Monthly Archives: June 2015

Hitches in the chicken-pen process

The new chicken pen has hit its first hitches:

1.

I bought 5 posts of treated pine the other day to use in the pen (I’ll stand them in the ground as posts then attach non-treated pine to them above-ground). And I nearly bought 5 more yesterday, but ran out of time to get to the shop. This morning, belatedly, I thought I’d better check something: the posts are bright blue, which I hadn’t expected; they look weird on the ground. And – you’ve probably guessed it – turns out I bought the wrong sort of “treated”. The ones I’ve got are intended for use in dry surroundings to prevent termite attack! Termites aren’t even a problem out there, or not that I know of. All I needed was timber that won’t rot in the ground. I should have checked with the man at the shop before buying them but he was already writing out the docket (for me to take to the checkout) before I realised what he was doing. He asked how many I had, wrote that down, gave me the docket, and headed off on an apparently more important mission.

I’m kicking myself about this because the damn posts were more than twice the price of plain pine, so I’ve wasted about $20 on nothing. And now I have to find the right treated pine, or…  I don’t know. Would it be better to paint plain timber posts? Which is cheaper? And what do I do with 5 bright blue posts now?

The other problem:

2.

As soon as I’d laid out the posts on the ground yesterday in the shape of the pen I could see it will need to be bigger. I’m hoping to buy 4 hens, so with W too that would make 5 chickens in total, and the pen I’d been planning would be 2.4 metres by 4.8 metres, meaning that it would really only be the size that W currently has in the Weldmesh day pen multiplied by five, which is too small. (I’m hoping to be able to leave the chickens in the pen for days at a time so I don’t have to go out there every day.) I should have seen the problem just from the measurements, but didn’t understand it until I looked at the shapes on the ground with W walking through them.

Dammit.

New chicken expenses: 1

Part of the reason I didn’t do any blog posts last year is that I’m embarrassed about taking so long to finish the chicken house I was trying to make – a delay which means my pet chicken is still living solo. Internet poultry experts would say that’s bad for him: they say chickens need a flock.

Today I bought some new timber posts, because I’m starting the chicken house again – again. I couldn’t get the other version to work, and it had been through about four different versions on the way here.

In the beginning, several centuries ago, I was trying to make moveable pens. I still use one of the Weldmesh tunnel things as a day pen for W, but it’s not safe enough for nights. (Our predators: foxes; wild dogs; eagles; hawks; pythons; brown snakes; black snakes; goannas; and I even saw some rats running around in the coffee trees late the other afternoon too, so who knows: they might have a go.)

I tried making timber-framed cubes that would link together (in the manner of train carriages), but after about six months or something I still couldn’t make them work.

After that I started to despair, so I bought a flat-pack coop from a hardware store, knowing (from reading internet forums) that it would be flimsy and small, but thinking I could reinforce and modify it – which I was thinking would be quicker than trying to make something from scratch.

And in fact the flat-pack coop had been built pretty well, I thought, if it was intended to sit in only one place. Its flimsiness came from all the panels being held together by screws: if you move it often enough the screws will break out. I tried to make the roosting area bigger and the walls stronger, but couldn’t find timber small enough to fit well. The frames in the flat-pack coop are 35mm x 25mm (if I remember correctly), but the smallest timber I could find to add to it was 45mm x 35mm (being pine battens or purlins).

With the clunky bigger timber bits I tried a few different things – reconfiguring the panels, adding cladding, adding a new underfloor area, making a new door –  and even went as far as painting the whole thing several times (with undercoat and top coat, at ridiculous expense, and I mean I even filled in all holes and sanded the thing down first). But I couldn’t see how to add a run outside it so that the whole thing could move as one unit. After all my tinkering just the house on its own had become almost too heavy to move. And finally, when I tried moving it one too many times, it broke.

I couldn’t face trying to modify it in any other way, so I took it apart and tried to use the timber to make something new. And that’s where we are at the moment: I managed to make a little house which is sturdy and okay, but there’s still no run to go with it. And I can’t find a way to add another little house and run onto the side of it for W (he can’t live in the same house as the future hens because he might jump on them all the time – I don’t know how he’s going to treat them).

And sometime in the last few months I had to move everything from one paddock to another one, because the first one had all its coffee trees trimmed down to about 1.5 metres high, and it’s no longer suitable for running chickens in.

The site for the chicken pen in the new paddock is sloping and narrow, and I’ve had to rethink the whole thing. For various reasons a mobile pen won’t work as well now, even if I could find a way to build one that worked. And I’m sick of trying to make something that I can take apart again later when I move – it’s too hard to do everything in panels.

So, in the last day or two I’ve decided to build a permanent house and run, or as permanent as it can be considering it’s on someone else’s land. How I will move the thing when it’s time to leave is anybody’s guess. It’s a worry, but less worrying than trying to stuff around any further trying to invent something new. More worrying is money. I don’t know how I’m going to find enough to pay for this.

Anyway, one day at a time, and today I bought 5 bits of timber I’ll use for posts. I could only fit 5 in the car, stretching from under the glovebox, through the gap between the two front seats, and over the flattened back seat to the back hatch door. I’ll need to buy more later.

I’m hoping to draw up some building plans this time, not just work things out while I’m staring at timber stacked on the ground.

Anyway, fingers crossed. My poor chicken has already waited far too long for companions, so I really need to make this work.

NEW HOUSING EXPENSES

From Medium Town’s hardware store:

– treated pine 70 x 35mm, 2.4m long, 5 @ $6.96: $34.80

– treated pine screws: $11.30

– galvanised nails: $9.90

I also bought a new hand saw because the old one is so blunt it makes me give up and weep.

New Housing total: $56.00