Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Shak Rabbits

Welcome back to The Shak.

Today I busied myself with installing three of the rabbit cages I built last week. I have a scheme in mind; whereby, I will mount the the six cages in two rows of three. The idea is to mount the top row to the wall, suspend the bottom row from the top row and put in "plumbing". 

By "plumbing" I mean a system which removes all urine to a removable/cleanable container and collects the droppings for use in the the yard and garden. This will make for easy cleaning and much less work than the store bought drop pans I am using under the existing cages. In turn, it will also reduce ammonia, flies and general filth. Healthy rabbits are happy rabbits.

My first mission is to fabricate "L" brackets upon which to secure the top row of cages. That is what I will be showing you here.

This project requires the use of power tools most people just do not have. It would be cost-prohibitive for those without the tools. So I don't suggest running out and purchasing a welder, chop saw, grinders, clamps....etc, etc just to do this project. That having been said, you may discover something of value in this anyway.

I collect bed frames (angle iron). People throw them to the curb on garbage day. These things are gold! If you see a mattress on the curb, stop and see if there is a frame too. Grab it! My stock is low. Actually, one can never have enough materials. Most of the bed frames used on this project came courtesy of my friend Mike. Thanks Mike.
One man's trash...
Bed frames usually come with all kinds of junk attached. Which makes sense for those who use them as bed frames. I remove all this stamped metal. If I can get at rivets and studs with the hand grinder, the work is quick. Those that I cannot get at that way I attack with my drill press, punch and ball peen hammer.
...is another man's treasure.
Once all the stamped pieces are gone, one has angle iron. This is more than enough for this project. I cut two 34" pieces into four 11" and two 12" pieces. These will eventually be screwed to the wall.
Six pieces and the chop saw that cut them.
The cages are 30" deep. I cut six 33" pieces of angle iron. Two for each cage. They are 33" because I want the cages to have a 3" airspace on the back side.
Everything is cut and ready to be clamped.
I did not do any fancy cutting. All cuts were straight chops with the chop saw. I simply overlapped the corners of the two pieces. Before you clamp them, be certain that, when installed, the angles face in toward each other creating a ledge upon which to place a cage. In other words, create mirror images.
I bought these clamps at some freight store.
Perfect corner every time.
With the corners clamped in these nifty clamps, I tack welded the corner in two places. Having tacked all six brackets, I went back and completed the welds. I do not generally work on the floor. I neither like nor recommend it. The shop is "under construction". My welding tables are in storage. As a matter of fact, I spent the morning picking up my metal-working tools for this project. I got all the tools in the minivan; however, there is no manner of getting the tables in the van. Short of turning it into a convertible. The shop will not be complete until I commandeer a pick-up.
One of six mounted brackets.
After running a level string where I wanted the bottoms of the cages to end up, I marked, pre-drilled holes and screwed the brackets to the wall. Pre-drilling is not usually necessary, but the wood into which I was screwing is just shy of petrified. I am thinking about selling it to China so they can make a few decent pairs of wire cutters.
Three installed rabbit cages.
Three awaiting installation.
Once all the brackets were secured, I cradled the cages between them. Then I wired the cages to the brackets. The next step will to hang the lower row of cages down from the brackets. And after some more planning, the "plumbing". Stay tuned.
Two of three new cages with
the original three in the background
Thanks for stopping. Come again soon.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chicken Shak

Welcome back to The Shak.

Are you ready for some fun? This may or may not do it for you. I enjoyed it. Now you can too.

I built nest boxes for the chickens. I knew how much space I had between the two posts that would contain them. With this piece of information, I walked to the machine shed. That is where I stacked the rough cut yet planed pine boards a friend offered me and I picked up on my last trip to the city.
It is good to have a friend who gave me this pile of boards
 Thank you friend!
You know who you are.
Not knowing exactly what I had received, I measured each of the forty-two pieces for length, width and thickness; however, I will not bore you with that process. The better half of the boards were 7/8" thick. Their widths and lengths varied greatly. Though none were 14" wide. Most of the sources I researched build 12" to 16" cubes with one open side.

14 goes into 70, 5 times. I had 70" between the posts. The thickness of the dividers and ends ate up some interior box space. Without going into fractions, my design gives each of ten boxes a width greater than 13" but less than 14". Their depth and height are 14".
These are the tools I used for this project. Somehow I forgot to include the rubber mallet. Gotta have a rubber mallet.
Armed with 7/8" thick lumber of varying widths and lengths, I began to build my jigsaw puzzle. I wanted the bottom and middle 20" wide. This took three separate boards each. The dividers had to be 14" high and measure 14" deep. This meant two boards for each of eight dividers. Two front sections require two boards each. The two ends are three boards each. The top is two boards. Two egg catchers meant two more boards. I think that is twenty-eight boards that needed to be cut.

I began by screwing the dividers to the bottom with 8 x 2 wood screws. This also served to hold the three bottom boards together. The dividers are cut, top and bottom at parallel eight degree angles. As you see the pictures of the boxes under construction on the work bench, they appear to lean in the direction of the open wall. When placed, the open wall will be plumb while the bottom and middle boards will slope downward toward the egg catcher.
Bottom boards with dividers installed.
Next, I added the front pieces. This significantly strengthened the structure. There is a 3" gap between the bottom of the bottom front board and the floor. This will allow eggs to pass into the egg catcher. Once in the egg catcher they stay clean and  can be easily collected without entering the coop. Because some chickens are egg eaters, this will also help prevent eggs being lost to the chickens. Once the egg rolls into the catcher, the chickens will not be able to get to them.
Front boards in place.
Now make another one just like it.
Two separate though relatively identical structures stacked one atop the other.
The middle board and its dividers are set atop the lower structure. I will not connect the middle boards to the lower dividers until installation. Each half will require two people to carry and must fit through two narrow doors in close proximity if it is to get from the garage work bench to the coop.
A different angle of the picture above.
This is taken from the open side.
After fastening the front boards to the top section, the end boards (which are screwed only to the bottom boards) and the top boards, it is starting to look like something.
Top and sides in place.
The picture above taken from the open side.
With the egg catchers in place, the real fun begins.
With the egg catchers in place, all bench work is done.
The boxes are ready for installation.

Remember, I did not connect the middle boards to the lower dividers. That was for ease of movement and installation and so I could take the two following photos.
The bottom half.

The top half.
Now to take all these pieces of wood and install them into the coop. There was some prep work to be done. And the entire job had to be done the day it began. Once I cut the hole in the coop, I would have to seal it before I quit for the day.

Below you see the wall and the two posts between which I installed the boxes. This is the way the coop has looked since I set it up.
The "before" shot of the wall that will become nest boxes.
Prep work complete.
You can see why I had to complete the job once begun.
After a limited struggle, some patience and a rubber mallet, the lower section is more-or-less where it will be for a long time to come.
The bottom in place.
From inside the coop looking out. It is not so crooked as it looks. My level indicates it is level. Must be operator error with regard to the camera.
With the bottom in place, the top slid into position with the assistance of that same rubber mallet. The wire mesh egg catcher cover is under construction. I did not have enough wire to make both covers of wire. I nailed a section of wire to the front boards on the lower section. Then, using j-clips and j-clip pliers, I hinged the wire cover over the egg catcher. For the top cover I used a couple hinges and a board.
Egg catcher covers under construction.
The bottom one is wire.
The top will be wood.
The finished product. I stapled the chicken wire down the front and filled any other gaps as necessary. The chickens are again safe from predators.
Done deal! This thing is not going anywhere.
From the inside looking out.
Well, there you have it. Ten nest boxes for clean, safe and easy to collect chicken eggs. These cannot be the end of it. Someday I will need more. That is enough for one day.

My next chicken related project will be to add roosts to the open side of the boxes and elsewhere in the coop. That is for another post.

Thanks for stopping. Come again soon.