Critters · How-To

Mind the Door

We are going to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming of custom costuming to report on what happened this week.

We had an unusual mid-summer storm here in California, complete with thunder and lightning. This isn’t good – “like a tinderbox” is often used to describe our forests and grasslands by August, but it’s more “like a California shaped fuse” given our increasingly recurrent droughts. Add lightning to the mix, with a weak excuse for rainfall, et voila! You have wildfires so large and in so many places, the meteorologists predict firenadoes. Yeah, I thought it was made up too, but apparently not.

We have to timestamp these because fires starting between the release of the morning and evening maps is actually a thing.

These fires are crazy hot, crazy big, and early to boot. They move ridiculously fast – sometimes so fast that people have less than an hour to evacuate ahead of the flames. So when an evacuation warning is given for their area, my friend and her husband decide to get out ahead of time with their three horses, four bunnies, and six chicks. While she is able to make arrangements for care for the horses and rabbits, the chicks are another story. My friend calls me to ask for advice on how to address this conundrum, to which I answer: ME. DUH.

First hang up: I need to find a tiny coop – my space is cramped and oddly shaped. My mom comes to the rescue with a great idea: the DOG HOUSE. In days of yore, our dog would use it when he was in a dog run during the day. No longer! Now His Majesty does not deign to use such plebeian accommodations as a dog house. All it needs is a door, and it should work well for my six little visitors’ stay.

Well. Second error: I forgot that 10 week old chicks are hardly chicks but more like 2/3 scale adult chickens. They would still fit in the “coophouse” but it would need to be cleaned more regularly given the close quarters.

Welcome, Beeps!

Okay coophouse, let’s get you battle ready.

To aid in cleaning, I unscrew the roof from the rest of the frame and to my delight, find that one panel can easily be slid in and out of place. The roof panel is heavy enough that neither bird nor raccoon would be able to move it, but I can. Huzzah for thumbs!

Cozy, right?

Now for the door. After consulting with The Crafty Council, I decide on a basic “figure 8″ design; sturdy but still allowing good air flow. I draw out my plans (to scale, of course) and then list what dimensions I will need. I originally plan on making the door 1” smaller than the dimensions of the doorway, but decide last minute to add a half inch to the overall length and height to make sure the gaps aren’t egregious.

Dot grid paper = life.

With my list in hand, I check my lumber scraps bin. Crap. I don’t have enough lengths of 1×2 to even make half of a door. But when I reach out to The Crafty Council, they don’t let me down: I am given a good, long strip of 1×2 hardwood!

After cutting down the hardwood to the lengths I need, I assemble the frame with corner brackets using a sweet corner jig I got for some other project years ago. For the center beam, I use straight brackets.

Mama ain’t got time to fret over perfectly square corners, but they make her very happy.

Next up is the hardware cloth. I locate an odd piece from a forgotten project and cut it to make two panels. Given the top of the doorway of the coophouse is arched, I leave a raw edge of hardware cloth jutting out from the top as a deterrent to paws (raccoon, child, etc) pulling on the door. Using a craft staple gun that wasn’t really up for the job, I *lightly* attach the hardware cloth to the frame. Except I did it on the wrong side. *facepalm* I was planning doing it on the side without the brackets. Sigh. Well, this is a temporary door, right?

To make sure the hardware cloth wouldn’t get ripped out by some hulk raccoon, I add another layer of 1×2 to the back of the door. However, I forgot that hardwood is, well, hard. As soon as I try to screw the pieces onto the back of the door over the hardware cloth, they split. Badly.

Oh, 1×2, we hardly knew ye…

I dig through my lumber scrap box, looking for any and all pieces of pine 1×2. I find a few, and some are really small (why did I keep them? Because I’m obviously a genius). Pine is soft and dents easily, which is helpful for going over bumpy hardware cloth. It kind of squishes over it while still holding together. PERFECT.

Pretty? No. Functional? You bet.

Once the door is more or less assembled, it’s time to hang it on the coophouse. I bought hinges with removable pins because I loathe hanging doors and any raccoon that has the savvy to get both pins out deserves his chicken dinner. I check the alignment about 600 times, still drill the holes for the screws in the wrong place, and attach those puppies securely. The door is IN!!

It FITS! Hey Ma, I can make things competently sometimes!

Last step: the hasp. This is always a bit of a fudge job because the hasp manufacturers assume you have a “professional-level just-barely-enough-room-for-the-door-to-open” gap between the door and the frame. I have no such airs (or cares, really), so I channel my inner Tim Gunn and “make it work.” I secure the arm of the hasp with only two screws instead of three since the frame of the coophouse would probably come apart before two screws fail.

And ta-da! A converted dog house to coop. I got to use my power tools and I made A Thing, muahaha. I am so smug.

It’s even kinda cute!

Now, if only the chicks would actually go IN it at night *facepalm*

Come ON, Beeps. Seriously?!

One thought on “Mind the Door

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