Posts Tagged Construction

How To Build A Chicken Coop

When you’re starting out with chickens you need to have a place to lock them up at night.  Building a chicken coop will be one of the first thing you need to do before you order your chicks or pick up some pullets (young hens).  I love how chickens just naturally gravitate to their little home when the sun starts to go down, roosting inside all on their own.

how to build a chicken coop for your chickens

The coop is an important part of your plan to keep your birds safe from predators that lurk in the night.  So we want it to be a sturdy structure that keeps the bad things out, the chickens in, provides a place for them to nest and lay their eggs.  First a few bits of terminology so you can get caught up to speed if you’re new.

  • Roost: a bar that chickens sit on and sleep on at night
  • Run: the fenced in area that chickens walk around during the day
  • Nesting Box: a separate area where hens sit to lay eggs in
  • Hardware Cloth: metal mesh that has very small openings
  • Bedding: saw dust, wood chips, hay or saw

So those are some of the basic terminology, now let’s get into some of the details.

The Coop

my chickens in my gardenYou can build the coop out of whatever building materials you have on hand or repurpose shelters to suit your needs.  When I built my coop I just went and bought a few sheets of plywood, created a box and sealed the entire inside.  Whatever you build it out of, the coop needs to be about 2 square feet of floor space for each chicken you have.  Much more than 2-3 feet per bird assuming they have more room to range during the day doesn’t do much because they all like to pile on a roost and cuddle up with each other anyway.

Height wise I usually build the coop so that I can easily clean it and room for at least 2 feet above the upper most roost.  If I have a lot of chickens I’ll make sure whatever it is, I can stand up straight if I need to go inside.

For the floors of my coop the biggest piece of advice is to make the inside as easy to clean as possible, really think ahead on this part.   I design mine so all the corners inside are not 90 degrees and no little nooks.  To do this I build my coop, then lay in a 2×2 cut at an angle so when I lay it in with glue all my corners are 45 degrees, which is much easier to clean.

Once I have my coop inside done I always sealed with a super heavy polyurethane. I coat every surface several times, making sure to soak it into the corners.  I put several layers on all surfaces then let it dry.  Next I focus on adding more layers to floor and the first foot of the walls.  You want a super thick layer of poly covering every inch of your floor and sealing every crevice and seam.

I let the whole thing dry and off gas for at least a few weeks.  If you build your coop before you even order your chicks, you’ll have a lot of time for all the fumes to escape by the time the chicks are grown up and ready to be put in the coop.

Roost Bars

chicken on roost in coopA roost is just a bar that chickens like to sit on, usually about a foot or so off the floor of the coop or ground.  I’ve had chickens that all piled onto a single bar leaving several empty and then I’ve had others that didn’t use them at all.  I usually add them because it seems like most chickens like to roost because it makes them feel a little safer.  The top most roost is often taken up by the alpha hen and the rooster if you have one, but some flocks don’t get too tied up in pecking order.

The roost bars can be branches cut from your woods or a 2×4.  You want your roost to be about 2 inches wide and not metal if you can help it.  You want a flat level surface around 2 inches wide because chickens like to sleep flat footed.  They can grip if they need to though.

Ventilation

Many first time coop builders forget that coops need to breath, even if you live in very cold climates.  This is because their droppings put off a lot of moisture and ammonia, so you want a way for that to vent well.  You want to make sure that there is at least some ventilation, but make sure it hardware cloth over it so predators can’t get in. The rule of thumb is around 1 square foot of ventilation per 10 square feet of floor space in the coop.

Nesting Boxes

You want one nesting box for every 3-4 hens you have.  All a nesting box needs to be is a small more enclosed area roughly 1 cubic foot in size with some hay on the bottom.  I’ve done everything from milk crates to 5 gallon buckets on their side.  Just make sure you can easily get into the nesting box to grab the eggs as they are laid and they you can clean them easily.

