Monday, August 30, 2010

I Did It!

Building a Chicken Coop aka
A Lesson in Life

1. Follow directions.
2. Improvise.
3. Ask for help – kids are really good at holding up walls.
4. Ask to be left alone.
5. Stick with it.
6. Return things you don’t need (save receipts).
7. Always have a Plan B (similar to #2)
8. Read directions twice.
9. Don’t spend too much money.
10. Sleep is important.
11. Have fun.
12. Appreciate a sore body!

I began the weekend with telling you all how difficult it is to tear apart a pallet. That’s still true.

Lesson #7 – have a Plan B: I found cedar fencing planks for 97-cents each. This was really a good deal to me because I was just beside myself tearing apart pallets and after posting my difficulty on Facebook, I learned that I was not alone. I failed with others and that’s just easier for me to take.

Shannen helps his mom out a bit.
The plans that I bought from adapted very well to the cedar planks. I wish that I had used the cedar planks from the beginning, but oh well! I did end up using the pallet wood for the nesting box and they worked out very well. The pallet wood definitely has more meat than the cedar planks and the ladies have a very solid nesting box.

I ran to the hardware store on Saturday at noon, got overcharged for the cedar planks, realized it on the way home and turned around only to have to argue with the guy who rang me up…somehow the 5 foot board that he charged to me as 6 foot board was shorter than me! He kept insisting the board I had was 6 feet. I kept insisting that I could see over the top of the board quite easily so it had to be 5 feet. The manager solved the problem. My kids seemed a bit shocked that I was right!

Construction began at about 1:30 on Saturday. By the end of the day, I had the main structure almost complete, but still needed to finish some of the roof planks. On Sunday, I undertook the rest of the roof, the nesting boxes and doors. I still need to do the roofing material and paint the coop red!

Have I mentioned that I’ve never built anything!!!??? I can’t tell you how good it felt to have my door align perfectly, to drill on a hinge and then have a door that works great -- it even has a latch! And, I did it all (mostly) by myself. On Saturday the boys helped me hold up walls and drill a bit. And, on Sunday, Tim helped me with the nesting box.
The first "chicken" enters the coop
and Dudley hopes someone
throws his ball!

I really recommend the directions that I got from They have pictures for every step and are easy to understand. My insider tips: a jig is just a construction word for a template and a cross-support is simply an “X” to hold things up!

The other night with my coop kind of complete, I really wanted the hens to move in. They were so cute – as I was working on it, they would come over and watch what we were all up to. I picked up Dolly and put her in. I think she liked it. She was still roosting inside this morning. As an aside, Dolly has been acting a little strange lately. I think that Martha may be the top of the pecking order now?

I love to look out the window and see the coop that I built for under $200. I still need to go back over my receipts, but I know it wasn’t more than that.

Now, all I need is to figure out how to move the beast of a coop where it belongs...

I built a chicken coop!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Taking Apart a Pallet

Nobody ever said, “Taking apart a pallet is easy.” But, I thought it would be. And, I was wrong.

Geeze! Taking apart pallets is tough. I followed all the directions for breaking apart a pallet that were part of my chicken coop plans, but even with a chisel, crow bar and flat ended shovel, I just couldn’t do it. (Okay, I didn’t have or know what a lump hammer or carpenters pinchers were, but I had the basics!)

It was so tough, I kinda gave up!

I went to the store to price out wood. Even bought some wood, but then returned it when it didn’t fit in my Honda. Shocking, I know…it’s a Honda – it can do just about everything. The guy who helped me carry it out said in disgust…you don’t have a truck? Got my money back for that lumber!

This is how to really get a pallet apart:

1. Get gloves! Gloves are not on the list of needed supplies, but get them.
2. Get out your saw with a fresh blade.
3. Cut off the tips of the boards so you don’t have to try to get the end nails out. All you’ll be left with is trying to get out the middle nails and with lots of wiggling, stomping, and maybe a few tears of frustration, you’ll be able to get the middle nails loose.
4. Oh, yes, a regular ole hammer comes in handy too. The boys and I couldn’t find ours, so we bought a new one and a hammer turns out to be a very useful tool!

I know that my pallet boards are a bit shorter because I’ve cut the ends off of them, but the plans that I have are flexible as far a size goes. The plans indicate that the coop can house 6-8 chickens, but I’m guessing that because my wood will not be as long, it will house 4-6 chickens. I have four chickens now – I should be able to buy two more. That will make my husband very happy! Ha!

So, today begins the beginning of the building. And, I know I'll need more pallet wood, but I'm tired of breaking apart pallets so I'll do as much building as I can. The weather is nice and cool so that will help my morale. We’ll have to run to Power Townsend to get a few things before the building begins and that will make the boys annoyed. They hate running errands, but it’s just one store and we need nails!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Coop?

I promised myself that even if only for me, I would start to journal my chicken experiences ...maybe nobody beyond my dear friend will find them entertaining? If that’s the case, Patricia this is for you!

Over the course of this summer, my flock has grown to four. When I first started my backyard chicken experience, I got one beautiful chicken named Dolly along with a small coop.

With winter approaching (yes, it's only August, but I swear I can feel winter already in Montana), I must come up with something better for my beautiful ladies. I have checked Craigs List and looked at other local options, but I guess I'm cheep because as much as I completely adore and am obsessed with my chickens it's all just so very expensive!

Therefore, I am building a chicken coop.

At first building a chicken coop seemed impossible, then $1200 for a coop seemed even more impossible. So, building a coop was then again possible. I ordered plans for this coop online from

I thought it would be the perfect plan for my chickens and me because it’s made from pallets so we’d be recycling and it would be inexpensive! My ladies are free range in our almost-an-acre backyard so I didn’t have to look at plans that had an attached run. (Good, one less thing to build!)

After I got the plans and printed them, I realized there were sure a lot of pages of directions. I read the directions and I don’t really understand what a jig or cross member support is?

But, I am going to try to build a chicken coop.

I asked my husband to bring home pallets. His business is in an industrial area in town so there are always stray pallets in the allies. He got home the other night with his catering van loaded with pallets. They are heavy and I have a couple of splinters from helping unload them.

I looked at the plans again with my seven-year-old son. Either he has a lot of faith in his mother or he understands these plans, as he assures me that we can do it.

So, we are building a chicken coop.

I’m giving myself a month.

I’m..or shall I say...we’re going to start to take apart the pallets tonight.