Perhaps we're taking this gardening thing too far, but – drum roll, please – we're gettin' chickens this week!!! For eggs, not dinner. I'm not up to wringing and waxing… yet.
But, baby-o-baby, I am all excited by the chicken idea. Even more than Hal and the boys, which is surprising. Guys like dirt and hammers whereas I like stores and traffic. I mean, I love the idea of farming: being outside in all that sunshine and fresh air, the smell of horses, barnyard sounds, eating fresh vegetables we grew in our garden. I don't even mind a passing whiff of manure. (Good thing since I live in Costa Rica, eh?) But I can't see actually living in the country. In fact, I'd like to live in Manhattan. That's not on the horizon at the moment, so backyard chickens will have to do. Don't question my logic. I've cut back on my hormones and questioning me can be harmful to your health. If backyard chickens float my boat, we're havin' us a couple.
The first thing, of course, is to construct a coop. Over the last few weeks, I have gently coaxed, prodded, begged and finally hounded Hal and the boys to get the coop started. I'm even less of a carpenter than a cowpoke and I needed help getting the box started. Just started. How hard could it be to help me build a basic box??? I mean, they said they wanted chickens, too. But whenever I mentioned getting started on the coop, "it was not a good day."
So I picked a good day: Friday. On Friday, I picked a good time: 3pm. I gave everyone an hour's notice, plus a 10 minute countdown. I think that was very generous and accommodating of me. Then, at the appointed time, when no one showed up in the garage to get started, I said in my biggest, most pleasant yet still firm mommy/wife voice, "IT'S TIME TO BUILD THE F%^#$%ING CHICKEN COOP! LET'S GET GOING."
You'd think I'd asked them to build me a Ford 9N from found materials. The whining, the glaring, the pouting. And that was just Hal! OK, just kidding. Hal was not too bad, just kinda grumpy. But the teenagers, OMG. I think they are pretty cool most of the time, but this coop thing turned them into snarling monsters. What the heck? Together, the three of them were just hideous.
I was determinedly cheerful the first 30 minutes, then I broke and started to cry. I know I'm a trained professional and all, but these were real (hormonal) tears… Whatever, it worked. They all felt bad about being such insufferable jerks, and actually got enthusiastic. By the time we were done for the day (two hours later), they were thinking of better ways to do everything and – gasp – having fun.
It's not just my family that goes through this routine, right?
That was Friday. We got half the coop done – all very satisfying! Since that was relatively painless, when we got back at it yesterday, we didn't have to go through the entire routine. Just a coupla glares, a skosh of whining, then we skipped right to the enthusiastic part.
Good thing we stopped at the halfway mark on Friday, though, because I discovered a few critical details about coop-building between Friday and yesterday.
First of all, the floor of the coop needs to be screened so I don't spend my life cleaning up chicken poop. Tears may get me a little carpentry help, but no amount of hysteria or threats will get anyone else cleaning up that mess. So I screened what was going to be the top and flipped it over making it the bottom. I thought of that all by myself.
Secondly, it needs to be off the ground, at least a half meter, not three or four inches like we had originally planned.
"Planned." What a concept. That's our comprehensive coop plan to the left.
So we added legs. Then a door. A roof so they don't roost on the top. Then I really went to town and painted it pink. It's going to house girl chickens, right?
We built the whole thing out of scrap materials. If you are gardening, farming and animal husbandry-ing to save money, you can't spend too much on the set up. Yeah, I'm thrifty, too. Who knew?
As in all real estate decisions, location is crucial. Particularly when there is poop involved, like with la jaula [ha-OO-lah, cage]. We wandered about the yard considering possible locations: protected from the elements and predators, yet easy
to get the eggs.
On our way to check out the backyard, we saw the perfect spot right outside the bars. There's an overhang, the chickens have access to the entire backyard so plenty of room to range. Plus there's that huge bougainvillea across from the coop that should provide
shelter from hawks. Besides an occasional kitty, I think a hawk is the most likely predator. I guess we'll see about that…
And I can easily cut in a backdoor to harvest the eggs. Oh – those boxes in there are from Pricesmart. Instead of bags, you get a box to carry out your groceries. We save them just in case… turns out, they are perfect for nesting boxes. And disposable… I like that!
The only things left to do are:
1. Figure out a way to prop up the door. I'm thinking bungie from the top. We have a zillion bungie cords around here somewhere. At night, I'll use the entrance log to hold the door closed. Although maybe I don't need to do that? Since I don't have a handy copy of Raising Chickens for Dummies, I'm piecing together the requirements for backyard chickens from a variety of sources. Today, I got the distinct impression that chickens like to sleep on the roost outside. Hmmm. What I don't know about chickens would fill an encyclopedia. If they made those anymore.
2. Add a roost which should be simple. I'm going to mount a 2' 1×4 between the coop and the bars so they can roost under the overhang. I'll add a chicken escalera using chicken fencing.
3. I need about 9' more chicken wire to put up along the inside of the bars so the chickens can't squeeze through into the garage.
4. Chicken feeders and feed.
Big thanks to a couple of buddies who sent me photos of their coops:
And a big thanks to BackyardChickens.com and the new yahoo group CRGardening for all the help and advice, too. There are surely going to be more questions from time to time! Apparently I'm the last expat to think of having chickens…
Who knows, maybe the next step is buying the farm. Er, a farm. I think even Zsa Zsa grew to like farm life.
*That's our old Ford 9N from the property in north Florida that we sold
to finance our extravagant lifestyle in Costa Rica. We named the tractor Nancy after my old mom, seen here ridin' high.
So, Sally, shall we dub you, “The Countess of Cackleberry Castle” or
“The Headmistress of Henfruit Haven?
It all sounds potentially fishy to me!
pssst it was eva not zsa zsa in the country
You know, I had that funny little feeling as I was typing Zsa Zsa… but I couldn’t even remember Eva’s name! Thank you.
Looks great! The coop looks so good I’ll bet Hal used a tape measure and square to build it. I’m sure the hens will love it.