Make sure you can see well into your nesting boxes because sometimes you find things other than hens in them.  Here is a black snake that snuck into my nesting box.  The joke was on him though, that egg was a plastic egg that we were using to teach the hens to use the nesting box.

snake in nesting box

A Chicken Door

This door only has to be about a single square foot, maybe a foot and a half tall so that a single chicken can come and go into the coop.  The door should be able to be closed up tight at night with a lock that raccoons or other critters can open.  Some people build in a sliding door that operates on a motor with a special sensor that closes when the sun goes down.

golden comet chicken

When I did my permanent coop I had it so the chicken door opened directly into a fenced in chicken run.  The run was covered too and the whole thing tied into the coop itself so that I didn’t have to be there each night to lock the door.  Even if you have your coop in a protected run like I did, its still good to have a door because sometimes you want to shut them up in coop for you to clean things or if a predator is spotted.

A Light

Many people put lights for some heat in the colder months.  Unless you are in a very cold part of the world, I wouldn’t suggest this.  Experience has shown me that if you put a light in a coop and then one night it gets broken or burns out, you’ll end up loosing all your chickens.  I live in North Carolina and for many parts of the US I wouldn’t worry about it.  For colder parts of the US, I’d just build a bigger coop so you can keep them inside for a week if you have to when it’s super cold.  Chickens are pretty hearty.

lights in a coop

The last parts of a coop are your nesting boxes for the chickens to lay their eggs in (usually one box per 3-4 birds) and some sort of bedding to catch droppings from.  Chickens put out a lot of droppings and they tend to concentrate under the roost bars.  However you plan to handle droppings, make it bomb proof because it can get messy quickly and if you build your coop to easily clean out, you can make your life a lot easier.

Chicken Tractors

Many people who want to get into chickens want to try a mobile chicken tractor, which is basically a coop with no bottom that you move to fresh grass every few days.  I’ve done both a fixed coop and chicken tractors and I think chicken tractors are my favorite because it cuts down on the cleaning (no floors, the chickens just poop on the grass) and it reduces the amount of feed I need to buy.

Here is my old chicken tractor:

chicken tractor

There are a few things you need to consider if you decide to go the chicken tractor.  Whatever coop you design it should be able to be moved easily by the smallest person in your household, it makes it difficult if only some of the people can actually move it each day.  As you can see above there are wheels on this tractor, I later switched them to larger wheels because some of the bumps and lumps in the grass would catch the edge of the coop or the wheels.

Consider where you’re going to store feed and how you’ll get water to them.  Where is the closet storage spot?  Where is the closet spigot and will your hose reach to the far corner of the yard?hens and a rooster

Finally make sure you have enough room, if you have more than a few chickens you’ll need to move that coop most days so that the chickens do remove all the vegetation in that one spot to the point that it can’t bounce back.  You want the grass to get roughed up a bit, but no more.  This will let the grass bounce back and grow stronger.  Having enough space is easier in the summer months because things grow so quickly, but in the winter you may find that a spot where the chickens were takes 30-60 days to heal.

Waters

There are three main types of water devices for chickens: Bell, nipple and standard waterer/fountain.  Larger operations tend to use the bell style, I don’t have much experience with those.  The older style of waterer or fountains work pretty well, but I’ve found they get dirty pretty easily.  That leaves my favorite type of waterer which is the nipple style.

chicken waterers

These are just a little valve with a shinny metal tab sticking out that the chickens peck at to get water.  Sometimes you need to show your chickens how to use them, I just take one or two of them and hold it right in front of the nipple.  Basically chickens see something shinny, peck at it and get wet.  Eventually they figure it out and the rest of the flock follows suit.

The nipples are cheap and can be installed into a 5 gallon bucket or into a run of pvc pipe.  This means I can do long runs of these that are tied into a water system so I can set it up for several days of water without any extra work.  An important side note is that you can’t uses these on chicks.

Feeders

There are several types of these, I still haven’t found a favorite type, so let me know what has worked for you in the comments.  I am looking for something that will feed the chickens easily for a few days automatically.  Right now the best option is a vertical PVC pipe about 6″ wide with a opening cut at the bottom.

So that’s some of the key things you need to work into your design when you build your own coop.  Let me know what you plan to do for yours in the comments!

Your Turn!

  • What kind of coop do you hope to build?
  • What tricks have you learned?

Your Tiny House… In a Book!

tiny house reclaimed book

Attention tiny house fans! Do you you have a friend who built or lives in a tiny house made with reclaimed materials? Do you have one yourself? Do you want see your house featured in a book? (Of course you do!) The Tiny Life wants to talk to you!

