So Wednesday was my birthday, cold and cloudy here in central Maryland. My wife was supposed to get back from church quickly, but something delayed her. By 9:30 A.M. I was getting a little impatient, since I had to leave to teach classes by 11. When she finally got home, I didn't even let her take off her coat: it was right back out the door, and we set out for the turf center.
We'd been talking about getting chickens for months, but had been delayed by extended family issues and cold weather. I figured they'd be good for our ten year old son (#6!), who needs to learn how to take care of things and get outside a little more. I knew if I let my birthday go by, the delays would just continue. So out we went, into the rain.
The turf center is like a local feed store. They were having "chick days," but when we arrived they only had one kind, of the four advertised. The sweet girl behind the counter promised they'd be getting more in "tomorrow." I needed chickens today, though, so I bought three buff orpingtons. Six days old. We bought food and feeders and a heat lamp and grit. She had two orpington chicks left over, and they looked a little lost all alone in that big holding pen. She offered them to us for free. "Why not?" I said, figuring we'd likely lose a few along the way.
Got them home, and I had all of ten minutes to get them set up. Plastic storage bin, pine shavings in the bottom, food, water, grit, heat lamp, and I ran off to work. I wasn't there when #6 son got home from school, but I'm told he was pretty excited. They made it through the evening.
Next morning, it was back to the turf center. We got three Auracanas, and the pretty girl gave us an extra. We got three black australorps. I wanted three Rhode Island reds, but they were all spoken for. Oh well, we were up to twelve, and really shouldn't have more than eight. Not worried, I figure we'll lose a few. I posted a picture on facebook:
Next day, It was time to make a brooder. The plastic bin wouldn't cut it for long. So I went out into the wood shop, and started looking for plywood scraps. Found enough to make a box 24" by 48", with 18" sides. #1 son helped me carry it into the house. We set it up on a desk in the kitchen. That should hold them for a week or two. Got everything set up, and gave them a little yogurt in a dish as a treat. They made a mess of it, running right through it. But some got on the walls, little specks. They pecked and pecked at those little specks, they thought it was the best thing ever! Then one of them noticed she had a little on her feet. "Oh my goodness, my feet are delicious!" When she was done cleaning them off, she ran back through the yogurt again. Completely by accident, I'm sure!
Saturday, we went to the home depot, to buy materials. #3 son went with me, to help load. For my birthday, he bought the wire for the coop: 250' of welded wire, and 50' of poultry netting. My mother had sent me some cash for my birthday, and that's what I used to buy the lumber. It was snowing when we came out: here's #3 son pushing the cart:
Loaded the wire first, and then the wood. My little pickup was groaning and complaining, but we made it home. Took a while to unload, and then another while to haul everything down the slope. Then the snow came back, and that was it for the day.
On Sunday, I had the bright idea to prime the OSB before I started building. Figured it'd be easier. Scrounged through the shop for all the Kilz I could find. Found two gallons. Here's the OSB laid out and ready:
Seven four by 8 sheets. I'd never used it before. That stuff REALLY soaks up paint. Used a whole gallon on the first sides, turned it over, and used the other gallon. It didn't flake or delaminate like I was worried it might, but I was losing confidence in the four year old kilz. So it was back to the depot, to find "oops paint." Found a gallon of porch and floor paint, and went over the 'inside' faces again. By then, I'd done over a thousand square feet of painting, and the sun was going down.
As soon as it warmed up on Monday, I started hauling tools. Yeah for Spring Break, I have all day to work on the coop! Sliding compound mitre saw on wheels, and I improvised a work bench using some old metal shelves and a piece of the OSB. Here it is, ready to be a job site:
And here's the building site itself:
You can't see it, but I'm standing next to a 30' river birch. To the right, there's a pretty steep slope up to the house. Drainage is terrible, as you can see from the half dug pond holding water. So many problems with this site, but it has to be inside the fence, and it has to keep to the county's set back rules. There's nothing for it: here's where it's going.
I started digging, and on the very first shovelful hit a root. A monster root. Tried to dig out an eight foot line, just to get the foundation level. Roots everywhere. I had a sharpened maul I use for wood-splitting, and I went to work on those roots. Took over an hour to do the eight feet. My back was feeling it! A couple time I resorted to a sawzall. Say goodbye to that blade! But it was worth it. I'm not sure my back could have taken many more swings.
Started cutting the 2x4s, and quickly realized I'd need more than the twenty I'd bought. Oh well. By that time, #6 son was home from school. He likes to work with me, holding boards and handing me screws. I've got a wrap around fencepost level, and
he carefully checked each upright and held them steady while I drilled and sent the screws home. He was holding the last upright when I slipped and sent the hammer drill right into my hand. Ouch! Blood everywhere! But I had two more screws to set, so I kept going while he shouted towards the house for help. I have to hand it to him: he kept checking the levels even while he was shouting "Mom! Dad's bleeding all over the place!"
Once I was patched up, I kept going until it was almost dark. Here's how far I got:
It's starting to look like it's going to be something. My wife wants it red and white, like a Vermont barn. And she wants a peaked roof. Never done one of those before. Going out now to try to figure it out.