I have wanted chickens for a few years now. Mostly because I like the idea of supplying my own food. I realised that with a little hard work, I can supply enough fruit, vegetables, eggs, mushrooms, etc to feed my family for at least a couple of months each year! Awesome! To me that means, organic food (healthier for us and the environment), zero food miles (no trucks delivering the food) and a great sense of achievement!
So, I needed somewhere to keep the chooks. With ample space so they could scratch around happily, but without being able to destroy my all-important vege gardens when I'm not home.
My predicament was the contradiction of wanting chickens so I could have lovely, fresh, organic eggs, but having to buy a whole heap of timber, chicken wire, roofing materials etc instead. Recycled and second-hand materials it would have to be.
The solution came in the form of the disastrous Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. My friend Paul's uncle lost his home in the forest to the fires and very nearly his life. One year later the government imposed regulations stating that he would have to clear "X" amount of space around the planned site if he wanted to rebuild. This was to help protect homes against future fires.
Paul and I spent several weekends helping clear the dead gum trees and bushfire regrowth. We estimated there was enough timber to build several houses so decided we should use some to build my chook pen. His uncle was happy to help and see the timber go to a better use than firewood for his neighbours. Another couple of weekends were spent selecting the timber we needed and cutting it roughly to length for the design I had in mind. We were very excited about reclaiming this timber which was otherwise going to waste.
Free, ethical timber! The bark stripping station. This is also where the pen will be located.
A major task I had not considered was removing the bark from the timber. This was back breaking work and took me about two weeks. The reward was the stack of beautiful clean timber once I had finished.
My beautiful timber stack. The posts with their burnt butts.
To keep the posts from rotting in the ground, we scorched the ends of each post in a fire. The idea being that burnt wood rots much slower than un-burnt. After this we oiled the lower parts of the posts, thinking that this would help as well. No cement was used in the post holes. We simply added gravel to the clay soil and pounded it with another length of timber.
Top-plates and rafters on. Getting there. You can see the difference between oiled and plain timber here.
Another consideration was the use of paint to preserve the timber. We decided to use vegetable oil instead. This would mean oiling the frame regularly (probably quarterly) but also no toxic chemicals or fumes. An added bonus is the beautiful colors that come out when the timber is oiled!
The "people door" with homemade hinges. The Silver Birch creates lots of shade in the Summer.
Taking time with each joint to make sure they fit tightly was important. Since the timber was still drying, we knew if the joints weren't done properly, the timber would twist and split. The main door was a piece of pride. I was so happy when I found that it swung perfectly first time.
It is worth mentioning that working with timber "in the round" like this (the timber has not been milled, so the edges are not straight or square) is very different to using milled timber. Leave the spirit-level and set-square in the tool box as they are next to useless!! It is
From start to finish the project took about 6 months. I collected bits and pieces as I went, often having to stop work until I found just the right recycled material. Some of the things I used, how I acquired them, and costs are listed below.
Timber - from bushfire area/decking found on side of road/old fence palings from Paul's friend $0.
Chicken wire - side of road/2nd hand from my Dad/had to buy some $70.
Corrugated Iron roofing - picked up from recycling centre $15.
Screws/nails - left-overs from construction sites/had to buy some $30.
Hinges/latches - custom made from scrap steel $0.
Vegetable oil (about 10L) - had to buy it. $35.
stay tuned for more....