Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chicken Coop: Nesting Boxes

Hey Y'all!

When I posted my beeeuuuutiful chicken coop (thanks to Ana White's amazing plans!), I said that I'd share plans for the nesting boxes, if anyone's interested.


Well, not surprisingly (because the chicken coop plans are so outstanding), people are interested. So I'm going to share the super basic nesting box plans that fit into the chicken coop!

Before I do, however, I want to mention a few things that I don't like about my nesting box, which will explain why the plans are a little different.

First and foremost, the lips at the front and back are not tall enough to contain nesting material (which chickens like to kick around - A LOT), so I've added higher lips in the plans to hopefully help you contain at least a little. If you feel that it's necessary to add another board a little higher up (think like the sides of a crate), I know that it wouldn't interfere with the chickens getting into the box, and might help to contain the bedding even more.

Secondly, these are WIDE nesting boxes. When I cut the dividers and sides, as seen in the photo above, I cut four thinking that I would make 3 boxes (see how two are glued together in the middle?). I did this before ever having chickens, so I thought that three, ten(ish) inch boxes would be too small. After researching why my chickens kept kicking out bedding, I read that they should be smaller rather than larger so that the chickens could create a snug little nest in there. Unless you have super large chickens, you may want to go smaller.

Also, I did an angled top on mine because most of the nesting boxes I've seen had that (and I thought it was appropriate since the nesting area has an angled roof). It's totally unnecessary, and I wouldn't recommend wasting the energy on that step. It's not even worth it for aesthetic reasons, because you never see it.

Finally, my girls all only go in one nesting box. I think that I might move the divider over to make it smaller (I'd move it over 3-4", making the nesting box 11-12" wide) and then block off the part of the other box (so that they can't access it from the coop) and use it for storage. I'd store the broom that I clean the coop, my small bag of scratch, and extra nesting material in there. Obviously if I do decide to do that, I'll share a whole, long post on that.

And with all of that out of the way, here's how my nesting boxes are built!

Dimensions: 
31" W x 9" H x 10 1/2" D

Supplies:
1/2" Ply
Wood Glue
Brad Nails

Cut List:
1 - 1/2" ply @ 9 1/2" x 31" (bottom)
3 - 1/2" Ply @ 9 1/2" x 8 1/2" (sides / divider)
2 - 1/2" Ply @ 3" x 31" (front and back lips)

Step 1 -

Glue and nail side pieces to the bottom piece, making sure they're flush to the sides.
Step 2 - 

Measure where you want the divider to go (middle would be 15 1/2" from the edges of the bottom), and glue/nail into place. Then glue/nail the front and backs, making sure to nail into sides/dividers and bottom.



It's so easy, I put two steps into one (in the spirit of full disclosure, I just forgot to take a screen shot of just the divider in place).

Since my coop reveal, I've customized a few things for my girls, and will either update the coop-building post or add a new post with updates. And will update this page when that's done!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Building A Chicken House

... or Coop... I built a chicken coop!



YOU GUYS!!! This major suburbanite has backyard chickens!!

It's all so strange and exciting, because I would've never thought I'd ever have chickens (who does that? People with a lot of land in rural areas, or so I thought). But I did it. Along with about a billion other 'burb-dwellers. And I blame the Big Kid...


She wanted chickens, and when Mr. Goats gave us the go-ahead, she did a ton of research on what care chickies needed. She promised she'd clean, feed, and water them (and has actually done an outstanding job, so far). She even approached us about how she knows we'd probably have to cull when they stop laying, and said she's okay with it. Her excitement rubbed off onto me, and I would've never done this had she not been so actively involved.

When it came time to bite the bullet and get the chicks (we got them from my good friend, Meg), we had to have a place to put them and knew that we were going to build the coop. But we were faced with some serious challenges.


  • The coop HAD to be cute, because it would be visible from anywhere in our back yard. I wasn't about to put an eyesore in the corner of my yard. 
  • It had to be compact as I don't have a big backyard, but plan to get a lot of use from all of the space in my yard. 
  • It had to have an integrated run so that we could go away overnight and not have to worry about the ladies. 
  • It's worth repeating: It had to be cute. 


