26 July 2018

Chicken Run Run Run

Three sections means it's a chicken run run run.
One of the first things we had to take care of when we moved was building a chicken coop. Though there are plenty of outbuildings on our property, none were predator proof enough to keep them safe during those long nights where raccoons, owls, skunks, feral cats, and Sasquatch (for all I know) are out looking for a meal. The last thing we need is another fox in the hen house.
Feeding the chickens some greens.
So, we put together a nice, sturdy chicken coop and a run that they could safely get some fresh air. Though I do let them out on occasion to free range, there are a few problems with that arrangement. For one, they immediately run to the driveway and back porch to poop all over it. That's a no-go, especially with toddlers. Another problem is that while we have a fantastic forest that's all kinds of fun, it also caught the fancy of a pair of nesting red-tailed hawks. Know what they're also called? Chicken hawks. Know why? Because they eat chickens. More than once, I'd look out the kitchen window to see the hawks circling overhead or if they were feeling particularly daring, sitting in a tree twenty feet away, staring at the chickens.
So, to keep the chickens safe and our walkway poop-free, I decided to build a longer run to give them more space to run. I checked my stash of lumber and figured we had enough to triple the length the chickens are able to wander.
I started before we went to Portugal but ran out of time. Then, days before we were to leave for Nebraska, I challenged myself to finish what I'd started. Because I'm a glutton for punishment.
Once I figured out how to copy the design Jack had already made, it didn't take terribly long to make the frame, which then had to be wrapped with hardware cloth. Chicken run building tip: don't use chicken wire, which is made for keeping chickens out, not for keeping predators out. I'm pretty sure Henry could gnaw through chicken wire if he wanted to.
With the top, sides, and bottom covered with painfully-difficult-to-work-with hardware cloth (at least I assume it'd be a pain for predators to get through), we had to secure all the pieces together. Easier said than done, of course. Thankfully, Jack's marvelous engineering brain is capable of coming up with all kinds of solutions on the fly. When we couldn't get them cinched tightly together, he asked for the tow straps and got everything pulled together nice and tight.
Seems to hold Henry alright.
Every time I work on a project, I have to give my children a hearty compliment for their patience and helpfulness. It really is amazing what they'll do for one lousy popsicle, including hauling wood, fetching tools, babysitting Zoey, holding wire in place, etc. Plus, they're really good at letting me know that I'm losing my temper too easily and that it's probably time to call it quits.
Sneaking around the back, baby?
As usual, the whole project was a lot more work than I originally anticipated but that is yet another lesson I'm still trying to learn with little success. I literally was on top of the chicken run the morning we were leaving to go to Nebraska, stapling on one final section of hardware cloth and fixing a section where I had measured and assembled differently than Jack (don't anyone tell me men and women brains don't think differently. Still convinced my way of doing it was easier, heehee). By the time I was done, I was exhausted and crabby, the kids were so over being hot and bored, and we still had a ten-hour drive through five states to make.

Desperately having to finish stuff is also an occasional weakness of mine.
But, in the end, I'm super pleased with how it turned out and glad that the chickens have more space to wander, even if they don't get to roam freely (yet...working on an idea to make it happen). Now, with three sections, the flock all seem to enjoy their chicken run run run!
Dinner scraps? Doesn't take much to make chickens happy!

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