Why Chickens?

Good question!  Why would a relatively busy professional meteorologist want a bunch of chickens?  Several reasons:

1. Kids would like some chickens or ducks.  They would like lots of other animals too, but we can start small.

2. We live in the country/woods, so no neighbor issues & plenty of room.  No one can see it and could only just barely hear a rooster.

3. Fresh eggs will be nice.

4. Apparently they make good pets and good for garden too.

5. I had ducks/pigeons as a kid, so I already have some experience raising poultry along with some lingering interest.

So after about a year of bugging me, I caved in to the kid’s requests and decided to build a combo “coop/tree house”.  Building a club/tree house has been a project in the works (at least in my brain) for almost two years.  I decided to build both together in the summer of 2010.  At first it was going to be a double-decker structure with the club house on top and chickens below.  But that seemed like way too much height and work.  Plus I might fall off during construction!  I even considered a greenhouse attached to the coop, but too much work again.  I’ll save that for next year.


I want it away from the house so I don’t smell poop, but close enough so the birds are not “out of sight, out of mind”.   We have plenty of room, about 5 acres, but I also want the birds near the garden areas so they can poke around.  That plus a reliable  “downslope” breeze every evening/night means the smell will drift away from the house.  The daytime wind on warm days comes from the opposite direction, which also keeps the smell away.

We started working on it...the initial digging at least, the last few days of July.  I’m being a bit generous with the “we”.  I did about 98% of the work.  Kids helped out some with materials/leveling the ground etc…  Sheila helped with raising of the walls too.   Otherwise it was all me.  2 weeks of vacation time (separated by a week) gave me a real good start.



I decided to build a 10’x10’ coop with an 8’x10’ club/tree house connected.  I also figured it would be smart to make it permanent and solid...just in case I use it for something else in the future (a home office?).  So the foundation was built just as a deck would be.  4x4 posts and large beams+joists.  Notice the wire laid over the joists before I put on the plywood flooring?  In my younger years I wouldn’t have bothered, but as I get older I find I take the time to do things correctly.  When I was a kid I remember a pigeon getting a leg eaten off by a rat, so I want to make sure not rats/mice will be able to chew through the flooring on this coop.  It’s 1/2”x1/2” wire.


Note the slope.  It’s a spot where the yard drops off to a steep slope.  About 150’ below is Latourell Creek...maybe a quarter mile or so above Latourell Falls.  The deck attached to the house is in the upper part of the picture.  The birds will have a great view and hear the creek all night.    All during this project it’s been a very relaxing spot to work...birds, sun, water, and breezes.

Of course will a dog get along with chickens?  Probably not, but I’m not too worried.  Kodi is 13, blind, deaf, and probably won’t make it through the winter, but he does still enjoy relaxing in the shade while I work.  Plus an ear rub still feels good. (10/5 note:  He didn’t make it.  We put the old doggie down about a week ago.  Sad, but it was time).



Floor is entirely finished.  First minor screw-up:  I should have stopped the beams right at the posts on the left side.  Now the attachment to the tree house will be a bit tricky...we’ll see.  The posts sticking up are for the tree house attachment so I won’t cut those off until I’ve put in the floor for that.  I told the kids the floor of the tree house will only be about 3’ off the ground.  Once again, I don’t want to fall off during construction plus I want to make it easier to build by keeping it as low as possible.

I’ll call it a tree house, but it’s really just nestled in a grove of noble firs.  The previous owner had planted a bunch very close together. 




A large gap in time!  I had to work for a week, then we went to La Grande and Seattle (separate weekends).  Apparently I didn’t take any pictures either.  During that time I was only able to dig posts for tree house, and put in beams.  Today, during a heat wave, I did the joists and got the flooring on.  I got cheap and used regular Douglas Fir beams/joists instead of treated ones.  I figure these will be protected from the weather and the ground.

Since it was so hot today (4th day above 90 in Portland) and the night should be real warm, seems like a good time to camp outside.  Plus we have two perfectly flat camping platforms with a great view.



My back is a bit sore, and I definitely will need an afternoon nap.  Not very good sleeping with an elk snorting at midnight, cats coming and going all night, and bright sun at 6:30am.  Other than that it was great!  A very warm night (for here) with a low of 60.  That downslope breeze starts at sunset and continues until sunrise...maybe 5-8 mph.  That kept the aspens leaves fluttering all night about 50 feet away, chimes going on the deck, and occasionally you could hear the soft wisper of the wind through the fir trees just a few feet away.  A great summer memory...


One last scorcher (day 5!) Time for some real progress though in the morning and again late afternoon when the shade from the trees arrives.  The first wall is up!  Notice the three window-size gaps?  Those are from the old bow windows on the house that are still in fine condition.  I have four after we replaced a 5 window unit.  I’ll put vents up above those.  One wall up, three more to go.



The heat is gone today, morning clouds till 11-noon.  But a sunny afternoon so I got two more walls finished.  The biggest issue with the walls is the planning.  Everything has to be figured out to the inch.



Ughhh!  I left everything outside, including papers and tools.  A thick marine layer left water on everything!  Papers, tools, electric cords etc…  Not too bad and no electrocution issues, but a reminder to get the roof on before the Fall rains hit, plus hope that we have one more very dry month ahead.  But at least here are some pictures of the three walls.