And the only coop the kid and I could agree on was this William's-Sonoma Cedar Coop with Run & Planter


Drool-worthy, right?  But the price (spoiler: it's $1500... before taxes)? NO, THANK YOU!! We saw that a lot of people built coops based on the design (check out Brooke's adorable coop!), but I'm clueless when it comes to designing chicken coops. I needed help. So I asked Ana White to help out, and of course she drew up some FABULOUS plans!

I originally wanted to build it from cedar, like the WS version, but it's nearly impossible to find cedar in the Greater Phoenix area, and it cost about 4x the cost of builder-grade lumber. So that was out. We settled on exterior-grade ply and builder-grade lumber. And then I got to work!



I went a little out of order on the plans, and cut out the coop from the plywood, first. To make sure I didn't end up with wonky lines and inaccurate measurements, I marked the measurements on the good side of the plywood, and used a blue chalk line to connect the points.


To make sure both sides matched up, I stacked both pieces of ply and screwed them together in all corners, and the top one was bowing a tad, so I put a screw where the window would eventually go. If your ply has a good and a not-so-good side, make sure that they're mirroring each other (bad side to bad side or good side to good side) so that the good side can face out on both sides of the chicken coop.

After the sides were cut out, I had to measure for the piece that would be the small wall above the nesting boxes, so here's where that came from (the scrap ply above the nesting box and roof - it's upside down in the photo).



I measured that it could be 7 5/8" x 36, and ripped it to the 7 5/8" measurement. It was later cut to size on my miter saw.

After all of the 3/4" ply pieces were cut, I went back to the beginning of the plan and built the base.



Since I wasn't going with cedar, I chose to paint all of the pieces (all six sides of them!) to protect it from the elements. Painting this beast took the longest because of the humidity we're experiencing (yes, I chose to begin building this right when Monsoon season began - we definitely have a wet season in the desert!).

I also chose to paint the inside of the coop before assembly so that I wasn't working in a confined space. The plans don't say to do this, but I pre-assembled the support boards with the roost so that I didn't have to hold a lot of pieces in place while trying to drill above my head. You can see that in the photo below, hiding in the back, left.



What you probably didn't notice in that photo was the storm clouds, so I rushed to get this all assembled before the rain set in. Oh my gosh, if I had a clamp or another set of hands, this would've been one of the quickest big builds ever.

By the end of the day, I had this.


Don't let that blue patch in the sky fool ya. That night, we got rain.

The next day (a lovely, humid 106) came the doors,



I chose to build a nesting box insert from some left over 1/2" ply. Link to building instructions here. 

Added the asphalt-felt stuff (technical term) to the roof, and lined/filled the planter box. 


I want to tell you what I did in the planter box, but it may change depending on available materials for you. 

I initially put some landscaping fabric on the planter, but felt that it would be a disaster if a hole tore in it and all the dirt fell into the run ("disaster" isn't too strong a word, right?). My neighbor had some leftover waterproofing membrane from a pond installation, so I poked about 3,526 holes in the bottom of that and lined the planter with it. Before I was offered that from my neighbor, I planned to use a shower curtain liner (with holes poked in for drainage) from IKEA or Dollar Tree. I just didn't feel secure using just landscaping fabric... That may be the perfect solution for you, however, so I suggest just using your best judgement. 

At the end of assembly day two we had another big storms so I got to plan out my roofing. The metal roof on the WS coop was to die for, so I chose that route. The roofing person at Lowe's (who was a retired roofer, not just someone who was assigned to that area) was really helpful in telling me what I would need to roof this coop properly, and helped me save almost $20 on unnecessary materials (moral of this is to ask someone who might know better than your google searches). 


And then it was time to cut (EEK!!) and attach the roof!


I didn't get that finished until super late, so I didn't get any photos until the next day, after I brought the ladies home. 


Here's a shot of the inside - I plan to paint the inside wall over the nesting box, eventually, and will paint the inside of the doors... probably... You can see how they have a roost in the middle of the coop well above the nesting boxes (which I read is a necessity so that they don't sleep/poop in the nesting boxes). I occasionally think that I need another roosting bar maybe a tad lower/closer to the door, but the girls get up there and squish together, leaving room for like 3 more hens... so I'm not sure if it's necessary.

