Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5 things I learned while building a chicken coop

 This is the latest installment in my journey in having backyard chickens (for eggs and models for my chicken paintings)  You can read more about our 6 girls here and here.

1. Location, location, location.

Chickens are fun to have around the house, but they are a farm animal. After reading multiple accounts of how inconvenient it is to hoof through the snow to your coop, we thought we'd be super smart and place the coop where we could collect eggs without needing to step off the porch.

We wouldn’t even need to put on shoes! 

How brilliant! 

Mind you, our porch is a place where we spend many hours in the summer; reading the paper, enjoying an evening meal or cold drink, while admiring the birds and gardens. At the last minute we came to our senses and opted for a site halfway between the house and the back fence, well away from our porch.

Now that the hot summer sun is beating down on our little hen house, it is quite clear (in an olfactory way) that this was a wise decision.

2. It’s true what my 7th grade math teacher said: all those lessons in fractions and geometry will come in handy someday.

 Adding 32 9/16 + 21 7/8 never held as much importance as it does when you’re trying to make a square door. Nor did calculating the hypotenuse of a triangle with a 40 degree angle and a 22 ½ inch adjoining side when trying to make sure the rafters meet at the peak of the roof.

 3. Measure twice, cut once, but just cut already!

Chickens grow fast, so while it’s important to avoid carelessness, it is equally important to finish the damn coop!

When six tiny yellow and brown chicks came home in a container closely resembling a Happy Meal, the sense of urgency was minimal.

Just a few weeks later, six fully-feathered birds the size of our cats were trying to stretch their wings and actually fly within the confines of a plastic bin not large enough to hold our summer clothes. There’s nothing like witnessing the future tenants literally grow overnight to motivate a housing project.

 4. Minivans are better than pick-up trucks. 

Okay, so they’ll never be featured in country and western songs, or pictured alongside roughnecks and cowboys in car commercials, but our minivan can quite easily accommodate a 10 foot length of lumber and a stack of 4’ x 8’ sheets of plywood, with the rear door closed. This is a good feeling after driving compact cars for so many years, having to literally reach out the window and hold a stack of 2 x 4s as we nervously drove home from the lumber yard.

The minivan is the most practical vehicle ever created.

This means you may never look cool driving it, but you don’t have to worry about impaling the guy behind you.

 5. Chickens don’t take long to make a house a home. 

 I was so diligent about keeping the coop clean when it was going up, I caught myself removing my shoes once before climbing inside to install a small door.

Now I need a separate pair of shoes just to go into the coop to open that door.

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