Monday, June 11, 2012

Empty Nest

I had plans to show up here this morning and regal you with tales of a wonderful weekend. There was going to be another beautiful afternoon at the beach, a recap of a free Shakespeare play at Greenfield Lake, and delicious dinners cooked at home and eaten al fresco while enjoying the gorgeous evenings we've been having. Alas, none of that happened. We were too busy finally finishing the chicken coop, and you know what? It was worth it.

Alice likes her new home.

I feel a bit ashamed that it's taken us nearly a month to build this thing, but with Nathan's crazy work schedule and my limited abilities with power tools, we were only able to work on it for short spurts at a time. This weekend was sort of our now-or-never moment - the chicks had long ago outgrown their plastic bin, and were busy destroying our screened in porch. There is a reason people don't keep chickens in their homes. Everyone was ready for the girls to head out to their own space.

And speaking of their own space, here it is!

Our first chicken coop!

Front door.

Coop and inside area.

The coop is about five feet wide and eight feet long, and completely fenced in with chicken wire. It can comfortably fit about five chickens - right now, we've got four in there and they've handled the transition beautifully. We went with the A-frame style because it's a good use of our limited space, it's fairly easy for two people to pick up and move, it ensures that our chicks are protected from predators (owls, hawks, stray dogs, and neighborhood cats), and it looks nice. Aesthetics are important when it comes to chicken coops - not just because I like pretty things, but because a good looking coop can go a long way with wary neighbors who may not appreciate your suburban farm.

Inside the coop.

To get inside the coop, we just lift one side and prop it up with a branch (Nathan made a pocket for the branch to sit in, so it won't come crashing down on our heads). We (and by we, I mean he) built three nesting boxes. Right now they're sitting on the ground so the chickens will get used to them, but as they get closer to egg laying time, we'll raise them up about a foot, which will keep the chickens from playing in them and possibly crushing the eggs. (Chickens are not widely known for their maternal instincts.) We still need to add a roost, but seeing as the chickens haven't gotten brave enough to actually go in the shelter, we have a little time. (They'll walk up the ramp and peek in, but that's it.)

Chicken yard.

Outside, the chickens have a big area to run in and play in and peck at the ground. Half of it is in the sun, and half is shaded by the shelter. Right now I have their food and water elevated on bricks, which seems to be working fine. We also have a stump in there, which you can sort of see in the above photo. They've been taking turns roosting on it - once, I caught all four of them crammed on there at the same time. Silly chickens.

Oh, and see all that white trim on the outside? In addition to making our coop look nicer, it also covers up all the cut edges of chicken wire, so no one (human or chicken) will get poked or scratched. I would go so far as to say it kills two birds with one stone, but considering our present company, I shall refrain.

And that's basically the coop! We're happy with how it turns out and, more important, the chickens seem to approve. And I have to say - even though I'm glad they're in their own space, and I can once again sit on a porch free of chicken poop, I kind of miss the girls. They seem so far away and I worry about them constantly - that they're lonely, or scared, or that an animal will find some way to break in and eat them when I'm not looking. My friend Kealy tells me that I'll get over that feeling, and I hope she's right. She usually is.

Breakfast of champions.

In the meantime, we had breakfast in the garden, next to the coop, so we could watch the chicks explore their new digs. Peanut butter and banana on whole wheat toast and mimosas to celebrate the finished coop and our first semi-successful attempt at working the bees (more about that adventure later).

Neighborhood blooms - shhh!

As for today, I am leaving the yard and garden behind in favor of some quality time with my desk. I need to read and comment on two stories for our summer workshop, write 1,000 or so words of my faux-novel, and submit a story to a literary journal (I got an encouraging rejection last week, which was actually very motivating). After a weekend of manual labor, I'm looking forward to exercising my brain. Balance, y'all. Hope your week is off to a good start as well!