My Dad has returned from a successful harvest season, so our coop building has begun in earnest!
I started the process by moving that shrub (my Mom thinks it’s a Euonymus Fortunei)... with help from the kids. It took a good part of last Saturday, but I think it worked.
I had my doubts the whole time (soaking the dry earth, then digging, soaking more, digging more) about our ability to move it… so it was a great relief when I finally felt the roots pull away from the earth. So much so that the kids and I had a big water fight to clean off afterwards… and then the lure of the muddy hole we created to dig out the bush was too much for the kids to resist, so they had a mud fight too.
Alberta & Frances actually like the bush much better in it’s new location. They have been hanging out underneath it quite a bit.
With the space finally cleared, we staked out the measurements for the coop, 126″ x 64″ (just over 5’x10′).
We’re going to follow this well-loved coop design: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/wichita-cabin-coop (and Willow Creek Farm’s version: http://willowcreekfarm.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/finished-chicken-coop/ but we’re using concrete blocks instead of paving stones for the foundation (22 16″x8″x8″ blocks) and we plan to lay down hardware cloth to deter digging bandits (rats? weasels?).
You can’t really tell from these pics, but the ground slopes quite a bit toward the fence and the back of the yard, so we had to dig down much farther in the front to make the foundation level, and the back will be raised up a bit, which should help it stay drier in the rainy season. The girls are already quite impressed with our progress. Especially with the number of worms that have been turned over in the process. They are most definitely enamored with my Dad for tossing them over whenever he spotted one. Here they are surveying their new domain and playing queen of the mountain:
The next day we (and whenever I say we from now on, you can assume I mean mostly my Dad) made incredible progress on the foundation… not to mention replacing those old fence boards that were rotting behind that bush. (better to do it now before the coop covers them up again!) Here are all of the blocks in, and the fence boards replaced:
And our supervisors making their rounds to check our progress, and play more “queen of the mountain”:
And then they had to make way for the real queen of the mountain:
We decided to use cedar base boards, instead of the recommended pressure-treated boards to combat rot. Just the idea of my girls pecking at the chemicals they use in those boards turned my stomach a bit. My Dad had some 8″ cedar planks on hand, and we were just going to use those on end, as the plans suggest, but in trying to wrap our heads around how to lay the hardware cloth, fill or cover the concrete block holes, and provide additional stability, we decided to spring for another round of 6″ cedar boards screwed flat on the inside of these to meet all of these needs. (This modified base idea was inspired by this similar coop design, which is also very cool: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/taj-mahal-wichata-knockoff) This will also have the added benefit of prolonging the life of the 2×4 framing lumber we plan to use, since it will be resting on the cedar, instead of on the ground.
Here is the outer frame in place and the dirt leveled out (still an attractive playground!):
And now the hardware cloth goes down:
And now the foundation is finished! (or close enough to call it a day). Not nearly as much fun to play on right now, though. The girls have to find other items of interest close at hand:
What an incredible day’s work from my sweet Papa! (OK, not to pat myself on the back, but maybe I held a few things and stained a few boards ;-))
We kept telling each other what an awful shame it is that all this beautiful cedar is going to be shortly covered in dirt and chicken poop… but what can I say? Nothing but the best for my spoiled girls. I mean, hey, they already wear dresses and listen to Mozart!
I just had time to relax on the hammock a bit with the girls before it got dark:
Alberta wanted to be the fashion star tonight: