Saturday, March 13, 2010

Make vs Buy, Take 2

What I'm Buying
My current chicken coop (really, it's a chicken playhouse) is too small for the chickens I've got, and besides, it's not a "good" coop.  Good coops are well ventilated but not drafty, and the playhouse, due to it's lincoln log-type construction, is open on the corners and extremely drafty.  I had no idea when I bought the thing that it would be a bad long-term choice, since I was such a n00b.  But it allowed me to get chickens in the middle of February, and me and the fresh egg in my tummy can't complain about that!

I've been keeping an eye open for a better coop on craigslist for a few months and ... nothing.  I've considered making a coop from scratch, or buying a new coop locally.  New coops are really expensive and still too small, and aren't movable.  So I decided to make a coop to save money (ref our discussion earlier this week about making vs buying). 

But then I started thinking about how I would actually do this making of a coop.  I don't have a ton of tools - my saw inventory runs only to jigsaw and sawzall, pruning saw, hacksaw and chainsaw.  I don't have a workshop, or even an outside flat area to get things square and straight.  And, I don't have the skills or experience to do something like this well.  Making a chicken coop from scratch is just not something I can do without a huge amount of effort.

So I decided to buy the one you see above!  Actually, it's a kit that I'll assemble.  All the pieces are there, cut and predrilled.  I think I can do the rest.  It's got some characteristics that I like over other coop kits.  Wind won't tear off the roof or flip it over.  It can be moved by one person. It's big enough for about 10 birds if I decide to be-big the flock.  And, it's cheaper than other coops, while giving me more of what I wanted, space, wind resistance, movability.

What I'm Making
Sofa cushions - and piping.

First off, my midcentury outdoor furniture is a different size than current outdoor furniture.  Meaning that cushions on the market don't fit - at all.  Not even close.  Second off - this is something that I do have the equipment to do properly.  I also have the knowledge and experience to do this pretty well.

I found an outdoor fabric at JoAnns that I don't hate, but did not find a matching blue piping to buy.  So I'll have to make the piping, even though I complained mightily about it earlier.  I've estimated that I'll need about 16 yards of it, so what you see here is the cushion fabric, piping fabric and all 16 yards of piping.  It will be a long trudge, but rainy weekends are tailor-made for projects like this.

I'm happy with the make-buy decisions.  I'm going to be spending time on something that's a relative strength of mine and outsourcing what I'm uncomfortable doing.  Its possible that I could go all the way to starting up this little goaty enterprise without building a single building myself.  I'm OK with that.


  1. After reading your recent posts, I took a second look at what I was hiring people to do. I got the trees done -- no way I was doing that myself.

    But I am re-thinking the carpenter I got estimates from, and the projects I had in mind. Only one -- new double pane windows in the cabin -- is something I know I can't do. But the floor in the attic -- yes, I can. The issues with the crawl space -- worth trying and messing up and then hiring. So, I'm putting the windows off until I really decide to heat the place in the winter. I'll see what I can do myself on the rest.

    It brought my foreseeable money total for the year back down to where I like it.

    Thanks for the time you take to keep this blog going, Jordan, and for thinking out loud about your goals and projects.

    That new chicken coop looks very interesting!

  2. Pretty snazzy looking chicken house. Should be a great way to keep them on fresh pasture all summer long. But what will you do for a warm house/coop for winter? Will they go back in the playhouse/coop on the porch?

    I like your new cushion fabric. Although making cording is time consuming, it's fairly easy and I have no doubt you'll be really happy with the end product.

    Sure do enjoy reading about the goings-on at your place. Always interesting.

  3. Mama Pea, I've been thinking about winter digs for the chickens. Right now (subject to change), I'm thinking of getting a shed for goats and getting 3 goats this year. If I get it a little bigger than I need, I can keep the chickens in there - hopefully. Chickens and goats together? If all else fails, I can put the playhouse back up on the porch. It's working OK, except for tracking wood chips in the house in a monster way.

    Kate - I do think that the way we learn is to get out of our comfort zone. Great that you're thinking of doing that.

    Oh yes - Mama Pea - I made the cording strip just a leetle too narrow. Got about 8 yards made last night, but several places where it isn't closed. I'll have to go back and repair today. Patience...patience...

  4. I've seen those chicken coops online. I was thinking the same way you are - that (if I ever got chickens) I'd rather buy something like this than try to figure it out myself.

  5. Your finished cushion looks great! I know you'll love it when you're done. I totally relate to those busy weekends when you feel like you never actually got a weekend. And the new chicken coop looks so space age!

  6. Nice Chicken Condo! Maybe you can tarp it a bit to extend the season. Looks like you may need a 'holder' to help you put it together. I have a 12yr old that is pretty good at that, and a 15 yr old who is taller and stronger and will do most anything if I feed him!!

  7. good job on the cushion too. I covered mine a couple of time. They take quite a beating in the summer..I leave them out in sun and rain - bad me. But every couple of years they get 'refreshed'. It works out OK.