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Monday, November 9, 2015

You're Never Really DONE With Your Chicken Coop

Some things should never be finalized in either spoken or written form:

1. "I have plenty of chickens."(LOL, we all KNOW where that is going in a hurry. We're already talking about letting the first hen to go broody in February hatch a small batch of chicks, from our own eggs. But I'm not so far gone as to banish current broodies into chicken Jail. So there is hope for me yet!)

2. "I'm going to give up coffee/tea/soda/chocolate."  Uh huh. 

And the really big one...

3. "I am DONE building the chicken coop."

In a brief moment of overwhelming emotions, mixed with pure exhaustion, blood sweat and tears, we may, in a blind fit of stupidity, put our hands on our hips, puff up with pride, smile, and announce loudly to the world, " The CHCKEN COOP IS DONE!"

If you are truly lucky, the only ear things within earshot are those little fluffy butts scratching and pecking at the ground, and even THEY are quietly laughing at you.  A little higher up the scale would place your Significant Other, children, or possibly nosey neighbors in earshot.  Not knowing any better, they too will share in your misguided triumph.  At the top of the scale, you cannot possibly contain your enthusiasm and you take a million photos and (GASP) POST them online.  And not just anywhere online, you go to the nations largest Back Yard Chicken Forum, where you've been lurking and playing for months on end.

Sure, no one replies to your post, or says it outright, but all the other posters are thinking it. ... " Suuuuure you are."  Then they giggle to themselves, a little snort escaping their nose. 

That's where I'm at.  Sure I THOUGHT I was done with the coop.  Then I had to build the run.  Then the coop needed more ventilation.  Then it needed a fan.  Then it needed a summer perch.  The roosts needed rearranged.  I didn't have enough nest boxes.   The run needed a stronger roof.  The new roof needed a new waterproof cover.  Well as long as I was up there, wouldn't a rooster weather vane look adorable up there?  The girls needed a ladder to play on in the run.  The run door needed a drop pin to keep it from blowing in the wind (as much as I loved using logs, NOT!)  I wanted to try fermented feed, so I needed Doc to build me a trough.  The upper window needed a rain shield.  Lights, both in the run and the coop, needed installed.  A timer needed installed.  Another webcam needed installed. The list just keeps growing.

Back when Fall was at its peak, the lower angled sunlight caused me to realize the sunshield was blocking too much sun.  So a clear shield needed put up instead.  At this point I realized that, HOLY SMOKES, winter is JUST around the corner and I still need to Winterize the run!!  Small wood frames with shower curtains stapled to them would NOT cut it this year.  The wheels of thought and process kept me up nights trying to figure out what I was going to do to block the wicked prairie winds, yet allow air to flow and still keep out the snow.  It also had to be reusable and hearty. 

What I came up with is nothing short of brilliant. The same corrugated pvc panel that I used as a sun and rain shield on the upper windows also comes in clear.  It is easy to install, simple rubber washers and self tapping screws.  It also trims easily with scissors.  My plan was to use three long, 12 foot, panels to completely block off the north west side of the run, leave the south east short end totally open, and cover the lower 2/3rds of the north east wall. 

Of course as you work, your plans change as you go along.  I did cover the entire north west side, but decided to put one 2 foot tall panel along the bottom of the south east end.  This would block the wind at the chicken level should it happen to be blowing from that rare winter direction.  As I was putting up the north east panels, just before I put up the last, upper panel, I had a great idea.  Why not build a 2x4x12 frame and mount the panel to it, and hang it from the run on hinges?  Then I could prop it open on nice winter days for fresh air and close it on snowy/windy/rainy days as needed? 

Well that set off a whole set of projects, since you cannot just build a frame, you have to get the hardware (LOVE habitat for humanity RESTORE), then it needs props to keep it from blowing in the wind.  Then you find out that the wind on your hill is strong enough to lift a bull elephant and fly him like a kite, so a ridiculously heavy panel and frame is no problem.  But this will release the prop, which allows the panel to fall and slam shut, loudly.  Sigh, redesign.  But before I decided to redesign the props, I decided that the north west side of the coop would really benefit from a lift window as well.  More screws, more hardware, more custom cuts, more planning, another panel frame, more painting, and another trip into town.

I now had all of my supplies.  Doc made me yet another frame, which was now screwed, glued, and painted.  Now all I needed was a day where the wind was NOT howling.  I used one of those rare days to move 3200 pounds of hay, pitchfork by pitchfork, into the garden for the overwintering soil.  The location where I had the hay stored outside, was rich, black and WET! Even though we haven't had any real rain for almost 7 weeks. Composting at its finest.) Sure, I cannot feel my arms or my back, but as long as the earthworms are happy, isn't that what really matters?

I digress.

Today was the day.  Winter is coming.  There is a blizzard warning for the panhandle, and a high wind warning for the midlands, and as of this morning for the whole eastern side of the state.  It is just another reminder that the season waits for no one.  Today was almost 65', and the winds never made it past 25 mph.  It had to be today.  I got to work first thing in the morning.  The panels on their frames and hinges were already up, and their end locks were installed.  I still needed to install the extra panel supports, and figure out how on earth to make and fit the props.  To make matters MORE interesting, each one was a different size.  But once I got the design down, it was just a matter of adjusting the size.

I installed pieces of 2x4 on hinges that can be flipped up out of the way, the panel dropped and locked when the winds or weather come.  On fair days, you can flip them down and lock them into place with a clip to keep the winds from lifting and dropping the panels.  A bonus is that they, the top window panels, can stay up all year!  They will act as extended rain shields for the run. 

Of course no project is adventure free, and mine certainly are no exception.  My two sets of roofing screws needed two different hex heads.  I had two different types of screw heads going, Phillips and star.  I kept needing more screws, or different screws.  Wood pieces needed multiple trips to the drop saw.  I can't tell you how many trips I made from the barn to the coop.

In the midst of all this are the fluff butts, including a rooster who as an odd attachment to my shoes. I had hens laying eggs, and as we ALL do, I put them in my shorts pocket.  At one point, while removing a stubborn screw, the screw stayed and the wood spun counterclockwise.  Yup, you guessed it, slamming right into my pocket - the one full of eggs.  UGH.  Needless to say, this required a wardrobe change.

Mishap over.  All the props were installed.  The hens were wandering the hayfield and the run and I heard the egg song again.  So I stepped out of the run and was walking towards the coop door.  Simple right?  Two strides to the left, turn and four strides and up the stairs into the coop.  UH HUH.  Two strides left, and WHAMMO! Full force, smack in the nose, right into the window panel wing I had JUST installed, and forgotten about.  Oh ya, stars.  I saw stars.  Pretty, pretty, sparkly stars.

My sunglasses frame took the full brunt of it.  They are flex frames, so they didn't break, but the forward momentum of a human into a 2x4 frame attached to a concrete anchored coop simply refused to move, so the frame was shoved into the bridge of my nose.  Did I mention I saw stars?  I cannot remember.  Now my nose is puffy and stuffy and bruised. But the coop is DONE!

OH wait! No, I did NOT say that out loud!


  1. My eyes watered when I read the nose incident :o
    That is one awesome looking coops Caryl. Your adventures do give me a smile, and your penmanship adds to it.

    Looking forward to winter photos. Have I got photos of all your chickens now? Is it possible to get some standing? x

  2. And you'll love this. Apparently I didn't think I walked into the weather wing the correct way yesterday. So today I tried again. This time I did a much better job, by cutting my shoulder and putting a gash across my forehead. Talk about walking habits!

    1. OMG Caryl :o Sheesh woman, you need new glasses. Or, put rubber buffers on the corners of those weather wings!! :-D