Coop co-operation: Project Springtime part 4

It takes about a thousand curse words to complete a chicken coop like mine. 

Also, it isn’t “finished” but it’s complete enough that the chicks have been living in it for a week. 6 week old chicks can make a huge mess, by the way. I’m still cleaning up chicken droppings from my porch, but that’s another story. 

The coop: I liked the plan because it appeared to be simple and straightforward, with an enclosed run below and a coop above for sleeping and laying eggs. I learned a whole lot. I’m not a total stranger to woodworking, but it has been many years since the last time I smelled sawdust. 

It’s particularly important to measure. Everyone will tell you that when you’re working on a wood project, especially when you’re a woman and they’re a man. But it is important. I measured everything except the space I was putting the coop into. I just eyeballed that. Whoops. 

I’m raising urban chickens, so space is at a premium. That was another factor for the coop selection. In my mind, 5.5 by 8 feet is easy to estimate and not so big. Not only is it big, its heavy. 

So the space was an issue, but only by a very very small margin, I’m talking a couple of inches (turns out I’m pretty good at eyeballing measurements!) in the wrong direction. The “landscaping” in the “backyard” here is odd: a mature chestnut tree is immediately surrounded by painfully rough and jagged but uniformly white rocks, and then a narrow long raised flower bed with bricks bordering it goes around 3/4 of the perimeter and opens up to a little garden bed. The rest of the functional “yard” is a concrete slab. I planned to put the coop in the unusable portion of the “yard” behind the long narrow raised flower bed, between it and a (commercial) building which butts right up against this property line. That space, without the bricks on the far side, is about 5.5 feet wide but it has variations that didn’t allow the coop to sit on the ground. 

Luckily, there was an abundance of concrete blocks lying around (and also on the backside of the flower bed, where nobody was looking so it didn’t need to be the pretty/expensive scallop shaped brick). I decided to make a perimeter (hah! That makes it sound homogenous) of concrete blocks, and rest (hah! That makes it sound easy) the coop on top of that. 

Problem 1 with this plan was that the coop was already over in the spot, teetering on little protrusions, somehow balanced but NOT FALLING APART BECAUSE ITS A STURDY…THING. I’m still amazed by this, as you can tell from my use of the caps lock button. 

My help (limited to 2 minutes in between watching the kids and leaving for work) from my partner was getting it over there from the slab where I built it. I could not have done that part alone. The rest (save for that one side he was available to help on) I completed alone. It can be done. 

So there it was teetering, and I’m thinking I have the answer in the form of concrete blocks so I start tossing them into the coop, then I enter the coop and lift the coop by the crossbars with my back while simultaneously shoving the concrete block “perimeter” in place under it. This was by far the hardest part of the project, and while the pain of it did not compare whatsoever to giving birth, I’d like to avoid repeating it.  Some areas have extra blocks in front of them – a halfhearted attempt to disincentivize predators.

 I had to finish the front and back (2 triangles) after the placement. I was unable to procure hardware cloth and unwilling to use more chicken wire (many urban farmers were telling me horror stories), so I chose instead to go “off-plan” and build doors. I stand by this modification, though it is still one of the least complete parts. I was freehanding the circular saw to cut the plywood, which resulted in uneven sides of the doors – wavy, even. I kept having to take them back to the makeshift table (a slab of thinner plywood on 2 plastic sawhorses) and shave off a bit more. Once I was able to fit them in while the coop was on the slab, I expected to be done with that part. However, the weight distribution along the concrete block perimeter, coupled with the blocks themselves sitting at slightly different heights (undetectable to the human eye) meant that the doors did not fit perfectly once the coop was in its place. Lots of shoving, and bits of lifting later, and one door had 2 hinges. The other is just jammed into place, but it’s on the side I don’t need to open. 

Funny thing, today the heat lamp bulb exploded, so I had to open that door I thought I wouldn’t have to open. I used a hammer. Don’t worry, it’s still in one piece. 

Oh there was one other thing I didn’t measure correctly: the placement of the center stabilizing bar on each side. I didn’t see the measurement so I assumed t was halfway up. Later, when the cross bars went in (the ones cut at 30 degrees, which hold up the coop floor), they didn’t sit flush with the stabilizing bar – it was a couple of inches too low. That, of course, meant the side doors (the primary access points) were not the right size anymore, so I had to add a custom trim of a 2×4 on top. It came together in spite of these challenges and I’m proud of my work. 

Here are the things I’d like to fix/finish:

Front and back doors: trim, add hinges.

Side doors: add hinges to far side

All open spaces: add hardware cloth. 

Add nesting box

Make ramp more accessible

Waterproofing: silicone sealant for top gap, ?for other areas around doors. 
The chicks love their coop, although only one can get up and down the ramp. They also love papaya seeds and finding worms. They’re cute chickens. 

