Well, winter is over. You can’t be sure, in this part of the world, until you’ve been visited by the “three snowmen,” although, in contrast to general population-growth trends (or lack thereof) in these United States, the guys seem to have a fruitful year, and I counted about half-a-dozen of the little bastards taunting me, every time I thought it was safe to go back in the garden.
Still, we’ve now reached the time of the year, after a winter spent complaining about alternating ice-age and monsoon conditions, that it’s permissible–perhaps even mandatory–to start bitching about the heat and the lack of rain. I call this “farmer privilege.” Farmers don’t have much, especially real ones and not just the part-time hobbyists that I am myself, so we have to take it where we can find it, and make the most of it while we can.
One of the fortuitous and happy happenstances over the course of last winter was my acquisition of the rooster I named Chinggis. (Long background story, for another time, perhaps.) I found Chinggis and his girlfriend by the side of the road in late January. Their provenance was unknown, and their condition was pitiful. She was much worse off, and didn’t survive, but Chinggis, like his namesake, is tough and wily, and he’s gone from strength to strength.
I’ve wanted to get into chickens (just a few–for eggs, not for meat or raising chicks) for several years, but life has a way of chucking caltrops at my feet just when i think forward momentum is possible, and it’s never worked out.
And yet. Sometimes the Good Lord just wants you to have chickens.
Chinggis currently lives during the day in a nice moveable run I built for him, but at night he has to go back in a crate in the garage, because I don’t consider the run “secure.” He doesn’t really like this back-and-forth, and I generally get an earful as I carry him back to his crate. Sometimes, it’s the only actual conversation I have with another sentient being over the course of a day, and you can listen to a minute or two of our intellectual discourse here. I consider Chinggis the William F. Buckley of chickens, and I call this back-and-forth The Rooster Lullaby.
LOL. He’s a very special guy.
Still, as is readily apparent (for those with ears to hear), he’s not happy. Mostly, I think, because he considers the nightly procession back to the crate an unforgiveable display of disrespect to his man-card and his rank as The Great Khan. Call me “Crazy”–and some have–I just want him to be safe and there when I wake up in the morning.)
And so I determined some time ago that if I really wanted to have a few chickens, I’d need a nice place for them to live, other than In. My. House. and I’ve been reading and researching the best ideas for chicken accommodation both online and in print ever since. It’s been an interesting ride, as I quickly discovered that anyone who’s ever had chickens has an opinion on the matter, and that many of those opinions are in direct opposition to each other. Fun times. Over those fun times though, some ideas started to jell.
While I realize that almost anything will do, and that they’d probably thrive in far less, I decided to have some fun (another thing one must take where one can find it), and build something sturdy and useful, while using up as many bits and pieces I’ve got lying around the place as possible. (Have you seen the price of lumber and construction materials lately?)
My baseline web pages are these:
Both of these are free downloads of PDF files that give you plenty of information/instruction on what you’ll need to do, but for me, also served as the springboard to other ideas as I combined them with suggestions and advice I found elsewhere.
And so I came up with my checklist:
- Outside dimensions 4’x8′
- Space for 6=-8 chickens. Hope to start with 4-5
- Area reserved for storing feed, bedding, feeders and accessories, so I don’t have to carry them up to the coop every day
- Roosting bar, either 2×4 or natural branch if I can find one
- Dropping board to contain the worst of what the old timers used to call the “night soil”
- Two nest boxes, which should accommodate 6-7 hens. Possibility of closing one off, if I only start with 2-3
- Close by water and electrical connections
- Large enough to accommodate a heat source (probably a lamp) in the winter, without putting it so close to easily set-afire material such as bedding that a conflagration will result
- Plenty of ventilation
- Plenty of light
- Easy access for cleaning
- Easy access for egg collection–consider drop down back panel for nest boxes, rather than hinged lid
That’s most of it. And today, I’m this far along:
View from the south. Large window on eastern exposure for early morning light
Shows something of second window on the western exposure
And the two outrigger nest boxes. “Roof” is just temporary, and I decided to go with a hinged-at-the-bottom back panel to drop down for egg removal, to make cleaning, and sweeping out the bedding, easier.
