This week’s entry in the How to Live Sustainably series: How to build a chicken coop in 157 easy steps. Note that everyone is different, and not every step might apply to your situation.
1.) Decide you want to keep chickens. Perhaps you want animals to provide you with companionship and entertainment until you get hungry. Perhaps you want to play tricks on animals that lack the wherewithal to be indignant, allowing you a certain freedom from guilt. Perhaps you want free protein for when the Eurozone collapses, oil prices skyrocket again, another Icelandic volcano erupts or the Zombie Apocalypse takes place.
2.) Decide what kind of chicken you want to have; there are docile and aggressive breeds, white and brown egg layers, and breeds that look like they stuck their beak in an electrical socket. Many of the more bizarre-looking breeds are purely for show, by people who enjoy that sort of thing. Others were bred for fighting, by people who apparently love the mess of chicken slaughter without having to bother with the inconvenience of eating fried chicken afterwards.
3.) Decide what kind of chicken run you need. Some people build a mobile run, basically a cage whose one end rests on the ground and whose other end rests on wheels, and which can be picked up and dragged. With a mobile run, you don’t need much space, for the chickens strip the small area and poop all over it in short order, but the next day you can roll their cage to a different patch of ground as the first patch recovers. The disadvantage, though, is that you need to move the run, and as it’s dark when I leave for work in the morning and dark when I get home, there’s no time to do so; I would kill myself wandering across the land in the dark even looking for a chicken run that didn’t keep moving around.
4.) Dig your trench. As we plan to have as many as six chickens, we want to have at least 50 square meters, so I had to dig a perimeter of 30 meters (5 x 10 x 2) half a metre deep to keep out foxes. Try to remember that there is now a giant trench on your property, and try to make sure no one sees you when you tumble to the ground. Remember: how you got all muddy is a long story, and no one can prove anything.
5.) Take scrap wood and begin hammering it together. Take careful measurements of all your wood, calculate the length and depth of each piece, and plan your coop accordingly, so that no piece of wood is wasted.
6.) Realise that much of the wood has rotted. Start over, but mixing scrap wood and lumber purchased from the hardware store, costing more than a year’s worth of eggs.
7.) Accidentally step on a nail and hop to the car on one foot to drive to the A&E, assuring your daughter that you are fine and no one can prove anything.
8.) Invite your mother-in-law, who knows some carpentry, to inspect your progress so far, and collect your dignity as she points and laughs at you.
9.) Start over.
10.) Bring your electric saw, electric drill and other power tools outside to piece the wood together into a workable coop, with hen boxes and door.
11.) Rush the tools inside as it starts to rain, frantically wiping them off so no water shorts out the electronics.
12.) Wait until it stops raining. Bring tools outside again.
13.) Feel the first drops of Irish weather again; frantically gather up the power tools and run inside.
14. - 155.) Repeat steps 10 – 14, putting the coop together a few pieces of wood at a time over a period of several months.
156.) When coop is done, ask a very nice friend to help you pull a fence of chicken wire around the run, and fill in the gap on either side of the fence with stones, thus discouraging foxes and getting rid of the boulders that have been our most prolific garden crop.
157.) Write a blog post asking if anyone has chickens they’d like to sell.