I like to cuddle, too, so I don't blame them for snuggling at bed time...

Of course I'll let you know if I do eventually add one.

What I DID add was some curtains. Yes. I whipped up a curtain system for my ladies. They need their privacy, okay?

How I did this was to get some 1x3 scraps and drill a hole a little bigger than a PVC pipe on one, and cut a notch out of the other 1x3


The PVC is 1/2" shorter than the width of the coop. The 1x3s got screwed into the sides of the coop, and how it works is that the PVC is inserted into the side with the hole drilled in, and then it sets into the other side, resting in the notch.


I couldn't run to the hardware store for a tension rod, so I whipped this up.... Now I'm grateful I didn't have to spend money when doing this was obscenely simple. The curtains are just a strip of fabric, draped in half over the rod with cuts going up the middle to create the openings. No finished hems. No sewing. Nothing. It's going to get filthy and will have to be replaced in a year (or so), so they didn't get the white glove treatment... HOWEVER! They are still cute and do the job :)


The blue paint is Valspar's Midnight Bayou, which was a struggle for me. Y'all know I love me some blue paint, but I wanted to stain this cedar-toned. The kid, however, had put in her fair share of work with the ladies, and I've been telling her that they're both of ours, so the right thing to do was to give her a say in the color of the coop.

I adjusted the trim pieces (deviated from the pictures in the plan and the inspiration piece) so that I could paint the trim around it white. That was my I-want-to-choose-something-cute addition.

A couple things to mention: The coop plans don't mention a ramp, but I thought it was important (I mean, the Williams-Sonoma coop had a ramp!), so I cut a cedar fence picket to about 40" and glued/nailed 1 1/2" pieces every 6" on center....

And they don't use it.

None of them have even once stepped foot on it, so far as I can tell, so it's been removed from the run.

Finally I want to note that I completely changed how I approached the nesting box door. I really wanted to use the Stanley-National Hardware full surface self-closing hinges (more for the fact that the door won't slam down than for the ability for them to close) so I chose to cut the door to be inset in the opening (and flush with the bottom). This meant that I didn't trim out around the door when I was cutting all of the trim pieces for coop.



Other than that, I have to say that I absolutely love Ana's plans. This was a very, very simple build (albeit time-consuming when dealing with paint thatjustwon'tdry), and the coop design is perfect. The big doors make it easy to clean (I've cleaned it out once since bringing the hens home a week ago, but the kid has done it a few times with no problems - we just put a gardening mat down for our knees if we have to lean into the coop), there's plenty of space for the chicks to run around when I have to keep them contained, the planter box filled with now-half-eaten herbs is great because the herbs are so aromatic, even if the coop did smell, you probably wouldn't notice... I dunno, the only fault I can find with the coop is that there aren't even more chickies in it...



Make sure that you go show your love on the plans herehttp://www.ana-white.com/2016/07/free_plans/small-chicken-coop-planter-clean-out-tray-and-nesting-box. Do you have a backyard flock or plan on establishing one soon? 



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Thursday, June 16, 2016

DIY Magnetic Picture Frame (to easily change out your kids' artwork!)

It's summer over here, and I am fortunate in that I don't have to worry about the girls getting too much screen time. They're both pretty self-sufficient,  and while I'm sure they'd love to spend all day in front of the TV/Computer/iPad/AnyScreenYouCanThinkOf, it's not hard to give them a short timeframe and then have them turn off what they're doing and get to doing something creative.

The Big Kid loves to make machines out of popsicle sticks and hot glue (think catapults and trebuchets), while the little one... Well, she likes to draw/color/paint/glue/cut.... General craft stuff.

And When she's finished with it, she wants to hang it up.

ALL. Of. It.

It's leading to so many holes in the walls of her room that I finally, Wednesday morning, put my foot down. It looked ridiculous in there.

So I made her these!



They're pieces of discarded vinyl blinds, held together by magnets. Changing the pieces out is so simple, and the best part? No more holes in the wall!

Well, I guess the best part is that you can make them, too. Out of pretty much anything you've got (1x2s, rulers, paint stirrers, leather straps... pretty much anything that'll hold it's shape at short lengths). To do it, here's whatcha need.