Next steps: Apply some shiny white paint on all the inside framing, for several reasons. 1) make things brighter, 2)prolong the life of the wood, 3)make cleaning a bit easier, and perhaps most importantly 4) make it easier to spot insect and mite infestations.
Then, I’m stuck waiting for a week or so for new materials to arrive. I bent my rules a bit when it came to ventilation, and decided to decouple the light source (windows) from the ventilation (gable vents of this sort). I also decided, rather than using up bits of old (board-and-batten) siding for the house, that it was worth it to purchase some T-111 and side the thing with square material. Easier, and stronger, I think.*** By the end of my little excursion, I hope to have spent no more than $400 on new materials, which, if you look at chicken coops for sale (most of which appear to be made out of firewood), is…umm….chicken feed.
I’ve been taking photos as I go, and may post my findings/recommendations in more detail at a later date. In any event, I’ll certainly post regarding the finished product which, at the moment, I’m inclined to paint sunshine yellow. I haven’t decided whether or not to include a few whimsical ruffles and flourishes along the lines of crenellated battlements and a turret or two, as has been so urged by at least one friend. I guess we’ll have to wait and see…
So, what-on-earth, I hear you saying, does this post have to do with feminism, whether womanly or not. RWKJ, have you lost your mind (again)?
Here’s what this is about:
I’m a woman. I was a girl, and now I’m a woman. I’ve always been delighted with the sex I was assigned (by a higher power than the obstetrician, I think) at birth. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love being a woman. I love (most) men. I believe there’s a natural order of things. I don’t think that the division of labor between men and women, as it’s traditionally understood, elevates one sex, or diminishes the other. And I don’t think there’s a need for either sex to compete for pride-of-place, to manipulate nature to vie for dominance, or to virtue signal subservience or control, in order to win the favor of the other. (Wannabee Stepford Wives, call your office. Or your psychiatrists. Please.)
I’ve been blessed, in my family, with strong and nurturing female role models. Not all of them to be sure–my mother could, on any given day give Aunt Ada Doom a run for her money–but many of them. All the way from Maudie Nichols, my great-grandmother’s housemaid, to Gwama, the wife of Amadu, dad’s butler and major-domo in Nigeria, to my mother-in-law, who stuck out a life of hellish abuse from her drunken husband until her sons were grown and able to fend for themselves by joining either the United States Marine Corps or the United States Army, and who then walked away and made a successful career and life for herself. To Jenny. And I am lucky to have had, in equal number, male family members and friends who supported them, not least among whom were my father and my husband.
So I’ve grown up with the idea that, should I wish to, I could do anything I wanted, and that doing so with a glad heart and a good will made not a jot of difference to whether or not I was a happy and fulfilled woman, and that it had absolutely nothing to do with what I thought of men.
I love building things. My dad did too. And I think I probably got some of my own love of construction from him.
I think Dad would be proud of his daughter’s “chicken coop.” Just as I’m proud of it myself. He wouldn’t see my joy in my achievement as evidence that there’s something wrong with me, or that I’m “Crazy,” or that I must, somehow, in some nefarious and irrational way, be attacking women who don’t like to build chicken coops. (What a moronic concept.)
Above all, my Dad would relish, and not fear, the competence of the woman he’d brought into the world.
Postscript, in the form of a PSA for insecure men: If you quail (see what I did there?) at the thought of spending a substantial portion, or even the rest, of your life with a woman who has a graveyard of old windows from the days in which she replaced all of the original ones in the house (two of those old windows are on display in my chicken coop), or if you’re a man who wonders about a girl who always has a stash of a few dozen 2x4s in the garage “because they might come in handy one day” then please take a step back. (In true Ciceronian fashion, I won’t even mention the elastrator in the veterinary go bag.) If worrying that a woman you’ve expressed interest in might show up with a pile of old windows and a stack of 2x4s (again, I pass over the elastrator) as part of her trousseau causes your man parts to wilt, then please don’t even bother applying for the job. LOL.
***And, yeah. In the event of a nuclear attack, I and those I love will be taking shelter in the chicken coop. Plumbest, levelest, and squarest building on the property. Not to mention the sturdiest.