Sunny all day, but a very chilly start...feels like September.  I got one more wall done and then ran out of lumber.  Need to head into town on Saturday to pick up more.  I have the two “downhill” sides of the coop done.  The big opening is for the old kitchen window...a very nice view.  I’ll probably put some wire in there so a kid doesn’t fall out.  And on the weather front, it appears like at least SOME rain on Sunday is likely, so everything will have to be put away and tarped.  Andrew had a good time poking the sap “blisters” on the noble fir I had to cut down.  I left the stump standing because I thought it would be cool to have inside the tree house.

AUGUST 28th-29th

I had finished all 8 walls by Monday the 23rd, then went back to work this past week, which REALLY slowed things down, but that’s what pays for the project right?  And I made a few mistakes, which caused a bit more trouble.  And part of the past week was spent going to home improvement stores about 4 times, buying lumber for trusses and purlins and figuring out what kind of roof I should put on.  Lots of debating...I found out that a good quality corrugated plastic is about the same price as a nice brown metal roof, one that would match what is on the house (or close enough).  Plus metal just seems more...solid.  In the end  it turns out metal was just about as easy to install as the plastic/composite stuff.

First the trusses...I actually enjoyed building those on the driveway while it was warm midweek.  As with most other parts of the project, I got the idea for these from Family Handyman magazine and then looking through other sheds for sale I see at the local big-box stores.  Plus I have to give a big plug to Eric Windust (Windust Construction).  What a great guy and friend, he’s a contractor who has done a bunch of work on our house the last year or so, always quality work for a good price.  Shoot me an email and I can give you his number if you need work done one your home.  Anyway, he never complains when I call and say “could I do —-?” or “will —- work?” or “would you use —- or —-?”.    So I made all 6 trusses for just the chicken coop part of the “complex”, put one on the roof, then realized two things:  put 12 hurricane ties on the wrong side of the top beam, and the horizontal part of the trusses were slightly too long for the wall.   That’s okay, but only a 1.5 hour mistake on a day I just have 1.5 hours to work on it!    You see the final result on the left.  I made the bottom of the trusses flush with the top of the walls, so I can have a ceiling and insulate it.  Should help in midwinter.  Luckily I don’t get the strong Gorge easterly wind, so I don’t have to deal with extreme windchill or metal roofing getting ripped off.  I decided to use 2x4s for the purlins, but in the end 1/2” plywood might have been almost as easy to install.

So from 9am-7pm Saturday all I did was work on the roof, which included one drive into town to get the panels.  By Saturday evening I had one metal panel on the roof.  Another 5 hours of work on Sunday afternoon and the entire chicken coop is covered with a metal roof (100 sq. ft), plus 1/3 of the “Fort”.  Kids officially decided to call it a fort yesterday, because even though it’s kind of in the trees, it’s not a treehouse.  Now I’m tired, rain is on the way for at least two days (maybe 3), and I’ve tarped the last 2/3rds of the fort.  Not too bad, but I did nothing else this weekend.  I don’t like that, but I also didn’t want 1/2” of rain soaking the untreated wood studs and flooring.  A few more hours of work later this week and all of it will be relatively rain-proof for 6 weeks or so.  That should give me plenty of time to get siding put on and seal it up for the winter.  There won’t be much wind-driven rain until later October. 

September 1-12th

A busy two weeks!  Finished the rest of the roof, walled in the whole thing, and have 3 of 7 windows in.   Starting to get trim done too.  As you can see in one of the pictures I ran out of trim for the window.  It won’t stay half finished like that!    I decided to use the cheapest siding and then I’ll do shakes for the one “attic side”.  That’s the empty upper area you see above the window.  I’ve learned another what I would call a “life skill” when putting in windows...leave some extra room.  I didn’t do that on the very first wall, the one where three old bay windows will go in.  Today I found that I had measured 51.25” X 23.5” (or something close to that) for each hole because that was the window size.  I pretty much gave no wiggle room, so each one is slightly small.  Big mistake.  Had to use the reciprocating saw to shave down the 2x4 header.

But it gets worse.  After sizing each of those holes up, I decided that tomorrow morning I’d put the windows in.   Then 30 minutes later I hear a big crash.  The kids had accidentally pushed a window sitting against the broke.  See the pic below.  So now I have three slots for windows and only two windows.  Have to decide what to do in the morning.

November 2nd

All done for winter!

I didn’t do a ton of work the last 6 weeks, but it’s all sealed up and is handling the Fall rains real well.  No leaks, and I just added steps to the fort side this past week.

No plan to get chickens until late March, so plenty of time over the winter and early spring to get the inside taken care of.  I’ll insulate the chicken coop, but it’s already too cold for the kids to hang out in the fort, or at least they think it’s too cold.  No way to heat the fort either since I didn’t plan to insulate that part.

Looks pretty decent from the outside.  The gap underneath the fort looks a bit funny from below, but that’s not visible to anyone unless they walk down below us; only the deer and bears can see it.

Notice the “Willy-Wonka” style door Andrew is opening?  A fine quality interior door cut in half.  A bit unique, or trashy, depending on how you look at it.