THE OFFICIAL BLOG
Fourteen days ago, on July 16th we began construction of our new chicken grow-out pen using a framing kit we bought online at EZ Frame Structures. First, anyone with critical thinking skills should be skeptical of products with 'EASY' in the name... and downright dismissive of products which abbreviate it to 'EZ'. It was not easy (or EZ) at all. But more on that later.
Right now I would like to revel in the fact that we are finally done! Or.. done enough. There are a few details we still have to work out... But.. done enough to move the monster chicks out of the brooder and into their new and spacious outdoor enclosure.
Why we took our time.
This project took more time and more materials than most of those we have taken on in the past, but there were a couple of factors which made this so. First, the memory of losing goslings in a less fortified grow-out pen was fresh on our minds. We were wanting this pen to be solid, heavy, and safe. Also, we are moving past the stage of homesteading where we are content throwing up temporary structures that are heavy on utility but light on aesthetics. It has taken years to figure out what we need as well as what we want. It's an ongoing learning process.. and it's very hands on. No matter how many pins I saved on Pinterest - they never really helped us figure out what would work for us.
Once upon a time, we were needing a shelter for the goats in a pen we had created out in the woods away from the house. It was a difficult location with close trees and steep inclines, but we needed something to provide shelter from rain and a little extra shade in the heat of summer. Internet searches provided us with the perfect solution: A hoop house made with a ground-level wooden frame, cattle panel bent into arches and secured to the ground frame, and a heavy-duty tarp fastened over the cattle panel. Perfect because all of those materials could be easily moved out to our location and set up would be easy! Easy! But not EZ. There's a difference. Construction went well and it was not even that much of an eyesore. Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes -- and I am being generous in this estimation of time. Fifteen minutes later, our enormous billy goat ripped off the tarp, knocked the entire structure onto its side, and climbed on top of what was left - permanently flattening it to the ground. No more hoop houses for us.
This project has been a family affair. All of the kids were out with me in rain or heat every day for fourteen days - cutting lumber, attaching planks, picking up lost screws, holding stuff in place, stretching wire. And there were injuries. I busted my nose on a low roost early on. The face level roost has since been removed. Not the best idea. Dave busted his nose a couple days later on a rafter. He's tall... we could not remove the rafters. Hardware cloth is sharp and has a mind of its own. And when you have 1200 screws to drive, you are bound to slip and drill your hand or finger or leg or some other body part at least once or twice. Our DNA is all over this thing.
An economical choice?
Before I decided to buy a framing kit, I had been shopping around for a sturdy pre-built coop and run. The best would have cost us anywhere from $750 to $3000. (Those on the lower end of that range required assembly.) I probably would have swallowed hard and spent the money if any of them had been exactly what we were looking for. However, they were small. The largest (and most expensive) I could find was 6' x 10'.
Did we save money? I have no idea. We do have a grow-out pen that is much larger than anything we could have bought pre-fabricated. At 10' x 20' we have the room I was looking for. But we used a lot of materials.
The materials list:
Reviewing the list, it is safe to say that we spent less money than we would have on the most expensive coop we had priced before we started this coop building marathon. But that does not include labor. If we were to include labor, that would add about $10,000 to the cost. Minimum. I'm not including overtime or hazard pay.
About that EZ framing kit.
Was it worth it? Not entirely. Using the kit to frame an entire structure might make things easier if you were to be building on.. oh say.. a level concrete slab with the initial footprint frame bolted to the foundation so that the incredibly light firring and plastic brackets do not move wherever they please during the subsequent stages of framing. But if you are going to do all of that - you do not really need the plastic brackets to hold it all together anyway. I think they would have worked better for a much smaller building. Ten by twenty is an ambitious plan and too much can go wrong over runs that long with twisted cheap lumber and plastic joiners that cannot withstand a lot of stress. The roof truss angle brackets did save some time and energy, however. I would recommend one of these kits for a small tool shed that you will be putting together on level ground (I mean very, very level ground. A quarter inch is enough to give you nightmares with this method because it is far too light.) as framing would take minutes. Even on uneven ground, it could be handy for framing for an all-wire structure such as an aviary -- as long as it remains light enough to make corrections and get everything square. Also, if this company were to offer the truss brackets as a separate kit - I would buy it for future projects. As for actually buying another of these kits as they are for a repeat of the grow-out pen: Meh. Okay. New Plan.
So there it is. The chicks are outside. We will be able to get some sleep in the barnpartment tonight... after I clean out the brooders for the last time this summer. Well. Maybe. Even though this thing is built like a fort - I will worry for the first few nights that I missed something that a raccoon or weasel is sure to find. But eventually things will settle down and we can get back to relaxing... er.. no... we can get back to laying the tile in the main house. No rest for the weary or for chicken owners... who are, in fact, one and the same. In the meantime, I will leave you with some more pictures of the finished project. Because we worked too hard on this thing to only share a few pictures.
Posted by Anita
Relieved it is finally over.