Disassembling the tree house
I was very lucky that a recent storm blew down a tree in my co-workers yard. That tree contained a tree house he'd built for his daughter many years ago. Also, lucky for him the tree/tree house did very minimal damage to his house.
Emma and I went over on a Saturday and disassembled the tree house and brought it home. I was shocked how much wood we were able to fit into my little Honda Civic. This pictured doesn't do it justice but everything that's in the driveway was the first car load. The body of the car was stuffed and the roof was totally laden with wood. In the trunk is the second load which is the rest of the tree house and a trip to Home Depot. So also included are 6~70 lb 12 in x 12 in x 8 in concrete blocks, 6-60 lb bags of gravel, a roof full of 4x4s, as much cedar fence board as I could fit in the car and lots of other miscellaneous stuff. The car was sitting low on that trip.
With most of the supplies ready at hand we decided for sure where in the yard we wanted the coop and started making it so. The first step was getting the foundation level. What I'd seen in many other people's coops when doing the research was that people used a foundation of cinder blocks on top of which they'd build the coop. I wanted to avoid doing that for two reasons
- The ground was so not level and making a perimeter of cinder blocks would mean trenching out lots of ground. Digging and checking of level and checking if square. That didn't sound like a lot of fun.
- We wanted to maximize the amount of usable space for the chickens and if we are able to elevate the coop then the chickens can walk underneath it too. This gives them another 20 square feet of space to play in during the day. If the coop rested on the cinder blocks this would not be possible.
So instead we have the 4 corners on level, square concrete blocks. Underneath the blocks is about 60+ lb of compacted gravel. Two of the blocks are dug into the ground about 8 inches and the other two are basically resting on the surface.
Squaring them up meant measuring the distance from each corner to the nearest neighbouring corner and the diagonal. As soon as all those were equal it was square. Making sure it was level was a lot of putting a 2x4x8 board between the corners, resting the 4 ft level on it then sprinkling some gravel under the low corner.
This being my first time making such a big structure I wasn't 100% sure how to go about it. I didn't want to frame it like a house per se because I only have so much money and it's a chicken coop but I also wanted it to be strong. Many of the chicken coops I saw were made out of much flimsier material that what I had in store. They'd be framed from 2x2 cedar and the "walls" are 1/2 inch cedar boards. I suppose this is sufficient because many, many people use coops like that without issue.
Because I have all the scrap wood from the tree house available I thought I'd meet in the middle. The corners are framed with 4x4 pressure treated (except 1 corner is 2-2x2 studs because I ran out of tree house 4x4 scrap of appropriate size). The floor is 2x6 joists.
After the verticals and the floor joists were set the floor went in. It was two pieces of tongue and grooves 3/4 inch plywood. The joint between the two pieces is on one of the joists. After the floor was screwed in the verticals got a little more sturdy. If you push on them though they are still very wobbly.
The walls went up mostly all from the tree house. I had to buy a few studs for one of the walls. You can see the fresh wood in that back right wall. there i something unique about each of the walls. The largest wall (back left) will have a window . The smallest wall (front right) will have the nest box doors. The far angled wall will have the chicken sized door providing chicken access to the run during the day. The left angles wall will have the large, human sized door providing access to the inside for cleaning and checking up on the birds.
Getting those angles right was tricky. Whatever mismatched cuts of wood you can see here though will be well hidden by the time it's done. Pushing on the corners shows the whole thing is still kind of flimsy but only on the diagonals. Pushing straight into the wall is pretty solid but the diagonals are shaky.
I needed to purchase some new pressure treated 2x4 for the roof frame. The roof plywood is the same as the floor; 3/4 inch tongue and grooved. I didn't put anything on the left and right edges of the roof. I don't know why I didn't.
During construction we had a little visitor. This pretty Blue Heron would come by every one and a while and sit on the roof of our house leering down at the pond. This picture was taken through our binoculars. I'm always impressed that works.
Getting the ChicksDuring the framing we also bought the chicks! We bought 6 chicks form Portage Bay Grange
Taking pictures was hard because they were under a red heat lamp 100% of the time while they were young but rest assured they were very cute.
We decided on the breeds because of what we read in the My Pet Chicken Handbook book. There was a whole chart about the benefits and pitfalls of each of the breeds. We got a mix of docility, winter heartiness, winter laying rate, general laying rate and some other factors.
Next time I'll talk about finishing the coop, making the run and watching the chickens grow up.