Meet Ziggy

Rats! That’s what we had. Many many many of them. I hated to have to kill them but we did and most are gone. Some still hide in the barn. We didn’t put the poison boxes in there. The cats will take care of some and hopefully scare the other off.

Cats? We have them. They just came almost two weeks ago. Three of them. I was leery about getting a cat because our cat Mango was hit by a cat last November but then came the rats. And I decided we needed cats.

So they are here. Two are feral. Jet and Honey. We got them from the Humane Society of Carroll County – they have a barn cat program. Cats are free. We made a donation. They spay/neuter and give them their shots. Pretty good deal. But these guys are as feral as they come.

They are being acclimated now. They are living In crates half covered with towels so they feel safer. After about two weeks we can let them out and hope they stay around and hunt. They won’t ever be friendly – this I am fairly certain of.

Jet will allow you to touch him without clawing you. But he’s sort of in a trance and this is almost two weeks in. He has a bed that’s like a ball and he’s all hidden in there. He comes out at night to use his litter box and eat. He’s gorgeous – all black with huge beautiful eyes.

Honey is striped with honey color. She’s pretty but get your hand near her and she hisses. She stays hunkered down in her crate behind the bed. Eats and potties when we are away. It doesn’t help that her next door neighbor -Ziggy- hissed at her on her first day here. She arrived a bit later than than Jet and Ziggy because she was getting spayed. So her acclimation will be a bit longer. Sometimes I look at these ferals and wonder if acclimating will make a difference. Will they stay? At least I’m teaching them where they can get some good food. I do worry that the males will fight. We will see. I think Ziggy will be the king here. He’s bigger and bolder.

Ziggy came to us from a friend of my neighbors. The family was moving to a rental while they built a new home and cats were not allowed not even indoor/outdoor ones which is what Ziggy is. Except now he’s indoor in a barn and outdoor whenever he wants. Ziggy is very friendly. He seemed to know right away that this was his new home. We have acclimated him for almost two weeks but it just felt ok today to let him out of his crate at his dinner time. He ate some then stretched out then began exploring the hay loft of our barn. He was dirty in minutes. I left his bed outside his crate and we put an extra bed in the loft but he seemed to like the hay. Tonight we left the small “cat” door – which was a goat door years ago- closed so he can’t really get out of the barn unless he jumps out of the loft. Which he didn’t seem in any hurry to do.

Ziggy is laid back I think. Though I’m still getting to know him. Funny thing is that I am allergic to cats but I’ve been close to him and petted him and allegies haven’t bothered me too much. Doesn’t matter though we need cats and it’s nice to have a friendly cat. I feel bad for the ferals but it’s just how they are. We will take care of them and hope they stay.

I think Ziggy will stay. He reminds me of a cat I had as a kid -Mittens- but he’s much bigger. He seems smart. So we will see. I’ve enjoyed taking photos of him. I missed that after Mango died.

Barn cats are workers and they do a job for us but they are also our pets. They will get a good home and we will love them and enjoy them (If we ever see the ferals). But if they choose to leave I won’t go looking for them. Well maybe Ziggy as he’s tame and less elusive then I think the other two will be. So in a way it’s really their choice to stay or not. I hope they do.

So stay tuned for more pictures and tales ( pun intended) of our new barn cats. Well at least one!

Update- Ziggy was still in the loft this AM. He seemed happy to be out and about. Kevin gave him some love and off he went again. He still has to get used to the sounds and the horses and chickens running around as I have some escapees from the enclosure daily. It’s a whole new world for Ziggy.

Ziggy exploring the loft.

Anyone seen the Pied Piper?

Rats – they bit the Babies in their cradles, and ate the cheeses out of the vats, and made nest inside men’s Sunday hats….

That was a line from a play I was in when I was about 7 years old- way back when I was in a private all girls school. I don’t recall much of the plot but I do recall following whomever it was that played that part of the piper out of the auditorium. I think it was an adult and I was a rat (I’ve been called worse.).

