Yesterday, we finally began one of the farm projects I've been dreaming about for years - the building of the chicken coop! In the weeks since we've moved in to the little farm house, I've had an incomplete feeling each morning when I leave for work without tending to my chickens. I haven't had any exciting egg finds, or shared any rambling walks to hunt for bug snacks with feathered friends. It's past time to establish a flock.
My chicken coop dreams have gone through several half-formed designs because I couldn't settle on where it should live, and how best to build it. Should the chickens be near the house for easy access, or far away from the house to avoid early morning crowing and cackling? The answer, I hope, is to build a mobile coop, so we can change our minds whenever we want! See that wall of vegetation behind Puck? Hidden in all those stems is a two wheel trailer that Byron and Shanna gave us. It's the new base of the our mobile chicken coop.
Brandon had to battle some wasps that nested in the hitch, but he managed to hook the trailer to the tractor and pull it from the weeds.
The asters that had grown through the wire bottom of the trailer were plucked and squeezed into pretty bouquets stuck in the wire on the bottom of the cart.
Aww... Brandon picked me flowers!
There were crumbly boards underneath the wire base. Brandon used a crow bar to pull the nails holding the wire to the boards, so he could take the rotten wood away, which will allow the chicken droppings to fall through the floor onto the ground below.
While he was busy doing that, I busied myself filling a vase with the flowers, posing them for photos, and bringing Brandon a bag of frozen fruit to put on the goose egg he gave himself by hitting his head with the crowbar. I'm still not sure how he managed to do that, but I'm really glad he has a strong skull. If he hit me in the head with a crowbar it would have taken more than frozen blueberries to cure me, I'm sure.
The cats thought the flowers were lovely on the dinning room table.
I have a book of graph paper that has been very handy for sketching out our ideas for projects like the chicken coop. I can't really tell that anything we build resembles our drawings in more than spirit, but it's nice to have a starting point.
The basic unit of measurement for this project is the width of a roll of wire. We aren't using chicken wire on the walls since I've seen what happens when a raccoon sticks his hands through the holes in chicken wire and pulls a sleeping chicken out one little piece at a time. I never want to see that again, so I'm using the more expensive and heavy duty hardware cloth, that has holes too small for raccoon hands. I'm a little worried that the wire on the bottom of the trailer has holes that are big enough for a weasel or a rat to squeeze through. Someone on the interweb said if the hole is big enough for a hot dog to go through, then it's big enough for a weasel. What!? In Kentucky, we have long-tailed weasels, which look bigger than a hot dog to me, but I would hate to find out the hard way. I may have to cover the bottom too, which messes up my plans for letting the droppings fall through.
Also burried in the weeds, is a stack of metal roofing that we saved from the front room of the house, when we put on the new roof. We've already used some of this metal for the outhouse, but we had enough left over for the chicken coop too.
Using bits of salvaged lumber from the work on the house, plus a few new two-by-fours, and some advise from myself and Brandon's mom, the frame of the coop was assembled.
Brandon said he felt like the architect Frank Gehry, as he assembled the roof using the sheets of metal.
I think Frank would be quite impressed with our assembly technique, which involved Brandon hammering in nails from above, and me watching from the underside as the nails came through in the wrong place and directing Brandon on which way he should move over to hit the wood. It's all very exact and professional, as you can see.
Ta-da! A roof. A roof with lots of holes isn't much of roof during a storm, I guess, but the little points of light shining through make for a nice ambiance that I'm sure the chickens will appreciate when its not raining. Also note that the low edge of the roof, which is rusted sharp metal twisted in dangerous angles, is exactly the height of Brandon's forehead. When I mentioned that this was not the best thing from a forehead safety standpoint, Brandon said he would just have to be smart enough not to walk into the roof. Does anyone want to place a bet on whether or not Brandon will require forehead stitches in the near future?
Because the trailer is on only two wheels in the center, if we step onto the back of the trailer, the whole thing tips. So my primary job during the roof installation was to stand on the front of the trailer and act as a weight so it didn't tip while Brandon was standing on the other side. Fortunately, this job doesn't require two hands, so I was able to add some extra weight by holding a tasty beverage. Whew, a hard days work, for sure!
Despite it's ramshackle-ness, I think the chicken coop is a fine example of found object architecture (is that a thing? It should be!).
When I asked Brandon if we should affix the wood frame to the trailer, to prevent it from sliding off when pulling it up a hill, he tipped the whole thing to demonstrate to me that it would not slide off. I'm not sure his demonstration alleviated my concern. How long before we're pulling it up a hill, the coop pops off the hitch, and then the whole thing come sliding off. I guess that will help us decide where it lives!
The sunset was lovely last night, so I made sure to photograph the new coop with a backdrop of pink and lavender skies. It's not finished yet, but we made a really great start.