*Frame Material - I used vinyl blinds
*Way To Cut Frame Material - I used a box cutter
*Rope
*Scissors
*Drill
*Magnets (8 per frame)

Optional
*Framer's Square
*Marking tool (pen)

To begin, decide on the length you want your frames to be. I made mine 12", because that will hold 8.5x11" paper, and construction paper in landscape orientation. You'll need four pieces for each frame.


Mark and cut your lengths. I used my square to guide the box cutter, pressing firmly. If you're using vinyl blinds for this like I did, it's best to cut all the way through with the box cutter (so you should put something underneath it to protect the blade from cutting into concrete... I didn't). If you make a shallow cut and then bend it (TEMPTING!), it doesn't come out nicely.


The back is scribed/bent, the front is cut all the way through with the box cutter (which really only takes 2-3 cuts, so it doesn't save any time to not cut through it).

After you've your frame pieces, mark one piece per frame to drill the rope into (so if you're doing only one frame, you'll only drill into one piece).


I measured 1" in on both sides, and stacked all three of my pieces (because I did three frames) and drilled through all three.

Okay, here is where I usually end up ruining frames. I SUCK at making the ropes equal, so I either have to hold them level, and then hammer in uneven places on the wall to get them to hang level, or if I hammer the nails even, the frames are uneven.

UGH!

So I've started tying the first side of the rope in the hole, and then measuring the same length for each rope, and tying the other side near that length.


Here, I measured from the knot on the right out 12" and marked the rope. I cut the rope, leaving a few extra inches to help tie the knot, and started tying the knot so that the mark was right by the knot on the other side.


This, and the evenly drilled holes, made it to where my ropes were all the same length! It may not seem like much, but it's something that I struggled with BIG TIME.

Now it's time to glue the magnets on.

IMPORTANT!

Um... make sure that the magnets have their magnetic sides facing. I mean, triple check.. Because pulling off magnets to turn them around is no bueno. Also no fun. Not that I'd know.


To get mine evenly spaced (and to make sure the magnetic sides were facing), I stuck them together and hot glued one side onto the back "frame". Then I added hot glue to the top of the other magnet, and placed the other frame on top, lining it up with the bottom frame.


Now you'll have the top and bottom of your frame!

To insert the art, first, hang the top piece with the rope-piece closest too the wall, and take the front piece off.



Next, position the bottom pieces on the bottom of the picture, leaving an even amount of space on each side.

Finally, position the art in front of the top wall piece, and place the front of the frame, securing the art between the magnets.



And there you have it!

This is The Big Kid's art from this previous school year <3

Super simple frames that make changing the pieces.... super simple!

*****
Tips:

Glue the magnets toward the middle of the frame a bit so that you can hang smaller pieces of art than the frames.

The art has to be secured between the magnets.

If you're using heavy material to make the frame from, you will either need stronger magnets, or additional magnets. This also applies if you're hanging heavier pieces.

*****

I love this more modern take on hanging kids art (versus a clothespins or cork boards), and think I may be trying it to hang some pieces that I haven't bought frames for yet!

Do you think this is something you could use in your house?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

DIY Ender Dragon Costume AGAIN!

Okay, I KNOW! I should become the Mom-of-an-Ender-Dragon-Lover blog. But this is big!!


THE FREAKING EYES LIGHT UP!!

The Big Kid keeps telling me that it was my idea to add glowing eyes, but I'm not entirely sure that I believe her. My idea or not, I got stuck with the actual act of making he eyes glow, and we had a couple of hours to kill at a local hackerspace (the Big Kid was 3D printing a comb) so that was the perfect time to do it.

I'm going to admit my very non-creative idea was to cut the shape of the eyes from card stock, paint it to look like the Ender Dragon's eyes, and put a purple glow stick behind it.

Yes, it's laughable.

Thank GOODNESS for people that are way smarter than me, because when I explained what I was wanting to do, Trish and Jasper (the hosts at the Lab that night) jumped in and we left with this epicness.


Really, I can't tell you how it was done. I went to Target to get some purple LED lights and a 9V battery, and the magicians (*cough* electricians? engineers? LED Gods/Goddesses?) in the lab did everything else.