Anyway this line from the play comes to me now daily (amazing what we can recall from our childhood) bc we have rats! Rats! In the chicken enclosure. Lots of them. I’ll call it what it is – an infestation.

And they are cute rats. Well ..until you see the tails. They kind of gross me out.

I’m told rats and chickens kind of go hand in hand. And since we have been here 7 plus years now I will agree. I had seen a rat once or twice over the years. And that was after we got chickens. When we moved in there were those rat poison feeder things all over. That should have been for-warning that rats had been here prior to our moving in.

But before I ever saw a rat I got barn cats. Three of them. And I’m thinking this might be why I only saw a few rats here in all those years and now I’m seeing so many. We don’t have a barn cat now. One retired across the street at our neighbors home where he chose the cushy life of an indoor cat who sometimes gets some outdoor time. – and the others have passed on.

I never thought the cats were controlling the rat population because I never saw a rat carcass. I only saw mice and birds left for me in the center Aisle of the barn. Someone even told me cats won’t kill rats but maybe they kill the little ones? I don’t know. But it seems like the population explosion here kind of coincides with the loss of our last cat last November.

Yesterday afternoon I caught motion out of my right eye as I was feeding the chickens and ducks meal worms. I figured it was a rat. Hubby Kevin had recently seen a couple rats looking at him from their holes in the ground -so he got some poison safe for other critters and poured it in the hole. I wanted to avoid the coop for a while because I didn’t want to see dying rats dragging themselves around my paddock and coop area.

See I hate killing things and Kevin -Bless him – knows this. So he tries to spare me from it and maybe his attempts at killing which included the poison and flooding their holes were half-hearted. After all we had only seen a few rats. But the other day Kevin saw one gallantly walking to the coop from the barn. I found a bag of chicken scratch chewed open and it’s contents spread across a work table in the barn. My son Zach reported seeing some rats in the coop. He would spray them with water to scare them off. Hmmm….I began to wonder if maybe we had more than we originally thought. And they are getting bold.

So back to yesterday. I saw the movement under the coop and figured it was a rat looking out at what I was tossing to the chickens. We have two coops and two chicken enclosures for two different flocks and I didn’t think any rats were in this enclosure but I guessed maybe they moved here after the Flood. You know the one hubby Kevin created by spraying the hose into their holes.

Only I would take photos and video of my rat problem! See they are kind of cute!

Well I was curious and I walked over to a covered run that extends out of the coop and leaned down and peeked in and what I saw was like fours sets of eyes looking at me and some busy critters jumping into and out of the coop where we have the food. And they weren’t chickens. Rats!

Whoa!

We all just stared at one another and then I began counting and holy of all things holy we have a problem! Darn it. I began looking at those cute little rats with their little ears and wiggly noses – they are so cute – well not the tails. Why are the tails so creepy?

The rats just kept doing what they were doing which was stealing my chickens feed and not caring I was there- and the little ones kept staring at me. Very brazen. The chickens are either fearful of them or used to them dining in their house.

Let me just stop here and say that my rats though a huge problem because of the sheer numbers of them are not the rats you see in the city. These are country rats and not the giant dumpster divers you see in the city. Country rats are not as bad as city rats. They hang in barns and chicken coops just getting into food not trash cans (though i suspect if they had a dumpster they might dive in it.) Anyway country rats aren’t as gross as city rats. I say this all in jest it but I kind of believe it. Do you like my rationalization here?

I thought back to the tale of the Pied Piper- could I get them to follow me to a safe place. Though I think in the real tale they are led to their deaths. In my grade school tale they were just led “out of town” because you know … little Kids. (I’m adding this link to the summary of the Pied Piper story. It’s scary… maybe I wasn’t a rat maybe I was a kid. But why did we do that play in 2nd grade. The ways of the world in 1970! Let’s freak the kids out! Here is the link.)

