A broody hen, 20 fast growing chicks, and storms forecast for the weekend were great motivation to get the new coop run laid out and installed this week.
I appreciated the feedback I got from my roommate’s brother as we walked the land last weekend – he and his wife were in town for a art show and popped over after a lovely breakfast. He confirmed my thought that it would be easy to expand the run later and wise to stick with a simple square to start. March is filled with planting tasks so this would help me keep things manageable.
First up was installing ventilation in the shed. I used the reciprocating saw to cut the metal sheeting in 3 places, creating rectangles. Machine screws (the flat end ones) hold the hardware cloth screen in place; the varied lengths will allow me to hang bunches of herbs inside the coop. The rectangles were by no means square – and the edges quite sharp – so I covered/outlined the exterior with duct tape. I left the hardware cloth long in case I find a need for more ventilation after the birds come home. I also rehung the doors so they latched inside and covered exposed areas with more hardware cloth to prevent intrusion by critters.
Next came the tough work. The run space used to be used for trash burning so there was a deep ash base – below which is clay filled soil. I dug a trench about a foot deep to bury the chicken wire fencing and installed metal fence poles salvaged from the field. I used metal poles for the corners and the side parallel to the shed, but opted to use downed trees as interior support. It saved money on posts, naturally, but mostly I just like the look of the tree posts down the center. They are solid, the varying heights add interest, and the chickens will enjoy pecking at the wood (and the bugs that live in them!). They are buried about a foot deep and project through the fencing.
Once I had the lower level of fencing installed I started working on the roof. The plastic-covered wire fencing was salvaged from a former neighbor, and there was just enough to cover the entire roof (joy!). I removed the screws from the roof and pulled the wire through to the coop interior to hold it in place. Wires were bent inside to secure the panels and foam-fill helped also – I’ll tighten up the edge in coming days. Zip ties connect each fence panel and secure the panels to fence posts.
Next came the back fence line. This side is also salvaged fence, this time from my old home. I love these panels for ease of installation and they also make gate creation pretty easy. Laying it out was pretty challenging, as I had 5 panels of varying lengths. One I sorted out where I wanted the gate things came together quickly. The chicken wire is installed on the interior and will be cutaway from the gate when its time to use.
Finishing the coop-side corners will be tricky and I was running out of daylight, so I opted to get the upper layer of chicken wire installed. Thank goodness the roommate was home – we made quick work of stretching the fencing and zip tying it into place. The back line is a steeper angle than the front and will take a bit of patching to connect the layers, but I have plenty of chicken wire left yet.
With night approaching and the knowledge that up to 2″ of snow were coming the next day, I hurried to finish a couple more tasks. I broke up the ground and leveled it out before spreading grass seed. I foam filled the roof lines and the dented/gaping portions of the roof panels.
My body may be aching today, but my heart is smiling with joy – snow is indeed falling on that freshly scattered seed, setting it into place and serving to water when it melts. I’ll also be able to check for water tightness of the shelter before the hens move into the space in just a couple weeks. I’m so proud of how this project has come together and cannot wait to see it filled with happy birds.