Well, after a hard day of working nearly non-stop, we now have four walls and two windows in the coop. Wanna see? I knew you would. šŸ™‚

Our coop fit nicely in the back of our truck. But it won't stay this small for long...

Our coop fit nicely in the back of our truck. But it won’t stay this small for long…

It starts! One wall nailed together and ready to get squared.

It starts! One wall nailed together and ready to get squared.

The first wall is up!

The first wall is up!

Second wall goes up, and the squaring process continues.

Second wall goes up, and the squaring process continues.

Third wall complete. Just one more and it'll really start coming together.

Third wall complete. Just one more and it’ll really start coming together.

We didn't have the best area for building the walls, but we made it work.

We didn’t have the best area for building the walls, but we made it work.

At the end of the day - four walls and two windows. Not too shabby.

At the end of the day – four walls and two windows. Not too shabby.

Now that all you jpegaholics are satisfied, I’ll delve into the details of our work site transformation. It all started a couple weeks ago when I decided I didn’t have nearly enough work to do. (This is where people who know me will laugh because they know all about my volunteering and dinner hosting and triple-picnic planning.) So I paced out the rough edges of a chicken coop and run. My pacing gave me a run that was about two inches off of square – good stuff. I dug each post hole two feet deep, except in two cases where I hit ginormous rocks about twenty inches down. I concreted and tamped the posts in, making sure to check for level often.

With the fence posts in, I started going nuts in Google Sketchup. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s an amazing program that (with a few minutes spent watching tutorials on YouTube) allows you to draw any three dimensional object in as much detail as you are willing to put into it. I soon had the basic outline of what I wanted. I’ll admit, I’m not very fast with this program yet, but I have the basics. I forwarded it to my husband, who coincidentally also didn’t have nearly enough work to do. Insert laughs.

He extrapolated on my basic outline, taking away a ton of excess lumber because a building as utilitarian as a chicken coop obviously doesn’t need studs sixteen inches on center when two feet works just fine. He also cut out the double top plate and headers from the windows and doors. I had build the thing up like a house – it was overkill. So our new, simplified plan used about half the lumber.

While I was waiting on the plans, I dug out the foundation. A foundation, you ask? For a chicken coop? Yes. We have a healthy population of mountain lions, bears, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and other critters who would probably love to dine for free on our lovely livestock. Due to previous experience with losing chickens to predators, we decided that it would be in our best interest to make this coop as predator-proof as we possibly could. Predator problem number one is digging. What better way to thwart a digger of any size than to pour four-inch thick concrete walls two feet deep around the entire perimeter of the coop?

My husband came home on his three week R&R from Afghanistan just after I finished digging the foundation. He and his grandpa started building the forms, then I helped him finish the forms. This is where our novice-ness shines. We knew concrete was a pourable substance, and that we would have to contain it, but we had no idea how thick and HEAVY concrete is. Our forms were pretty weak since they were all made with one-by’s. Lesson learned. Don’t skimp on the forms! Oh well. They worked… just not as well as we had hoped.

With the forms complete, we priced out concrete. A 60# bag around here runs about $3.65. Sixty bags are needed for one yard. We calculated that we would need at least two yards for this project since our foundation was 8’x18′ in dimension, 4″ thick, and 2′ deep. That’s 120 bags of concrete, or about $438. To rent a mixer would have been $76 per day, and mixing up that many bags of concrete would have taken us at least a couple days. Ouch. Then we stop at a local concrete company and inquire about a truck making a delivery. Lo and behold, they have a minimum of one yard, and they charged just $89 per yard delivered. Yahoo! So much better! Within an hour of ordering, the very competent and experienced driver showed up, smirked at our wimpy forms, and proceeded to pour concrete from a big ass chute into our little four inches of exposed space all around the coop. He hardly spilled any, and it was all said and done within a half hour. Plus we had enough extra left over to fill two wheel barrows!

Extra? That means more work, doesn’t it? Yep. But fun work. While my husband floated (ran a smooth edge along the top of the forms to make them uniform and level and oh so pretty) the concrete for the coop foundation, I trundled these two extremely heavy wheel barrows over to our fire pit and got busy. My hands were stained black for days afterward, but it was so worth it.


You’ll notice the pile of rocks on the left. That was what was left over after I removed every dry-stacked stone and rearranged them using the leftover concrete. It looks so nice and uniform now, and I like that I can actually step on the edge or set a hot pan down without worrying about the rocks tumbling me or the pot into the hot fire. Eventually, I’ll build up a spit that goes across all six feet of the pit so we can roast an entire goat if we should choose to. I will also add on a flat corner or two with flat fire-brick bottoms that clean out into the pit for dutch oven cooking. Lately when I use the dutch ovens I have to push the fire over to one side so I can lower my pot down onto some prepared coals in the corner. What a pain in the buns.

Anyway, back to the coop. So we got it poured and floated, then while it was still setting up my husband went around and stuck in J-hooks. They’re these J-shaped bolts that have their screw-end sticking straight up out of the concrete so that walls can be securely fastened down to the foundation. The concrete set up pretty fast. Within a half hour, we couldn’t push our fingers into the surface. At this point, we then took a four day break to get sun burned and completely tired while circulating between several different water parks in Wisconsin Dells. All work and no play, you know.

When we got back, my husband and our oldest son immediately set to breaking apart the forms. The forms that had bulged ever so slightly in a few places and been buried in extra concrete in others. We weren’t able to recover all of the forms. Oh well. Like I said – lesson learned. Our carefully measured foundation wasn’t so perfectly square and straight anymore, so we had to play around a bit to find centers and right angles. We started by lining up a pressure-treated 2×4 on the top of the J-hooks. Once we had it lined up as straight as we could, we pounded it with a hammer to make indents, drilled out the indents, then popped it onto the foundation. Voila! We now had an 18’x8′ start.

The walls went together pretty easily. We laid them out on our no-so-level gravel parking area, nailed them together, squared them with a panel of siding, then propped them up one by one and tightened the nuts and washers onto the J-hooks. As we got more walls up, we checked for level and pounded them together with nails. Many nails. Not all of which were completely straight. If we actually had close neighbors, they might have wondered what was up with all of the guttural growls and howls of frustration. We’re going to need a strong magnet to find all the curly-cue nails we threw to the ground in anger.

So that was it for our progress so far. I was surprised at how quickly it all came together. We will be going back up there tomorrow to get the roof on, finish the siding, and have an informal dinner party with some friends.

Yikes. And we still need to unload a trailer full of wood. The first of at least five trailer loads that we just purchased from some relatives who are moving out of state. Who can say no to three years worth of wood? The work never stops for this family…

See y’all tomorrow!