Measure everything. 

Coo coo coop. Project Springtime part 3.

It has been cool and rainy every day. All the plants are behind schedule. I’ve had materials for the chicken coop for a month. Boards are cut to size, ready and waiting for me. 

Today it was 85 degrees. 

I do almost everything with my baby strapped to me, but using a power saw is where I draw the line. Actually she draws the line a bit before the power saw, somewhere around hammering or leaning over to measure, but we most certainly will not use the power saw together. 

I finally had the combo I needed today: another adult and no rain.

I chose an A frame coop by Ana White, as it seemed simple and moveable. We are renting and hoping to buy in the next couple of years so I want to take it with us. The top of the A frame has board ends cut at 60 degrees off square. I had our super awesome neighbor’s help the other day getting the 30 degree cuts completed but he didn’t feel comfortable doing the 60 degree cuts. 

Here is the first thing I learned doing this project: 60 degrees off square is tricky!

I am lucky to live in a town with a tool library, so I signed up and borrowed a chop saw. I used one of the 30 degree cut boards as a jig (a device that holds a piece of work and guides the tools operating on it) and secured it to the saw. Then I put the board against the 30 degree cut board, with the blade still set at 30 degrees, endured it was even with my line, and cut. 

It wasn’t perfect. I was still proud. I had to tear off the pieces that were not completely cut off but very close. Then I set the blade to the highest number possible, somewhere around 53, placed JUST the part that hadn’t been cut off into the blade line, and chopped that off. 

Following this, I was interrupted with an urgent chicken need. My other half had heard the chick alarm-peep and noticed a kestrel stalking them very close by, as the chicks retreating to the hedges. He put 2 away successfully but 1 was eluding him so he came to get me. No casualties, except maybe some of my not-quite-seedlings in the planter boxes that he didn’t know were there when the baby decided to plunge her hands into the soil…

Then I began to assemble the sides of the coop, but baby was beside herself and I needed reinforcements. My other half came to the rescue and helped complete the first side, and by then baby was calm, so I quickly put together side 2.

Putting together the sides was slowest during the chicken wire securing part because we couldn’t find the staple gun – I put the chicken wire on from the beginning, with staple-nails and I wish I had just sprung for the hardware cloth (nevermind that my supply total was just over $200 as it was) but I think I’ll get some and put it over the chicken wire and the flooring anyway. 

The sides look good. It appears the next steps should be relatively easy. 

I’m planning to put doors on the front and maybe then back too for easy access everywhere. They’ve got to get off my porch. Do you know how messy chicks are?!

Make your own coconut milk

It’s labor intensive and you’ll need some equipment:


Nut Milk Bag

Wide Mouth 1.5 Pint BallĀ® Mason Jar is my favorite

Tongs and a gas stove really help.

I’m sure you know how to open a coconut but just in case: hold it over a large bowl, and hit it with the back of a cleaver or large chef’s knife. Turn the coconut so that you are hitting it in a line along the circumference. After a few whacks it will start to break open and fluid (coconut water!) will leak out into the bowl. Keep whacking if necessary to get the halves to split, or pull them apart of you can.

Empty the rest of the coconut water into the bowl. Smell it. It should smell good, and so should the coconut meat. Look at the coconut meat: is it firm? Are there any colors besides white? If it is soft and mushy, but not smelly , was it a young coconut? If it has pink on it, it might be ok to eat. Use your judgment. I had the tiniest bit of pink on mine and I chose to cut that piece off. Some people say colors are ok as long as the odor is good.

Now you have to get the meat out of the shell it’s daunting task. The following method may not be suitable for everyone, but it is what I did. Try it at your own risk, and take precautions! I used my gas stove and set the coconut half on the burner directly. I adjusted the flame to be high enough to hit the coconut but not lick up the sides all the way.

After a few minutes I could hear a hissing sound, which I believe was the coconut oil coming into the coconut bowl. I turned off the heat, held the coconut with tongs and placed an oyster knife in between the meat and shell. The bowl of meat slipped out easily.

I repeated the process with the other half. Then I trimmed the small amount of inner shell off the coconut meat.

Place the 2 coconut halves into a vitamix after cutting them into smaller pieces. Add all of the coconut water. Blend it until it’s smooth. Depending on how much coconut water there was you may need to add a little water.

Pour some into the milk bag, place the milk bag corner over the ball jar, and squeeze. You’ll be left with these two components: a container of dry coconut shreds and a lot of beautiful coconut milk.

It is best immediately. If you save it, refrigerate it. It won’t be as smooth cold because the oil gives it more texture when cold. But it is delicious, and additive free.