Phase 2 of chicken tractor construction is to build a roof on the chicken tractor, which will also be a coop for them to sleep in at night. After researching architecture on Wikipedia for the better part of last Saturday morning, I decided to go with a gambrel roof.
The coop/roof needs to be both predator-proof and maximize headroom. The tractor is a 4ft cube, so if I just slapped a plain shed roof* on there, 1) either the angle would be flat enough that a raccoon could jump up and make trouble, and 3/4ths of the wedge would be too narrow for the chickens to use, or 2) the angle would be so steep that the tractor would be 8ft tall. There are limits, people! The same goes for a regular gable (i.e. triangular) roof, although to a lesser extent.
The gambrel roof (what I always called a “barn roof”) is a clear winner in this respect. It maximizes usable headroom, while having a very steep slope on the sides so that leaping raccoon ninjas will just slide off.
I found an article online titled How To Build A Gambrel Roof, but it doesn’t have any graphics. I was having trouble picturing the process, so I decided to build a miniature 1:12 model. My model would be 4 inches square at the base, with a roof peak 3 inches high.
I started out by cutting a Home Depot paint stirring stick into “lumber” with an Exacto knife. (Kids, get your parents to help!) These pieces are 4 inches long and about 1/2″ wide, in scale with the culls that I’ve been buying.
One piece split when I cut it. Just like real life!
Next, I sketched out the template on a sheet of paper. (I don’t own a protractor, so I had to print one out from a helpful website. How did we ever do anything before the internet?) I laid out the lumber, and began tracing the angles and making cuts.
I assembled the trusses by cutting out wee little braces out of cardboard, and stapling them on, then filling the joint with Elmer’s glue. (This is the project that I became absorbed in while I was playing Sims last Sunday.)
In place of plywood cladding, I cut up a cereal box into tiny sheets and taped them on. I used the Exacto knife to cut doors and windows into the plywood.
I made a very big mess of my desk.
And then it was done!
I admired my work for several minutes before I started noticing its flaws. As you can see from the above picture, the cladding on the gable ends doesn’t quite fit the trusses.
I cut the cardboard from the gable ends by using the original sketch as a template. Obviously the reality of the truss was a little bit off from the original sketch. So that’s one important lesson learned from the model-making process: use the actual thing for a template, not the template used to make the actual thing.
Want a peek inside?
Another advantage of the gambrel roof is that it’s very strong. I had trouble balancing things on the roof peak, so I used my sock-in-progress as a pad. As you can see, even the miniature roof can hold a surprising amount of weight without any trouble.
Oh, if only I could make the real thing from cereal boxes. Do you know how much plywood costs? A lot!
* Technically known as a “skillion roof,” and isn’t “skillion” a great word?