We’re looking to connect with people who have used reclaimed materials to build their tiny homes to be included in an upcoming book project. Maybe you used reclaimed pallet wood for your walls, or found all your kitchen cabinets at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Maybe you found windows by the side of the road on trash day, or the perfect farmhouse sink at the dump. However you used reclaimed materials in your tiny house build, we want to hear about it!

Imagine seeing your house in a printed book that you can pick up at any Barnes & Noble around the country! Pretty cool, right? If you think you and your house would be a great fit for our book project, please fill out our online form below.. We can’t wait to learn more about you and your house!

This application is now closed; we are no longer accepting entries. Thank you for your interest.

 

Tiny House Construction Waste

In an effort to tell the whole story about tiny houses I felt it necessary to show the not so pretty side of tiny houses.  Namely, how much waste a tiny house generates in its construction.  The reality of how much waste I have created in building my home really shocked me when I saw all the scraps loaded up onto a single trailer, ready to be hauled away to the dump.

photo

This was a real reality check that even tiny houses have an impact, which of course I knew, but knowing something  and facing the reality in the face are two different things.

A parallel for me personally – which may seem odd and obviously a much greater moral implication – was the first time I personally participated in “processing” a chicken.  To be standing there, a knife in my hand with a live chicken before me, there was real coming to terms with what I was about to do.  As a meat eater, it was the first time I personally had to grapple with the reality of eating meat.

I had a very similar experience when I stood in front of that trailer and was processing the fact this trailer was going to be taken to a dump and I was the cause of it.  That I was creating a large amount of trash that later generations would have to contend with.  Do I have that right?  Am I okay with that?

So the above shot is pretty much all of the waste that my tiny house created.  In this trash there is all the scraps from the framing, sheathing, roofing, siding, etc.  Also here you’ll see the packaging that comes with some building products, along with some plastic sheeting that I used to cover materials that has since been torn or degraded to a point that I can’t use it any more.  In total it’s about 400 lbs, it looks like a lot more, but it isn’t stacked very efficiently.

I also wanted to provide another side of this story by comparing how much waste I created to that of a traditional home.  The typical home in America is about 2,600 square feet and in its construction generates about 2.5 tons  (5,000 lbs) of garbage.  It’s important to note that this is the onsite trash only, components like trusses and roof farmings are built elsewhere, but not accounted for.   You can read about these statistics in this study (link no longer works).

Now I think its also important to talk about how I could have done better, while I need to come to terms with this amount of waste, hopefully I can help others reduce their waste.

First off it is important to note that it honestly is impossible to not have waste.  We can also use reclaimed materials, which can help us reduce our waste and even offset the waste we create; the ultimate would be to have a net negative impact, but I think that would be tough.  There is also a strong argument for inhabiting houses that are already built or could be rehabbed with less impact.

Our writer here on The Tiny Life, Andrea, told me once that she thought it would be impossible to have a house built of more than 95% reclaimed materials.  Her house was about 80-90% reclaimed, but she had one huge advantage: She built her tiny house in a warehouse that was a building materials reclaiming company!  That’s all they did, was reclaim materials and even with that, she was not able to achieve more than 80%.

Other things that might help you reduce your impact is being more efficient with materials.  I think it would be tough to improve upon how I utilized my materials, but I figure I could have been better at it with enough practice.  I also think that if I had a good storage space, I could better save and organize the scraps so I can keep the quality up and utilize them better.  There were some pieces of wood that got damaged by rain after a tarp blew off in a storm, leaving the wood exposed to the elements and water pooling on it.

Finally, if I had chosen all my materials to be chemical free (no glues, resins, treatments) I could at the very least used the scraps to burn for heating or campfires.  But in some cases I opted for treated lumber (which I still feel like was the right choice), but it meant that I shouldn’t burn it.

Your Turn!

  • How would you go about reducing your waste?
  • What are some tips to reduce waste during construction?

 

Tiny House Sheathing

Playing catch up with the posts about building the house.   I went and ordered my sheathing for the walls and roof.  There is a newish product that I am using called the Zip system.  (zipsystem.com)  Basically it is wall and roof sheathing with the house wrap/roof felt already on it, which is pretty fancy.

