Thursday, February 18, 2010

Log Cabin Style Chicken Coop

My path to owning and loving the personalities of these wonderfully charismatic birds starts not with the chicken but my boyfriend’s love for eggs. I purchased my chickens long before any shelter was erected and little did I know the long haul it would be to construct the hen house they now call home. Not knowing much about chickens I ended up purchasing 9 RI red-white sexlinks and 3 mixed bantams, (two of which did not make it through the first night), from Tractor Supply Co. I settled the chicks in a rather nice hardwood chest in a guest bedroom with a 100watt bulb water and food. I pet and held the chicks until spring came and then brought them outside to romp in the yard. All the attention made them the friendliest pets I’ve ever owned. I call “buck buck” into the yard and they come running like a flock of velociraptors!

Before the snow melted, my boyfriend and I spent long days thinning our woodlot of dying pines. Our original plan consisted of an 8x8x7 coop made entirely of logs. While chopping logs during the day and researching log cabin building techniques at night, we learned that for longer lasting logs they must be peeled. Come to find, logs are much easier peeled right after being dropped when the sap still runs close to the bark. We peeled away long strips of bark with hand axes using a long sliding action. Older dryer logs took longer with a hammer and axe chiseling off bark. (Carpal tunnel does not appreciate this.) This task might have gone much quicker with a draw knife but we used only available tools.
Our project came to a halt when my father broke his hip and we left state to visit and help. This trip forced us to make a very crude plywood box in which we trucked the chickens. The trip ended up lasting 2 months. This kept us out of building during black fly season but placed us into mosquito season with much work to be done. The chickens had a great time growing up in a well manicured fenced in backyard but I began to worry about the neighbor’s cats and stories of coyotes eating such cats. Therefore a chicken tractor was constructed. This A-frame coop took little more than a day to build and provided a great home while they were young.
We arrived back in NH with no more than a pile of half peeled logs. The heavy amount of rain seemed to loosen the bark of already cut logs. This made peeling much easier. We began to cut logs to form the cabin with little knowledge of how difficult each corner joint would be. My first research came from the book Back to Basics . I suggest this book for some good all around information.
Of course the first cuts to connect the corners ended up strangely square but we used them anyway. The next layer was an attempt at saddle notches; where we cut slashes with the chainsaw and then used a chisel. This seemed like more work than necessary.
Finally our decision was on making a v notch where a 90 degree angle is cut along the top of the log and a 90 degree notch is cut perpendicular to the length on the underside. This seemed to be the easiest to eye and the quickest to cut with only a chainsaw. This was actually a two person job for us because we didn’t have any log dogs and I liked to have a second eye on the angles while my man used the chainsaw. Oh yeah he just loved that.

After about four sets of logs down and 18inches of height I began thinking about the amount of snow we usually get (6 feet on the ground) and how wet my yard is. It was decided that a cement block foundation was in order. A sketch of the wall sent us buying the exact the amount of bricks it would take and two bags of mortar mix. A crash course in mortar work was provided by the directions on the bag and I was on my way. I laid down two layers of blocks in September only slightly before temperatures started dropping rapidly. The cement dried hard without cracks with a tarp over it at night. One row of patio blocks on top of that and we put our first logs back on.
When the walls were four feet high we wondered how to get a slanted roof and fill in the sides. We ended up with two cripples on the front corners held firm with metal stakes drilled in from both the bottom of the cripple and the top log. For more support of the header and for the door frame we cut a log in half and sunk screws to attach it vertically to the front walls. The roof has a 2 foot height difference.

The most expensive of the materials were pressure treated 2x4x12 rafters. The added length made an excellent overhang and PT was used because I have read that the air in a coop may become humid. The door was made almost entirely out of windows we just replaced with Andersons (yay!) It consists of (1)2x4, (1)2x6 (2)windows, the window framing, scrap plywood and 16 bolts to hold it altogether.
LogCoop4 Any scrap wood was used to seal the top of the side walls. I chinked the coop with moss only two days before snow covered the ground completely. The coop ended up being finished just in time for winter and good thing because my chickens do not like the snow!
There is always a way to build a shelter without spending any money. Sometimes though there are machines and those things made by machines that make things easier and stronger.

Now, how to fence in these buggers. Fencing Flying Chickens: Netting


Bláithín said...

Cool! I've been thinking about using the many pines in our woods to do exactly what you've described, thus my search for building ideas led me to your blog :-) Did the chickens eat the moss chinking?? I can see mine doing that :-( They seem to eat everything. How's the coop holding up?

Kaija said...

The coop is holding up great! The logs are dry except for one that has a larger flat top and catches rain. Most of the chinking is still in tact from the first year. I did add some to places the chickens had pulled out but they did not fiddle with all of it. It did dry and shrink though. I also tried to touch up bigger gaps with foam spray… do not do this, they do eat it! The gaps give excellent ventilation in the summer. The cement under the door (no real foundation) rose up this winter (not last) and made the door stick something fierce.