WAIT! I poked the holes into the box where the LEDs were to go, and painted white pixels on the back of the frosted acrylic so the eyes would be accurate.


The light doesn't shine as brightly where it's more opaque. It was a small detail that I wasn't sure would have much of an impact, but it does a surprisingly good job of keeping the eyes pixelated. SCORE!!

Not that that compares at all to all of the other work that went into it.

I have told the Big Kid that there will be no more changes to this costume. It has reached peak awesomeness.

She may take that as a challenge. 

For those of you who are new to this, the Ender Dragon costume has been a work-in-progress for two years.

It started out as a store-bought Enderman head and became this sad costume with flaps of fabric for wings (details here).


Then she asked for better wings to wear to ComiCon, so we built a set of articulating wings and called it "done" (details here).


Well, it was obviously not "done".


Semi-related (in that it's still Halloween), here's my house this year.


It's not much different than last year, but we have a projector in the front window, projecting creepy Halloween scenes (AtmosFEARfx, if anyone's interested). There are also some witches by the front door, but I need to tweak the lighting on them because no photo of them has turned out well. You know I'll share one if I take one!!

How's your Halloween decorating/costume-making-or-buying coming along? I'd LOVE to hear!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Enderdragon Pinata

The Big Kid's birthday was last week.

If you've been around a while, I'm sure you've figured out that the kid's obsessed with Minecraft.


As chronicled here (DIY Foam Minecraft Weapons)



And here (DIY Enderdragon Costume)


And finally, here (DIY articulating wings for the Enderdragon costume).

Well, now we get to add to this obsession..


It's safe to say there's an Enderdragon trend.

The Big Kid asked me on Friday night if we could make a piñata for a small get-together we were planning for Monday. Having never made a piñata based on... well... anything, I wasn't sure how this was going to go, but we had a busy weekend planned, so it had to go smoothly.

We gathered all the cardboard we could find, and constructed this.


Basically, we winged it. I disassembled most of these boxes and cut/taped them back together to create proportionate body parts. Important, I cut 3 sides of a rectangle in the body so I would have a place to put candy.

Saturday morning consisted of us quickly giving the dragon a base coat of black spray paint and cutting the tissue paper into strips to apply when we got home.


I began applying the strips at the bottom of the body, and worked my way around. The next strip slightly overlapped the row below it, like roofing shingles!


This was the longest part of the whole project.

Project tip: Don't use a fan when applying these strips to the piñata body. Just... trust me.

After it was all covered, the Big Kid and I made 15 rectangular cubes from a cereal box (they measured 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 1 1/2") for the "spikes" and nostrils, and I cut out some eyes from white and purple construction paper.


Before attaching everything that we'd made, it seemed like this was a good time to attempt wings.




Now, I cut strips of cardboard for the lines in the wings and painted them grey. Then for the black, I layered three sheets of tissue paper (with spray adhesive) and cut it to fit between the lines and used spray adhesive to attach.

Do I have a picture of this?

Somewhere. I just can't find any right now.

Then to attach, I put a piece of cardboard across the back of the enderdragon (painted black to later cover with tissue paper so it all blended in).


Then attached the wings to that! At first I tried to just use hot glue, but that didn't hold. Eventually I found some small bolts/nuts and put one on each wing into the "support". While I was at it, I bolted the support to the body... Needless to say, the wings didn't come off while it was being hit.

Then we attached the spikes, nostrils and eyes (hot glue), and he was almost finished! We ended up doing legs super last minute, but we just cut out cardboard, painted it black, and hot glued them on.


Going into this, I had no idea what the final scale was doing to be. He measured in at 4' 9" long. 

It really looked like a dragon!


The Big Kid had a brilliant idea to use the Minecraft Steve head as a sort of "blindfold", so we just turned it to it's side while they hit  it with Mr. Goats' shinai (for the record, a shinai plus cardboard piñata is a bad combination. The cardboard's too tough and the shinai is made to have "give" so that it doesn't hurt you... It just... didn't work!). 


If I were to do this over, I would've scaled it down significantly, but also figured out a way to paper mache or use less sturdy cardboard.  We ended up beating the thing to death.

But in the end, she and her friends LOVED it, and I got one "Cool Mom" point.

Have you made any piñatas recently?