Tension and compression

If I learned anything from Civil Engineering 101, it was that you can build just about anything with a combination of tension and compression.

So the chicken coop gets compression members on the top and bottom, and diagonal tensioning straps. Banging in the last nail on the hoop iron at an angle  makes it nice and tight.


Finally found a use for the laser level, which helped to get the frame perfectly vertical. You can see a little shelf directly under the coop there which will hold tubs for food and poo.

We’ll plant a little garden at the top end. This is probably a good place for mint, which can run wild without taking over everything else. The planter boxes on the deck have never recovered from getting all fungi-y at Sherbrooke and they need to have a clean-out. Apparently chickens might like mint and if they do their poo might be a bit stinky. They can’t get up to the top end unless they’re out, though, so it should be fine.

There were a few belladonnas in here; they’ve been moved next to the footing where they’ll be shaded by the coop. The bulbs are looking nice and big now after having a year growing.


The original plan had the pipework that extends up the hill suspended from its own A frame, but that’s unnecessary. It’s actually quite a bit lower than we originally thought it would be. We’ll cart that whole tripod up the hill a bit so that the pole comes in level under the coop ridge beam.

And straighten it all up, of course.


Chicken coop frame erection

A second A-frame for the chicken coop was built, and then it was time to put the frame up. S and R helped hold them vertical while M got everything straight.


R was doing his best to make a sad face. Not sure why, because CHICKEN COOP!


It’s the end of the day, so we just plonk the cross-rails on there to see how it will look. Not bad! We’ll put some metal strapping on the diagonals to make it rigid; for the moment a bit of rope keeps it from toppling over.

The metal pole at the left will be lifted up and joined to the ridge beam extending from the left of the coop. The nesting boxes will be at the right over the bricks. A ramp will extend down on the left.

With all that measuring and digging, legs of different lengths at 60 degree angles, the proof of the job is whether those cross rails are level.


That’ll do, pig.

More chicken coop footings

One half of the chicken coop’s footings are done, but the other two further down the hill need levelling out. One of them needs quite a bit of digging, due to to the slope down from the house side to the fence side. So with a couple of hours of shovel work, measuring, string, stakes, etc:



The near and far corners are at the original level of the dirt, while the top left had to be built up and the bottom right had to be dug in.

That bit of slope between them will be under the coop; maybe a bit more flattening out there will make a good spot for chicken-related stuff to be stored (tubs for feed and manure, and a broom).

Chicken coop footings

The ground under the chicken coop is all over the place. Four feet means four different levels. A bit of work neatening it up will make it easier to build the coop.

First we make some uphill-end footings. The far end is a good foot below the near end, and has to be built up with rocks and dirt.


If we put the other truss just 1.5m away from the first one, the other feet will still be 77cm below the uphill set. Looks like we need to do a bit more digging …


Chicken coop frame

We’re trying not to let the chicken coop inertia fall away, so now that the frame for the run is pretty much in place (it needs a door somewhere), we’ll go straight on to the coop.

We do a bit of design work, making a coop that will fit 4 nesting boxes on the uphill end, for easy access to eggs by someone whose armpits are only 80cm off the ground.


It will be two equilateral triangle trusses with rails resting on the truss’s cross-beam. The rails will stick out either end. On the uphill end there will be the nesting boxes with a little lid. On the downhill end a little platform with a ramp down to the ground.

The ground slopes down away from the nesting box end, and the legs on the lower end will need to be longer. We’ll sort that out later when we know exactly where the uphill truss feet are going.

So it’s off to the hard to get some framing wood. We chop 60/30┬░ angles on the top and bottom …


The inner edge is 1769mm long, where we cut a notch for the cross-beam.


And that gives us a nice triangle.


We’ll use nail plates on the bottom and a joist hanger on the top to keep it all together.

Chicken run frame

We’ve been looking after Jo’s chickens down the road while they’re away over the Christmas-New year break. Those chickens are laying like crazy and we’re totally inspired. We’ve been talking about getting the chicken coop going for a good year, and it’s time to stop procrastinating and get on with it.

We found some old pipes lying down one side of the property. They’re good steel water pipes, probably something Carl has snaffled from somewhere. He was quite the hoarder. If they’re not being used, then they’re rubbish! And with the old compost heap gone, there’s now a lovely rich spot for a fruit tree to go inside the chicken run.

chicken run pipes

So an A-frame design was developed that would put the pipes to best use. A tripod at one end would provide stability, with a long beam to the other end and the chicken coop poking out over the brickwork for easy egg collection. We’ll put a door into the run at the bottom end.

chicken run plan

So we lashed two poles together with wire and strung a clothesline over a rope tied between the two trees. The other end of the clothesline was wrapped around a star picket. Then the two poles are just plopped over and they sit in place with the third pole is positioned.

Here’s a movie.

chicken run tripod

The third pole is a bit long, so it comes down to be chopped.

Tried lashing it all together with wire, but the wire was too stiff and it couldn’t be made tight enough. A bit of marine poly rope will do the trick; it’s weatherproof and UV stabilised.

After lashing the tripod together the main beam is raised up on one end and tied underneath the tripod’s apex.

chicken run tripod lashed

The other end doesn’t need to be as stable as the tripod, since the tripod and beam will provide rigidity, particularly once the chicken wire is draped over the whole thing.

It’s quite tall; the tripod apex is at around 2.5m. Think of it as a tall trellis – we’ll grow grapes and passionfruit up the chicken wire to provide a nice shady arbour for the chickens to scratch around in. We haven’t seen anyone doing grapes this way, but the idea is that the grape bunches drop down through the chicken wire when small, and hang from the trellis inside the chicken run. The wire protects the fruit from the birds, and ripe fruit that falls becomes food for the chickens, and when they’re ready to pick they’re just hanging right there.

Transforming the old sand pit

Now that R’s sand pit has moved up the hill a bit, the old one can be transformed into a lovely vegie patch.

There’s been some mulch brewing on the other side of the garden for some time, and with any luck it will fill this box. First the leaves from Dave’s place next door:

new vegie patch leaves

Then, onto our own compost heap.

compost heap removing

Yay! All the old compost has been moved, and we can take out more ugly corrugated iron! And 5 more star pickets for the collection under the house.

compost heap tin be gone

And finally add some manure to really get it all breaking up.

new vegie patch manure

There’s no regular dirt in there at all yet; we’ll have to add some in to provide something for the little plants to get their toes into and to fill up the box.