Building Words for the Birds


When I started keeping hens in the backyard a few years ago, I began to realize how many expressions draw their meaning from the life of poultry. Hen-pecked, brooding, pecking order, cooped up….Once you start to pay attention, the list is endless.

Now that I have turned my focus to construction, I realize how many words of avian origin—chicken and otherwise—pepper the vernacular of building.

For example, a crow’s foot is the V-shaped pencil mark used to mark a measurement on a board. A bird mouth is the cut made in a roofing rafter so that it sits flat on the wall’s double top plate. And a bird box is the structure at the corner of a gable that ties the fascia neatly into the soffit. (See image below.)

It’s funny how when you tune your mind to something, you can’t escape it.

Speaking of which, after spending the week building a roof inside our classroom, I pulled into the driveway at home and realized that a bird box on the garage needs a little repair.

Fortunately, I know a girl…

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