It also has these little nubs on the edges so you don’t have to worry about expansion gaps like you would with traditional sheathing.  Along with the spacers, the board is printed with markers so if you do your walls correctly, you can just follow the guide on the boards and you hit a stud every time while securing it from the outside where you can’t see where the studs are.  The kicker is that not only does it have some major time and labor saving factors, it costs a lot less!  You have to use their special tape, but its about 1/2 the price of tyvek tape, so that isn’t a big deal.

Sheathing your tiny home

I priced it out and its much cheaper and then you don’t have to spend all that time house wrapping.  The vapor barrier on the zip panels does the exact same thing as tyvek, but its more durable and isn’t prone to being pulled off by inclement weather.    It also apparently makes a much better air seal and is LEED Credit Certified.

 

Traditional sheathing: 18 sheets @$28
Tyvek Wrap: 1 roll $150
Tyvek tape: $100
Roof Felt: $19
Capped Nails: $7
______________________
Total: $780

zip boards: 12 @ $19.50  and 6 @ $26
Zip Tape: 2 rolls @ $27
_______________________
Total: $444.00

Me happy about saving money and getting the sheathing done!

Me happy about saving money and getting the sheathing done!

So when it comes to sheathing (which is what the plywood on the outside of the house are called) the trick with it all isn’t the actual plywood, but that you did your framing correctly.  If you have done your framing correctly, then the seams of each of your pieces of plywood will land right on the stud.  This is important because you need to be able to nail the edge of the sheathing to that stud.  There will be some cases where a panel lands on a window, so you will need to place an extra 2×4 piece to have something to nail into, you can see below an example of this.

installing sheathing

This photo also shows how in tiny houses we screw and glue our sheathing.  Here I used liquid nail on the studs.  A piece of advice for anyone who is doing this, help yourself and spring for a air powered caulk gun.  I tried to do this for one day and by the end of it I swore I gave myself arthritis because how hard you have to squeeze this stuff.  They have a lot of better powered caulk guns for $150-$350, but this gun is $35 and well worth it.  To give you an idea of how much you’ll be doing this, I went through about 40 tubes of this stuff while building my tiny house.  As far as fastening the sheathing, I used 2.5″ exterior grade screws, every 6 inches on the edges and 12″ in the center (field).

In the video and some of the photos you can see that the sheathing is actually larger than the wall frame.  I had the sheathing extend below the wall framing to hide the trailer so that you’d really only see the tongue and fenders, the rest of the trailer is hidden behind, once finished, nice looking cedar siding.  I also had it extend above the framing because I could wanted the sheathing to tie into the loft beams, flooring of the lofts, and the silplate.  So I carefully calculated the height of all the components listed and a few others, so that when I installed the silplate (that the roof rafters sit on) it was perfectly flush.  This

The other key thing to know about the overhang and extension was that this then tied all three systems together to be a very strong unit.  Effectively the floor framing, the wall framing and the roof became a unified piece because they all were brought together by the sheathing.

sheathing your tiny home

Buying Sheathing for your Tiny House

Fixing Warpped And Twisted Boards

During the building process, no matter how meticulously you select your lumber, it will never be perfectly straight.  It is something that first time builders don’t consider, that your materials will be imperfect, which can result in your house being off.
The longer the board, the less straight it will be.

Capture

Another common first time builder assumption that is incorrect is lumber dimensions.   To add to the confusion lumber is milled smaller than their names might indicate.  A 2×4 isn’t actually 2″ by 4″,  it is actually 1.5″ by 3.5″ and this is the case for all milled lumber.

What I hadn’t realized when I started is that lumber isn’t all milled the same.  For example I picked up some 2×4’s that were the higher grade studs to find that they were in fact 1/8″ smaller in each dimension.  Also 8 foot boards are often longer than eight feet.  When it comes to ply wood, usually the thickness is the same thickness indicated, but the 4′ by 8′ panel isn’t always 4 feet by 8 feet.  Plywood is also seldom flat, it often has a bow to it, I found digging into the stack of plywood and pulling out the middle sheets of the pile are often flatter.  Also the thicker the board, the flatter it stays.

So today I wanted to share these video on how to handle warped and twisted boards.