Sunday, June 30, 2013

Completion, Yes ... Perfection, No ...

My PVC quonset chicken coop was poorly thought out, badly designed and inexpertly constructed. There are about a dozen things I should have done differently, and will do differently next time.

It is, however, done.

The chickens are in it. They seem pleased with it, more or less (they wandered in on their own while free ranging -- their old coop was coming apart to provide materials for the last little bit of the new one; when it started getting dark they freaked out a little to find the "gate" (one section of wire/fence attached with removable clips) shut behind them, presumably thinking they needed to get out of there and head "home;" but as of a few minutes ago they were roosting comfortably, and calmly enough that Liam was able to walk right up and pet them).

As construction immediately started to go weird (a PVC connector broke in place and I had to do crazy stuff with rope to force that segment to hold something resembling the hoop shape) I reduced it from 10' x 20' to 10' x 15'. So 150 square feet, 50 square feet and one and of which are covered in tarp, the other 100 square feet open to the sky, done in two types of fence/wire (plastic "garden fence" with 1" holes along the bottom, the top done in 2" chicken wire I robbed from the old enclosure). Maybe 8 feet tall at the center.

It is lopsided and warped in all kinds of bizarre ways. The PVC is held together with PVC glue (and in that one case, rope); the tarps and fence/wire are attached to the frame with ~264 zip ties (and in the case of the tarps, a little rope). Rope guy lines at each ends, and some rope and tent pins at various points (with more coming) to anchor it to the ground. It looks sketchy.

Still, during construction it weathered several significant thunderstorms without flying apart or flying away, and now that it's complete I think it is better set for that kind of thing. I'll add a pic or two to this post later -- it was getting too dark to take them when I deemed it really finished.

Predators are a concern -- instead of right up against the house, this one is about 30 feet out back. But I guess we'll see. The only invader we've seen so far was a juvenile possum who managed to get into the old enclosure (probably after the chicken feed, not the chickens) and was already trying desperately to get out of there by the time the cacophany brought us humans to the scene. But some nearby neighbors have lost several hens to a fox or coyote or something.

Next, nesting boxes and "layer" feed -- and in a hurry. While tearing the old enclosure apart, I discovered the very first egg. Liam, as primary author of this whole chicken fiasco, had it as a one-egg cheese omelet. Got a pic of him with the egg, I'll put that here as well once I get it off the camera and onto the computer.


So there it is -- you can see that it is severely warped at the third hoop.

The five near-adult hens are in the foreground. In the very rear left corner, the new chicks (six weeks old?) are huddled. They do get around some, but they go huddle when the adults notice them and peck them. They were easily able to get out of the old enclosure, and spent the last week or so wandering fairly free and sleeping under the porch.

Also at the rear of the enclosure: An old dresser drawer that I set the feeder and water tank on so that the hens don't throw quite so much stuff into them and get the water dirty, etc.; and a large bird cage that was the chicks' brooder box and that I have set up as something of a refuge for them (they are small enough to get in, the big girls aren't).

Then, about midway, an old broken chair that was in the shed when we moved in here, supporting one end of a tree limb. the other end rests on that dresser drawer, and all of the birds roost on it at one time or another, although the adults decided to sleep on top of the bird cage last night. I'll get a more sophisticated roosting pole setup done soon, along with the nesting boxes.

Everyone seems reasonably happy with the thing. Not that I'm an expert on chicken pleasure, but they aren't complaining, don't seem to be looking very hard for ways out, etc.

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