But I don’t think my fantasy can work and I think there are way toooo many for humane trapping. Like I want to say I saw maybe 10-15. Maybe more. I know… some of you experts will say -oh there are more. I know. (Insert sheepish grin emoji here. )

And when so many people would have run at the mere mention of rats I don’t. Ok if one got too close I might have run because of rabies fears. They don’t scare me like a big spider does. Gah. I even thought maybe I could hand feed them some of the meal worms I was doling out. Ok – No I didn’t but See how I am? I will not be party to their deaths. But killing them is what is coming. This is not a job for hubby Kevin – I’m calling in the big guns. Let them kill my rats.

I got online to my Carroll County farm exchange Facebook page and asked for exterminators names for rat infestations and got the name of one who uses safe products to get rid of them. We will be calling them asap.

Poor rats. They don’t know what’s coming. But It has to be. I may have actually spoken to them and told them to pack their bags. I have a tendency to talk to all animals. So now you know some more of my crazy. But we all have some crazy. At least I know they don’t really understand me!

Now I have to re-design our feeders. We (aka hubby) had recently made some out of PVC pipe and placed them in the coop. I now realize this has to be reworked. I don’t need food in the coops. Food can mean rats dining there. Having the rats in and out of there is not good at all. So back to the drawing board.

And I think it might be time to get some more barn cats.

I’ll keep you updated.

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If you are at all curious take a look at this video. You will see rats and some chicken poop -so don’t look if you can’t take either of those.

Buying a Farm(and recovery update)

Well I haven’t written in a few weeks. I have been recovering from my surgery which I will update on in a minute. I have good news on that. But the biggest news is WE Bought the FARM…as in really we purchased our little farm we have been living on and renting for the last seven years…finally it happened! It’s a little surreal.

Ok so I am bouncing around on topics but a quick update on my recovery from surgery. Oddly my abdomen still hurts. That is where the donor fat was taken from. The area where my pain was -and where they put the donor fat- feels pretty good! The abdomen is manageable and will heal up. Its just achy some- I am just being a baby!

But the best news is that my area of pain that has rendered me pretty disabled not only because of pain but also because I lost range of motion in my arm because I have radiation damage is very much improved! I am a bit afraid to get too excited. I still have some pain but its dialed back quite a bit.

I haven’t taken any opiate pain meds in weeks. Which is huge. I have begun to decrease my nerve pain med slowly – which is protocol- and I have done very well with the decrease.  Today I went to see my surgeon and realized when I got home I hadn’t taken the nerve med this AM! If I had done that before this last surgery I would have known on the way to the surgeons office. I would have been in terrible pain! So heres hoping. My surgeon was quite pleased with the progress. I am certainly doing more so that is my litmus test.

Back to the farm news…

Seven years ago when we moved here we rented with the intention to buy the home after one year. There are so many reasons that that didn’t happen. Financial, health… And after being here seven years in an old house not being able to make many updates we were thinking maybe we would move next summer to the beach full time. We have the house there, we love the beach but….

every time I walked along the lane I thought about the last seven years. The last four have been tough after the cancer and the financial struggles and I have had many moments of thinking of boarding the horses again and living on a small lot…so much less work. But…

I would look around at the land – its beauty. The space. I felt like I wasn’t ready to give that up. We certainly didn’t choose this place based on the house – it was old and it shows it. It might be easier to move to the beach full time. But to not see the horses out the back window and to not have any chickens in the yard… I would miss that.

Our beach cottage is in a neighborhood and I am not ready to do a neighborhood again full time right now. Sometime- but not now.  Plus I want the beach to be a special place not an every day place just yet. I still like to get that excited feeling when we cross the bridge. When I am there I don’t want to leave. I like that feeling- knowing its that special every time I go there.

So there I was not ready to go. My teens are not quite ready to be on their own and they are possibly going to Maryland State schools for college- being a resident would help the tuition.  My mom lives with us now and she has health care needs and we have established doctors nearby and it is easier to keep that care here for now. And at the right price this farm could be a good investment. It seemed reasonable to want to stay here. So was Kevin in? Turns out he was. He’s like me – he loves the beach but also loves the country.

