THE OFFICIAL BLOG
The New Grow-Out Pen
Homesteading is not our sole occupation. Dave still commutes to work in Tulsa every day and works long hours at his job. I still have homeschooling to oversee and house-keeping duties in addition to all of the day-to-day farm-related chores. There is dinner to cook sometimes because we cannot live off of sandwiches and coffee. Although we have tried. It doesn't work. Being barely alive does not provide the energy needed to actually function in our lives. All of that is to say that time is always at a premium.
So when it comes to the more involved projects around the farm - such as building things - we are constantly looking for ways to save that precious time. Our last effort involves the purchase of a chicken coop kit from a place called EZ Frame Structures online. (I am not going to provide a link here. At least not at this point - as we have not gotten very far using their product and a link would be something of an endorsement.) I will say that ordering anything from them at all seemed like a huge risk at the time as the internet was flooded with terrible reviews regarding shipping - from extremely slow shipping with no contact from the seller to people claiming to never having received their kit... I failed to find a single decent review. That's normally more than enough to put me off from ordering from a company, but I really, really, really wanted this to work. Thankfully, we had no problem with shipping. Yes, it was slower than a lot of shipped items these days - but the seller provided tracking numbers and updates along the way and I have no complaints. About that.
I also will not be providing much detail regarding how this thing goes together as the company seems a little ... paranoid ... about that. One customer had put together a series of videos giving a step-by-step demonstration of putting a kit together and they were asked to take it down. Now, if it were me - I think I would be pleased with the free advertisement - but I am assuming that this company is worried that too much detail shown will make it too easy for others to copy their bracket design. Which is silly because chicken coop bracket design thieves could just order a kit themselves and have at it... and they wouldn't be providing any free YouTube advertising in the process.
Maybe I am just a little bitter because a step-by-step YouTube video tutorial would really come in handy at this stage of construction. Particularly because the instructions and plans provided leave much to be desired. Side elevation shows studs placed at 24" measured from outside to inside. Roof elevation shows studs placed at 24" measured from outside to outside. Doesn't matter really. No matter how you measure it, the math doesn't work out anyway. But that's okay! Because the written part of the instructions adds the helpful tidbit: 'Space out the studs evenly.'
My first observation for anyone who might be considering purchasing one of these kits in the future: This kit is not for an inexperienced builder.
The kit is not a complete kit, but a set of plastic brackets and some instructions. The brackets are supposed to make construction easier because no mitered or angled cuts will be necessary. I love the concept. Not necessarily for the ease of assembly (something which has yet to be seen), but because it will hopefully make modification and repair easier in the future.
To complete the kit, we had to purchase a lot of 2" x 2" firring and a huge amount of screws in addition to some roofing material to complete the enclosed coop side. Before we can ever complete this we will also need to purchase wire and hardware cloth, some door hardware, and some sort of solid material for the walled section of the coop. All of that is quite vague at the moment. I am not looking ahead so far today. Mostly, I just want to figure out the best place to put these brackets for stud walls so that I can get on with my life.
So far we have selected an area just behind the barn with easy access to water and food storage and laid out the base frame to make sure it will fit where I had envisioned it. Some of the smaller trees may have to be trimmed or removed before it is all done - but I am determined to use the natural shade of our woods for this particular pen. Too many times in the past have we installed something in an open and clear and easy area only to find that we have basically created an open air oven in which to bake the occupants in the Oklahoma summer sun. No more.
The kids and I worked at the garage yesterday to pre-cut most of the lumber -- excluding any pieces that we will most likely have to adjust to get the doors to fit properly. That sounds really responsible and far-sighted, but there is more to that story. The fact is I had cut fourteen of twenty-two pieces (labeled C) to five feet instead of five feet and ten inches before I realized my mistake. This would leave us having to return to Lowe's for more wood -- something none of us wanted to do because waiting for someone to load lumber at Lowe's is like DIY purgatory. Since it just so happens that the pieces labeled C are actually the wall studs - I decided that we would pretend that we wanted to modify the coop to make it shorter at the side walls... Which will require some adjustment on the door sides, of course. Which I will worry about later... if we ever get to the door sides.
We cut and labeled a lot of wood, resulting in an uncomfortable amount of scrap pieces. I am glad that someone else put this bracket kit together and took the time to make a plan. I am trying to save time, after all. But if I had designed this myself I would have definitely come up with something which resulted in far less scrap. This is scandalous. And my mind is already turning coming up with uses for these pieces... which I will use someday... when the grow-out pen.. and the tile floor... and the new goat enclosure.. and the second donkey pen... are all complete. I can dream. In the meantime, it looks like I will be hoarding little pieces of scrap wood. Again.
With most of the lumber cut in the morning, we also managed to pre-assemble the roof trusses which are now neatly stacked in the garage along with 700 square feet of plank porcelain tile and about 30 bags of concrete that we bought for a project that I have forgotten about now.
You know my earlier complaint about the kit instructions being less-than-helpful? They were even less helpful when it came to assembling the roof trusses. There were no related diagrams or schematics, simply a suggestion to assemble the roof trusses on the ground. And another helpful hint: "Make sure the bottom cross bar is level." Okay. Thanks for that. Could you perhaps tell me where to mount the brackets for said cross bar so that the roof pitch will be correct? No? Okay.. maybe tell me what the roof pitch is supposed to be then? No? You want me to wing it. Gotcha.
My second observation for anyone who might be considering purchasing one of these kits in the future: The price you pay for the kit includes a box of unlabeled plastic brackets and instructions that basically say: "Use your imagination."
Back to where we are as far as progress on our kit grow-out pen. We have a location. We have eleven roof trusses. We have a lot of pre-cut pieces and a promising amount of scrap wood. We still have a box full of plastic brackets and a huge amount of screws.
My goal this morning was to get all of the brackets attached to the base frame so that we could easily add the studs and get this thing going. As I mentioned though, the plans were not exactly clear about stud placement... And though I did spend a little time deciding what would be best for the alternative plan we have created in our imaginations earlier today, I decided to heed today's heat advisory and put off frustrating calculations until things cool down a bit.
I do believe that once we decide on stud placement and get them into place - the rest of the frame building will go very quickly. That was the point of buying the bracket kit in the first place, so I am not regretting the purchase. Yet.
Getting a roof and walls on the thing -- as well as covering most of the frame with two layers of wire for the protection of growing birds -- is going to be time and labor intensive, however. And as much as I prefer to take a laid back approach to projects so as to retain my sanity -- the growing chicks in the brooder have given us a hard deadline.
Work on the tile floor in our house will most likely be delayed until the growing chicks are settled in their new home... Weather permitting. Who knows? The title of this blog is Okay New Plan for a reason. Maybe we will be forced to work indoors for a while due to some freak Oklahoma monsoon season. We are currently sleeping in the barn office these days while our bedroom is taken apart for the tiling project. Somewhat ironically, we are sleeping in the barn office with the chicken brooders full of growing chicks. This experience lends a bit of extra motivation for finishing the grow-out pen and kicking the growing chicks out. Growing chicks make a lot of noise all night long while you are trying to sleep. The little darlings.
Alternatively, we could actually finish the floor and get our bedroom put back together so that we do not have to sleep in the barn office with screaming chicks anymore. That plan still leaves us with the problem of chickens that will soon be too big for the brooders and needing a new residence even if they aren't directly interrupting our sleep.
I am confident that you should stay tuned for more updates. I am not quite as confident about exactly what will be updated. In the meantime, Dave is at work, there is a heat advisory, and I have laundry to do.
Posted by Anita
Actually lives with chickens. Misses her bed. Can't eat sandwiches.
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