Long Weekend, Big Project

Labor day weekend lived up to its name. Three full days of hard-core, unadulterated, sunup to sundown, sawdust-slinging labor. I hauled lumber. I swore. I sniffed an inordinate amount of sawdust. I laughed. I used all of my tools (fine, not all). I took an unplanned three-hour coma nap on my kitchen floor. I might have thrown a hammer. I lost–and found–my tape measure no less then seven times (the pencil is still missing.) And I did not finish the one project I was working on. But I definitely built some shit, and it was awesome.

Here was my charge: 3 days, no distractions, build a chicken coop in the barn.


Even with the most generous interpretation of the word, I didn’t have anything you could call a “plan”. No pictures, no dimensions, no sketches hastily drawn on a napkin. If I squinted my eyes a bit and looked at this empty corner of the barn, I could just barely picture it. Last weekend I bought a load of random lumber and figured it would at least get me started.

So. I got started.

First task was to lay out a general floor plan and use some tapcons to bolt a sill plate to the existing, totally un-level concrete floor.


Makita and Home Depot teamed up and sent me a new impact driver and a who slew of bits, then told me to “do my worst” to see if I can wear them out. Challenge accepted.


This part was easy.


I expected to be able to pop up a few supports and have the walls up in no time. I also might have expected aliens to land in the pasture, bringing me peace offerings of ice cream and air conditioning. Two equally likely scenarios. I’ll let you guess if either of those things happened.

This was the sum-total of Day 1:

UntitledReally? That’s it?

Granted, insomnia hit me hard last week (as did several more rabies shots) so at some point Saturday I walked inside to get a drink of water, and ended up laying on the kitchen floor with my face two inches from the box fan pretending to be Darth Vader in my sleep for the better part of the afternoon.

It happens.

I had high hopes for Day 2, though. The Nugs were also looking pretty excited about the progress…


But about the time I started thinking about building nesting boxes, it also occurred to me that I’d been thinking about building some storage in the barn as well, and… I mean… the tools are out already, right? So why not just incorporate some shelves, a small workbench, and a spot for hanging tack while I’m at it?

This surprises no one.

And it was a good idea in theory, but for some inexplicable reason things were not coming together. I mean really not coming together. My portable miter saw and the compressor both broke. None of my cuts were fitting right. I got to right about here…


… and completely lost my shit.

There was a lot of muttering, fist shaking, kicking of inanimate (and unfortunately, very solid) objects. Then I picked up my tools with a frown and decided I was going to swear my way through the rest of the day, until I looked back over my shoulder and saw this…


Holy shit, you guys. I dare you to try and stay pissed with those faces staring at you. Not possible.

So then I went back to laughing at myself (and my utterly adorable donkeys) and got back to work. The compressor even started up again, so I made some progress on actually closing the coop in.


Currently the wire is tacked in with staples. I’m also adding several feet of boards on the bottom half of the coop (for security and to allow for deep bedding) and I’ll be adding a 1/2″ furring strip to the outside of the wire as well.

By the end of Day 2 there was passable progress:


Finally, Monday, whoever is in charge of doling out good-fortune when it comes to DIY decided to take mercy on me. The weather was perfect. The compressor was working. I’d plowed my way through the most difficult parts of the build the day before.

All of the tools were cooperating.


The lumber… eh? Maybe not so much.


(This is the hazard of carrying a 2×4 on your shoulder with a ponytail.)

There was more of this.


A brief pause to escort a confused bird out of the second floor of the garage…


(I just catch birds with my bare hands now, apparently. It’s my new thing.)

And by the end of the day…


There was some actual, solid progress. I would have liked to be at this point on Sunday, but these things are going to take the time they take.

It’s not pretty–it may never be pretty– but it is all kinds of functional. The bench actually provides room for four nesting boxes on the coop-side, and a couple of storage spots, plus a work top on the barn-side.


Like I said, solid progress. Not mind-blowing progress. Not the kind that makes me feel a bit like superwoman–totally ready for anything the world can throw at me. But sometimes this is the deal… you work, it’s hard, it doesn’t always go as planned and it might not get done, but it’s progress. And hey, nobody lost a finger.

From here there’s still a lot to do before the coop is nugget-ready, like:

  • Build a door
  • Attach rafters for the top of the coop and stretch wire over them
  • Finish attaching wire and a wood back to the top of the bench
  • Build out nesting boxes
  • Close up gaps in barn siding
  • Build roosts
  • Build a chicken door to the outside

And then there’s the fairly significant task of building an outdoor run.

But one day soon I’m going to be holed up in the house with a foot of snow outside, just wishing I could be spending my days out in the sun with my tools… so I’m going to be grateful for it while I’ve got it. And then, afterwards, I’m going to take a lot of naps.

18 Responses

  1. This is my first year of chickening. Did tons of research on coops and the best piece of advice I found was “a poop board tray filled with sweet PDZ!” Removable (For easy cleaning) 2×4 roosts with the 4 up to prevent bumblefoot sit above trays filled with powdered Sweet PDZ. Nuggets poop into the PDZ and it works like cat litter. You scoop out the poop with a cat scoop and throw it in your compost pile as it’s all natural. Less poop in the coop…less mess in the bedding…less odor. Win, win! Occasionally you add a little more PDZ. Thank you Backyard Chickens message board!

  2. Wow, that is some coop! And no you can’t stay pissed with those faces staring at you! LOL

  3. A good way to make the DIY gods laugh is to make plans, even fuzzy, half-formed ones in your head. But when they close a door, they usually open a window. Of course, the window isn’t perfectly square, as you will find out later when you trim it out, but you pick your battles.

  4. I love that “no one lost a finger” is the measure of a successful weekend’s work! My latest bar for meeting success is “well, no one cried!” Because….well, people HAVE cried. And man, is that awkward.

    1. K….I had a boss who once put a brown papaer bag over his head so his emotions did not show. No kidding. And… he’s still the boss. I just don’t get it.

  5. I totally snort-laughed at those silly donkeys. You’ve made waaay more progress over the weekend than I did!

    I went to town on a rustic towel bar/hook thing for the boys’ bathroom, only to discover that I had sanded and shaped the wrong. damn. piece. of. wood. FAIL. I didn’t even attempt anything after that!

  6. My first thought thought when I saw the picture of the bird in you hand was “holy crap she’s a Disney princess” but really you are so much more awesome that them. I continue to be amazed by your ability to create and build.

  7. So basically you built a room and a piece of furniture, in a couple of days. I think you are superwoman!

  8. I was excited to see you were building this coop as I just finished mine last week with a nice black eye. Yours is very fancy! Love your storage nestbox work table unit! Very creative!

  9. I`ve been always surprised by people who can create (or build) such things! Because in order to do this, a big talent is needed. I want my husband to be able to do such things too, but he can`t. So I must say that this bench looks as if a real professional has built it.

  10. Great idea for the multi purpose shelves / nesting boxes. I don’t think we are the only ones taking notes. You know donkeys are smarter than we give them credit for. Keep the saw dust flying and the donkey “tails” (tales) flowing.

  11. your makita drill has a hammer function? i didn’t think the white ones did that. or did you just use a masonry bit and elbow grease?
    ramset is the way to go if you’re going to be doing more of this kind of thing. so fast and an excuse to get another tool!

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