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Assembling the Chicken Coop, part 1

Posted by joeabbott on March 8, 2010

I’m going to post my notes about assembling the chicken coop in three parts; one for each day that I spent on the job.

Day one was roughly used for getting the location laid out and assembling the shelter.
Day two was used to complete the run and install the wire siding.
Day three was spent on putting on the roof and finishing touches.

Since then I’ve spent a bit of time working around the outside, putting up fascia, installing a pathway, and little jobs like that. All told, I’m sure it’s been just a few hours. But let’s get started and take a look at Day One.

Minor Detail

Coop 001 Before dragging all the parts “up the hill”, I remembered that I hadn’t cut a hole through the front of the coop yet and if we didn’t need it, the chickens certainly would! So I dragged a table into the sun, used my rafters for spacers to avoid marring the table, and clamped the front panel down.

I then used the template that Suzy had made for the door: it was egg-shaped!

Knowing that I planned to line up the bottom edge of the front panel with the bottom of the shelter floor … I knew where to align it vertically. First, account for the 3/4” floor, then add another 3/4” for the floor hold-down I was going to add, and then add another half inch or so to avoid having litter tumble out. Two inches up!

Then I knew I’d align the sides of the front panel up on the outside edges of the posts … each post is almost 4 inches. Measure in another inch and a half or so and I had the horizontal spacing: just about 6”!

I then taped it down and drilled a hole just inside the template outline; the hole was the diameter of the jigsaw blade width. Using a fine-toothed blade, I then carefully cut around the outside outline of the template.

Setting up the area

Coop 005 Coop 006Now that we had the door cut, it was time to assemble.

I began by erecting a small canopy that was stored away. We’d had it since my graduation party and I figured it would provide a nice bit of shelter in case of rain. As it turned out, it was not only unnecessary but also factored into pushing the coop farther out into the yard than I would have liked. Not a major inconvenience but it positioned the coop just a bit closer to where the flattened area fell off. While the coop is secure, I tended to walk too near it (to avoid the sloped hill) and managed to smack the daylights out of my head a number of times. Ouch.

Anyhow, after setting up the tent and a table beneath it, I hauled up the coop parts, a few clamps, my job bag and my drill. My job bag contains a ton of construction goodies: a tape measure, ear and eye protection, pencils, a speed square, odd assortments of nails and screws, a knife, etc. Construction goodies! I also ran an extension cord up to it from the house. We were ready!

Shelter Superstructure

Just like in the garage, the first step was to get the basic posts and floor assembly created. From this, all other parts would either be hung off or located from. Here’s a few pics of that coming together

Coop 007 Coop 008 Coop 010

At this point, I realized the ground was not level at all and so I created a flattened out place. In the long run, this proved to be a bit of a bummer, though.

Coop 017 Rather than build up a small mound that was flat, I dug away the earth (lots of clay!) and smoothed it out. That worked fine but in the days to follow in which we got a lot of rain, the coop was now lower than the surrounding area and I created a very wet and mucky place for our hens to live. Oh well, I did get to enjoy a little more engineering as I figured out how to get the water from creating a swamp in the chicken coop.

Once I had the posts in place, I installed the bottom trim. This was a critical step: at this point I started screwing things together!

In the picture to the left you can see the critical tools:

  • Clamps to hold things in place
  • Hammer to tap the legs one way or the other when leveling
  • My three-foot level
  • Tape measure to ensure the post tops were the same distances from each other as the bottoms
  • Screw driver to pre-drill through the cedar trim
  • Impact driver to push the long screws into the post … drove ‘em like butter!
  • Trench and trowel for clearing the muck during assembly

You can also see where I dug down a bit too far.

Coop 022 Once I had the first few pieces in place, the rest was a snap. I was able to confidently place the remaining trim and upper pieces. Then attach the top.

Up until now I had kept the clamps in place to keep things from moving. This was critical to ensuring that I could work with 90 degree angles and pieces that went together in the field like they did in the garage. But, soon I’d be removing them.

From the picture to the right you can see I have another drill on the coop floor, it’s orange. By having a couple drills I could use one for drilling pilot holes, another for basic screwing, and the impact driver to use when things got difficult. For the most part, no problems.

Back and Front Panels

Coop 023 With the clamps still in place, I built out the back: the nest box and upper panel.

Theoretically, the nest box should have just slipped into place, but it didn’t. I used some yelling, my weight and finally a lot of force to push it into place. I wasn’t thinking clearly because, if I had been, I would have backed up and asked why. Instead, I just bull dogged it into place.

Ultimately I noticed that in clamping the posts into the shelter floor I’d squeezed the posts just a bit too tight … maybe an eighth of an inch or two. Nothing crazy but it did cause a tight squeeze for the nest box and after ramming everything into place I failed to check that the box was still square and screwed it into place. Well, I knocked the nest box a bit out of true. Not badly but I noticed it and felt bad that I was such a brute rather than thinking it through. Oh well.

After the nest box was in place I installed the upper panel. If you have a keen eye (or go out to my large flickr picture) you’ll notice the bottom edge of the upper panel has been chamfered. This allowed for a nice, tight fit against the nest box. While the upper edge should have referenced off the bottom of the upper trim, what was really important was the nest box fit. It went in swimmingly.

Coop 027Coop 026 With the back in place, I attached the front panel.

You may have noticed that we have two small blocks screwed into the front of the posts. The picture to the right shows them better. Anyhow, these started out as temporary parts that would allow me to put up the front panel by myself and without hurting my hands (that hinged top was a menace!). But, Suzanne painted them and they worked so well I planned to keep them there until we assembled the coop. Well, looks like we’re keeping them for good now.

Another detail to notice that shows up in the picture to the left is the floor hold-down that has been screwed into place. A perfect fit (if a tiny bit tight).

And I can take some small pride in the fact that the oval door I’d cut just a few hours earlier actually falls in place quite nicely.

Side Trim and Doors

Attaching the side parts was pretty straight forward. I started by lining up the trim on the top and screwing it in. I then screwed on the back trim, placed the door in its location, added shims for a nice, even gap (I think I used a few nails I had in my job bag), and then tacked the front trim in place. Here I realized that upper trim was short by 3/4” but that ended up working OK (as we’ll see in my next posting).

With the trim in place, I added the door, hinges, and a hasp. Here are a few pics:

Coop 030 Coop 029 Coop 028

Coop 041Coop 032 Then the lower coop door was added.

Before screwing it into place, I did have to run it down to the table saw and trim off one of the edges for the perfect fit.

At this point, one side was done and I just followed the same process for the other side of the coop.

I then attacked the nest box lid.

I had wanted to inlay the hinges but, with time running away, I opted to just screw them into the face of both the back upper panel and the top of the lid. It works fine but subjects them to more weather than I’d like. I do plan to make one more addition back here, which is to run a strip of leather or something waterproof over the gap where the nest box lid meets the upper panel. In doing this I’ll keep water from running down into the nest box on rainy, windy days.

Day One Ends

And that’s it for day one. Phew!

Time seemed to fly by and while it wasn’t dark, I was at a good stopping point, felt good about my accomplishment, and had two more days in front of me.

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One Response to “Assembling the Chicken Coop, part 1”

  1. […] Day one was roughly used for getting the location laid out and assembling the shelter. Day two was used to complete the run and install the wire siding. Day three was spent on putting on the roof and finishing touches. […]

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