What I Did Last Summer

Chicken walking

My friend, named Bertha

My wife told me I could get chickens. She did this hoping I would be distracted from my desire to get a Labrador retriever. I was distracted.

As soon as school was over in May, my beautiful wife was urging me to build my coop. I kept saying, “Lady, please… our chicken permit won’t be okayed ‘til the middle of June. How long do you think building a coop is going to take me?” She guessed it would take a long time.  And it took me all summer! I worked on that stupid structure six days a week for three months. Sure, some days my work was limited by the number of screaming children in my arms, but I still worked every day.

Why did it take so long?

I tried to make most of the coop from found materials. Climbing into dumpsters to retrieve 2x4s takes much longer than pulling them from a stack at Menards. Going to the hardware store and buying chicken wire is quicker than sitting around trying to craft the perfect Craigslist ad asking for donations.

The construction took a long time because I did not know what I was doing. I would still be out there scratching my chin, if my carpenter neighbor, Jared, had not been home from work with a broken arm. When Jared would see me looking bewildered in the backyard, he would come over and start giving direction. He was the brains of the project (and sometimes the brawn too).

Another reason coop building took so long was because of my artistic dreams for the exterior. I wanted a green roof. Jared said, “You can do a green roof… or I could put shingles on it in about 30 minutes.” I went with the green roof. I searched and searched and found a free, huge piece of rubber from a guy working on a school reroofing project. Then, all I needed was a lot of time to implement the rubber trough, spread the dirt, figure out drainage and do the planting.

Back view of chicken coop showing green roof

The time-consuming green roof looking a little sparse... but still green

Instead of using intelligent, low maintenance siding, I wanted to use weathered (free cast off) lumber. I found a man with a demolished barn. He gave me as many rough-sawn, warped, cracked and splitting, 100-year-old, oak floorboards as I could fit in my van. I took each ratty piece of wood, lovingly searched for a usable portion and carefully ripped parallel edges on the table saw. I screwed each board onto the coop and then went searching through the stack for another piece long enough to use.

Really rough boards

Candidates in the siding project. Boards long enough and not too warped and cracked earned a spot on the side of the coop.

The siding up on the coop

The result of hours of searching, ripping and hanging, the siding is up on the coop.

In early August, I had the green roof done, the dumpster-found windows hung, the door hung, and all the walls insulated and sided. My beautiful wife announced that we would get chickens in one week. I went into high gear and attached a chicken run to the side of the hen house (slowly and carefully and thoughtfully). I worked up until the minute we got into the van to go to the farm to pick up chickens.

The door latch

The very last bit of work before getting into the van to pick up chickens was to fashion a latch for the hen house door.

So that is what I did last summer. No time to read books, learn new software or get smarter. And what do I have to show for my trouble? Sort of a neat little structure and five, stupid birds who don’t care if I live or die as long as I bring the food bucket in the morning.

Front view of chicken coop

The finished product complete with residents mingling in the courtyard.

nest boxes with curtains

Nesting boxes with curtains (sewn by Mrs. Hale) to give the ladies some privacy when they need, ya know, some time alone.

two chickens

Some of the residents at the Edward Hale Chicken Resort.

Farmer feeding chickens

The proud farmer spending some quality time with the ladies.

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