Chickens! Chickens!

I mentioned a few blogs ago that one of our first baby steps toward living off the land will be learning to keep chickens. After we decided that, the housemates who are interested—me, Misty, Currant, and especially Peter, who’s gardened in spent a few days dreaming up what kind of chicken coop we could build this winter in our garage while the yard is frozen solid and covered in snow. And then, realizing that we needed some direction, Misty and I took the Twin Cities Coop Tour.

There’s a local urban-farming supply store called Egg|plant (it shows up admirably on the internet’s definitive map of punny business names, because they sell you supplies for your laying hens and your garden!), and they put together a big old list of people in the cities with chicken coops who would be willing to take a day to show some strangers what sorts of fun stuff they’ve done with their chicken setup. On that day in September, we biked down a few blocks to our south and found three different houses with chickens running around in their yards, and in each house one or two enthusiastic chickeneers who told us about how chickens are great. The second house, though, turned out to be the one we got the most from, because that’s where we met Nancie. Every inch of her backyard that wasn’t chicken coop was covered with garden of some kind, and she had beautiful butternut squashes tanning in the sun. Today, she was giving away her five chickens, because after about seven years, she’d decided to hang up her mucking rake and plant more garden where her coop was. The chickens were already spoken for (in fact, they were down to three when we got there), but it’s not as if we had a place for them yet. Misty, though, noticed that Nancie would soon have a surplus chicken coop that we just happened to have a place for….

Nancie thought it sounded like a fine idea for the coop to find a home with us, especially since we were offering to take it down for her. It was a big, sky blue beauty that had apparently housed fifteen chickens at once at some point; it was built by Nancie’s former housemate, who also started a chicken feed company, but then moved to New Zealand, as sometimes happens to people. A week or so after the Coop Tour, Misty, Peter, and I, plus a neighbor of Nancie’s and a surly but sturdy Norwegian stranger we’d hired, came back to Nancie’s house and took the whole works apart.

Peter and I start searching for the screws holding this thing together.

The chicken run came apart without too much effort, just a lot of unfastening staples from two-by-fours and gradually pulling beams and fence sections apart.

The coop itself, though, turned out to be considerably more daunting. For one thing, it was stuck pretty snugly underneath the eaves of Nancie’s garage. For another, it weighed about five hundred pounds and wasn’t built with thoughtfully placed handles and disassembly instructions.

First we raked out all the straw left over from the last tenants.

Check out the nest boxes in the back, and the heater on the roof, which Nancie included with our package deal.

Then we pulled up the floor looking for how to detach the coop from the platform it was on.

I still rep Ray Harris, even if Edward Prindle beat him for the title of jailer of Boone County, Kentucky, in 2002.

But it turned out that it was actually just resting on the platform, and gravity was doing all the work. We thought on this for a while. We tried lifting the coop, and determined conclusively that it was really damn heavy.

Eventually, we decided it wasn’t going to get less heavy, so we’d better just detach all the detachments we could find, and horse it out of there with whatever effort it took, because this was the only day that there was a pickup truck we could borrow. And that’s what we did. We were all too busy grunting, herniating, and panicking to get any pictures, but rest assured, they would be hilarious.

The coop landed on Erica’s brother’s truck safe and sound, and we limped the whole mess over eight blocks to our house, where we gracelessly plopped it down in our driveway, and there it remains, waiting for us to patch its roof and put its platform back together so we can fill it again with the sounds of clucking and fluttering. Our plan is to conscript a bunch of people to move it into place at our next big house party, and then get the fencing put in place around it. And when all that happens, I’ll show you.

File under: land skills, photos

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