So we began to talk about the possibility and feasibility of buying this place. Could we even get a loan after a bankruptcy and foreclosure only a few years ago? Could we even work out a price with our landlord? Did he even want to sell after all this time? The house needed a lot of work, could we afford renovations? There was quite a lot to think about.

We took each question one at a time and got the answer. The landlord did want to sell, we were able to come to a fair purchase price, we could get a loan at a higher rate for now but a loan we could get and we can refinance in a couple years- even at the higher rate we still save money over continuing to rent – and we would have some money to launch a rather large renovation – which we would enjoy now and hopefully would help increase the value when we went to sell it. So we set off to buy the farm!

The loan process was very painful. It took over two months. I have filed some paperwork in my lifetime having adopted three kids from oversees and we have purchased homes before  and sadly we had to file bankruptcy…all tons of paperwork. This loan was unreal. So many papers needed. And I was asked to resend things many times. After almost bagging the entire thing we finally got approval to close. One good thing in all of the crazy loan process was the house appraised for more than we paid.  Two weeks ago we closed our loan! What a relief. It still seems surreal. Even as renovations have begun I am still getting my mind wrapped around the fact that we now own this place.

There is a lot to do. I am overwhelmed by the cost of it all. I am overwhelmed at the mess and the dust. And it is stressful. But what I remind myself of is that just over a year ago i was in the midst of terrible chronic pain that left me in bed most of the time. Now that was stress. This is really the good stuff of life. Making paint and cabinet choices. Making something old new again. How fun!

I walk along the lane and look at the farm anew. It is ours, the barn, the falling down shed and the little yellow rancher.  Best of all the views, the smell of horses and hay…say welcome home. For me in many ways it is a rebirth….

and what a blessing…..

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Periodically I will share some of the renovations on the blog….

Here is our front porch before (crumbling) and after- and we also created a back patio. This is stamped concrete by Royal Construction/ArtisticConcrete

 

Doing the Mundane

You never appreciate doing boring laborious chores more than when you have been unable to do them for so long. For me my weekend was filled with fun everyday boring stuff and I’m so glad I was able to participate. I still had some pain but often forgot about it as I kept busy. I’m sore as heck even two days later. My muscles are still getting stronger after being laid up for so long. But I’m feeling good and I’m happy.

So let me bore you with my mundane weekend. For me it was not a bore. It was bliss. 

There was Friday night dinner out -with my mom and my hubby as my dates. 


On Saturday there was a little butterfly watching as we began to spread sand over the dirt and stone of our chicken enclosure. 


We worked. The boys shoveled over four yards of sand and since I still can’t shovel  (maybe I’ll be able to rake again someday!) I moved sand along with my feet and that proved to be a great workout. 

We had time for a little communing with the animals. 


And fixing a Rooster with bumblefoot. 

And I have to share Kevin with his new gas powered power washer. He loves it. 

And we did  a large amount of gardening. We created a lovely area. 



My work posse didn’t want their photo taken but I bribed them with ice cream. It pays to have an awesome ice cream shop minutes from our house! I am So very thankful that my two sons worked so hard all weekend with me and even did shifts at their “real” jobs.  

(Look how tall they have gotten!) 

And of course we communed some more. 


We sanded and gardened our way through the weekend. I spent it with two usually surly sixteen year olds but somehow they were gracious and hard working. Maybe they also got the brevity of the moment. I was doing normal things again. Maybe they didn’t get it. But I sure did -and as I worked I kept marveling at what a blessing it was to put my hands in dirt again and work with the animals.  This is a part of me I’ve missed -being able to do work -I couldn’t shovel at all or lift much-but I did use the hand trowel and planted some plants.  Yes I did a lot of pointing and telling people where I wanted stuff but I spread sand with my feet and tended to a hurt chicken. I groomed my horses and I sat and enjoyed being with them. There is much I can’t do still -but there is much I can do and thats the gift. And for that I’m so grateful. 

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