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Friday, July 23, 2010

Handyman in the House

I had never thought of Andy as a handyman...and, he had never thought of himself that way either. That is, until recently. What started as a simple chicken run has turned into quite the project. Even the mail lady stopped by today to tell us how great our chicken run and coop look.

We got our first two chickens sporadically, so we were initially ill-equipped to house them. I didn't mind the lack-of-housing situation too much. In all honesty, I was having a hard time imagining putting my new pets outside permanently. When I read about chicken diapers and indoor chicken pets, the wheels in mind began to roll. Then, my friend Gaby told me that there are many countries in the world in which chickens are free to roam in and out as they please. In fact, she told me, many homes actually contain a sort of chicken room. (I'm actually still thinking about that ... we are planning to build on in a few years . . . !) 
Chicken diaper

Anyway, after looking over several different coop plans, Andy and I decided to use our tax refund to simply purchase a coop from My Pet Chicken. It was more expensive than we had planned, but we wanted something secure, large, and quaint, so we made the decision that this year's return would be used for our new pets. Also, at that time, Andy was still under the impression that he knew nothing about building anything. He thought he might be able to throw something together, but wasn't confident it would be secure enough. 

Well, the coop came, and it was as cute as I had imagined it would be.

The following weekend, Andy's dad and uncle came over to put hardware cloth around the entire perimeter of the coop.
This was a super important step, as it prevents predators from crawling  underneath the coop and scratching a hole out the bottom. Word to the wise though: paint your coop FIRST. I painted after the hardware cloth was on, and I couldn't get a good coat to cover the metaled areas.

After this was finished, I actually felt pretty confident that our feathered family members would be happier in the coop than inside their cage in our house, so we moved them out.
Ani and Zappa - first night out

Next, the run. We found out that the fence should be buried at least one foot under the ground (as around the coop) to prevent predators from digging and getting inside. Andy and his uncle began  digging post holes for wooden fence supports. After cementing the support posts in the ground, Andy began digging a trench into which he planned to put the fence. Our land is rocky. Very rocky. So rocky that the shovel wouldn't penetrate further than 4-6 inches deep. It took him hours to dig a trench from one post to the next.Seeing as how our chicken run measures 15x25 feet, and we had chicks waiting for their run to be finished, the task seemed daunting and impossible in Handyman Andy's eyes.

So, he came up with an excellent idea: Line the run with raised gardens, which extend two feet out from the fence, with hardware cloth lining the bottom. So, in essence, it would take a very, very determined critter with massive nails to dig a tunnel into our chicken run. The construction of the raised beds were finished quickly, and we began planting annuals and perennials inside the boxes.
Marley and crew hanging inside the fence. Notice the in-the-making raised gardens.

We planted a Concord grape vine inside the chicken run, too. This serves two purposes: 1) chickens love grapes (and so do we!), and 2) as the grape vine grows, it will provide shade for the chickens.

Ani and Zappa under the pea shrub tree
Also, planted inside the coop are a blackcurrant bush and a weeping pea shrub tree. Both will provide food for the chickens (and us, if they leave us any) and provide extra protection from the sun on hot days. Plus, the chickens love to try to fly and roost on the tree. They can't. And not to be insensitive, but this provides hours of entertainment.

One problem remained: birds of prey. So to enclose the run, Andy put two 10-foot 4x4s into the center of the run. He built a square crown to rest on top of the 4x4s, which would hold a net to keep hawks and owls out. The net is high enough for our little bantams to fly around, and it looks cool - kind of like a circus tent.

I added my own personal flare. I painted the coop magenta and carrot orange,with a few splashes of teal. I love color. A lot. In the winter, I think I might add some pink flamingos and a Hawaiian Santa, just for irony's sake.

The back of the coop

The front of the coop (still a bit under construction)

Since our flock has grown so unexpectedly and suddenly (which our chicken vet says is very, very common), we are planning to build onto this run in the fall. Lucky chickens!

I think Andy's found a new niche.

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