Dismantling the Old Coop Run

I live in the woods, surrounded by giants. I always guessed that the oaks were about a hundred feet tall, which is deemed “somewhat tall” by tree standards. A hundred feet is in fact the average height for a mature white oak. Watch them sway in a strong windstorm and somehow they feel even taller. Mixed in with the oaks are beautiful beech trees, some also gigantic in my estimation, and cedars with their beautiful purplish wood.  As happens in the real world, the strong crowd out the weak, blocking the sun, hogging the nutrients, leaving the struggling underlings often spindly or dead. One can ponder the parallels to our human existence while at the same time noting Hey, that dead cedar would make a good pole!

Thus the poles for the project were acquired, trimmed, propped up off the ground, and left waiting for their new useful purpose. If a tree could have preferences, I like to think it would rather be a pole for a chicken run than left to rot on the forest floor.

While in this early stage, I could not help but notice (and begin to accept the implications of the fact) that the project necessarily involved replacing the old coop’s run with a new run. This is the coop four years ago before the chicken wire became brittle and predators got in and we had to cover the lower half with lattice to protect the birds. Bradley and Lincoln had used oak they milled from trees on the property to build it, and I loved every aspect of it, but time and weather and bugs do their thing.

That’s Rise toddling toward it, seems like ages ago.

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When you are going to build something, you have to ask yourself: How big do you want it? After some experience in these matters, you know that there are two questions you don’t want to ask yourself when it’s done: 1. Why didn’t I make it bigger? and 2. What was I thinking!? So I took some logs and 2x4s and roughly laid out the dimensions of the new coop and runs.

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My ambitions were kept in check (thankfully) by the fact that the new run – to be attached to the old coop, to be attached to another new run and the new coop — is adjacent to the forest with its giant unmovable trees that defined the space. I am grateful that some decisions are not up to me.

So that we have our terms straight, the coop is the wooden building that houses the chickens at night and where they go to lay their eggs. This assumes the chickens are smart enough to go inside at night, which is debatable sometimes. In any case the run is the area that extends from the building, a partly sheltered enclosure that gives the birds space to move around in the fresh air, scratch for bugs, dust themselves, look busy. The run has to be enemy-proof, i.e. fox-proof, hawk-proof, raccoon-proof, owl-proof, coyote-proof, even nasty-neighbor’s-dog-proof. A run is essentially poles surrounded by wire fencing, but predators also have claws so you have to dig a trench and sink the wire into the ground so they can’t tunnel underneath. We’ll come back to that fun part.

By the way, if you have not seen a chicken dust herself, come visit sometime. It’s part of the entertainment here.

The poles and the layout were as far as we had gotten by the time we got the chicks in March. Remember how cute they were? (Your decision if I mean the little chicks or the little girls!)

So the old coop would remain but the old run with its sheltering roof had to be entirely dismantled. The supports were badly rotted, though I did not know the extent of the rot till later, so I climbed up there and, with a great deal of encouragement, got familiar with this tool and unscrewed the metal roofing.

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Roofs that sit under a forest canopy get dirtier than you think. Seven years of leaves and sticks falling on it, plus some decomposition, growth of moss, etc. make it not so pretty. I have to say I quite enjoyed this task though because in no time at all…

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…look how shiny! Metal roofing is amazing! It was like brand new after its scrubdown and rinse.

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In the meantime Sandy was taking the old framework down.

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It’s probably good I didn’t know how rotted these boards were when I was up on top. But down they came. Good call to replace them, wouldn’t you say? Surprisingly, some of them came in handy later.

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The documentation of this project makes me realize how involved it was. Once the old run was gone, we had hardly begun!

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