resemble a not so lovely shanty town- then the back fell off and- well- that was that.

I began to think that instead of spending $300 on a pre-made coop we could set out and make our own. I had looked into this last fall when the crappy coop fell apart and I had no home for Clark and his ladies (he had 2 then – one has since passed). But we got lazy and craigslist advertised a small coop just the right size for $100 in a town nearby. We ended up getting a better deal on that coop and we brought it home. I soon began hating the coop bc it was so hard to clean. Then I got chicks and the coop is no good to the chickens anymore because of its size – we needed an 8 seater – not a 2-3 seater (I think it will go to the ducks). So we were in a pickle.

So we decided to build one. It felt good and exciting. I had been feeling more confident in our handy abilities ever since I began painting furniture – we could do this thing! (There was no rational behind this thought it was just blind confidence). But I could not find the plan I liked from last fall on my Pinterest or anywhere on the internet.  Those chicks were living in my office and they couldn’t live there for good. I cant even work in there bc the chicken dust is so bad. Chickens are dusty – look it up! My office cleaning is going to be a bear.

So I stumbled on a plan on a blog that I somehow found- I cant even recall how because I googled “Coop plans” and I looked that up on Backyard Chickens and all over the place. But I found this coop. 3154809834_1336517386Isn’t it cute? And then this blog , Whitney’s Workshop,that actually made the coop from the plans. Hers is so adorable – I began shopping paint colors right away. The plans looked great. Very easy to understand. There was the little note that it was intermediate difficulty – and we were beginners- but that wasn’t going to sway me. I wanted to do this…we needed to do it.

So begins the story of building the coop.

The best advice I have so far is find good plan and follow them and don’t make changes unless you really know what you are doing. I will explain that later on. Oh and make sure you understand the size of the coop- on paper I saw ours was 4’x8’x8′ but until we erected the walls I never realized how tall it is – it towers over my other coop. We could have shortened the height if we thought about it more but we didn’t think about it until it was already standing up (also see my note about making changes to plans above).

We also thought we would save buckets of money on the build but we will save money but not buckets. The pre-made coops online were a lot smaller than this coop I chose except I didn’t really absorb that until we began to build and bigger is going to be more pricey. We are over $500 and I still have a few things to buy – like hardware for the doors that will increase that cost. The coops at the fancy place were well over $800 and they weren’t as big as this one.

In the planning phase I read over the plans carefully and I realized that the folks on Whitney’s Workshop modified the plans and used 2×3 studs to save some money. We decided to go with the plans and materials as is bc I was fearful we would mess something up in the plans with making the change. I think it is safe to say that Whitney and her helpers had done some legit building before. We had not!

So here we go!

Step One – the foundation –

We began with a pretty flat area. We cleared the area and chopped up the dirt and leveled that. We then laid the concrete blocks and tried to make it level corner to corner and then leveled the interior blocks from there. We did fairly well and when the foundation was laid on the blocks were were almost level – a bit off but not as bad as the coop we already had (we never leveled that one and it is pretty close – it pools water in one corner when it is spray cleaned – not a big deal.)

I painted the foundation floor with deck paint and then Kevin added linoleum tiles to help with the cleaning and hopefully durability. We had a floor and it felt sturdy!

 

Step 2 – the walls –

On the plan the walls looked pretty easy ( I say that as a novice wall builder) except there were a few angle cuts so that made me worry some. The best thing is that we were very careful with our measurements. The plans began with the front wall and that was a lot of cuts because of the door and headers. But it went well. We took a break of a day or two because we have had rain here for a couple weeks and we waited for breaks in the weather to be able to work on it.  But we have been working in the rain under the cover of the barn patio roof because the weather isn’t letting up anytime soon and we need that coop to be ready soon!

We got the side walls done and the back. We followed the plan but you can adjust the six of your windows. We are not installing an external nest box either. I have some on order that should fit onto an interior wall in the coop and they are said to be easy to clean. We felt like adding the external nest box was a little more than we wanted to tackle now.

We did try to keep the walls square. We measured from corner to corner and none were ever out of square  by much. I know that when we have to build the door it will be necessary to adjust that to fit. The door will not be square. I think maybe the world is not in perfect plumb or square so why fret if it is off a little?

There is just enough we don’t understand that limits us to having a perfectly level and square coop but I am very proud to see how close we were. We do feel we had little help from the beyond as you can read here in one of my latest blog posts.

 

We think we attached the walls together correctly- the plan didn’t really have a picture of how to do it. It seemed simple enough and maybe that is why I questioned the validity of it. Too simple in my head might equal wrong. But the walls were up and they felt sturdy and I felt a sense of pride that we actually were doing this thing and so far not too many snafus!

You might wonder how Kevin and I have faired with each other through this build. We have had one or two disagreements. Often it was bc one of us was confused about what the other one was saying. Kevin is more methodical than I am. I think he is more a perfectionist and I keep reminding him it is a chicken coop they won’t care if there are some flaws. But we seem to work it out and laugh more than we argue!

So far we have put in maybe 15-20 hours into the project. But for this part one as I have written it here I would say this took a good 8- 10 hours. It seems long but we are beginners. That time is a lot of me reading the plans to Kevin and him doing the brunt of the labor. I have done quite a bit of painting but with another frozen shoulder my arms can only take so much so I got the kids painting for me some as well.

Its a never ending family affair here- even if the teens aren’t too thrilled about helping to expand the chicken village.  Oh well, I am having fun- I may be the only one!

Part 2 – coming soon -stay tuned…

See part 2 here