Let me just start out by saying this: all the animals on the farm are alive and well.
And, after 3 straight weekends of bleeding from the hands (thank you chicken wire) I now have a fully enclosed run (plus bonus room!) for the chickens to hang out in when I’m not around.
Well, almost fully enclosed.
I was feeling pretty good about how the run was coming along the last time I posted about it, and my mom was going to come up for an evening later in the week to help “finish it up.” (I was fully convinced at that point that I was just a few hours away from having the run complete because thirteen years of writing about my projects on this website has taught me nothing.)
Good news: There was wine!
Bad news: We did not get it done. (We did get the hardware cloth on the “roof” though, and that part would have been very difficult to do without my mom and the wine.)
But the weekend was just a few short days away, so I redoubled my efforts to keep the chickens from escaping the barn while I was at work (spoiler alert: none of them worked) and then spent another full-day working on the run on Saturday.
Building and hanging that door took so much patience and beer.
It was a long couple of days, but by the end of it, I had a fully enclosed run, complete with chicken jungle gym.
I built these platform steps instead of a typical chicken ramp, because most of my nugs refuse to use the ramps in the coop and just fly up and down from the roosts instead. Here’s a video of the chickens checking it out for the first time (and by “checking it out” I mean “would only deign to place one foot gingerly upon its surface”… because chickens.)
I also secured a few branches for natural roosts, and my mom added a few mirrors she thought the chickens would like. I was skeptical that they’d use them, and the next thing I know this guinea was totally checking herself out!
Mom’s are always right.
Anyway, the run itself was done, but even with the inside coop accessible (9×9), the 12×8 run still seemed too small for my nine chickens. So, fast-forward a week, I decided to build a bonus room for the coop to give them more access to grass (and another area to explore.)
I was leaving for a 3 day trip on Sunday afternoon so I was highly motivated to build the largest space possible, in the quickest/easiest way. I decided on a large rectangle 16′ long, 3′ tall, and 4′ wide (which meant fewer cuts on the hardware cloth.)
Here’s one of the side panels in progress. I stapled the hardware cloth to 4 2x4x8’s, then attached the cross braces. The 12″ overhang on the hardware cloth is to prevent anything digging under the run.
If I had to do this over again I would definitely use pocket screws to attach everything. This seemed faster at the time but was kind of a pain in the ass. (Not nearly as much of a pain as lying in donkey shit attempting to staple hardware cloth to the top of this though…)
Yeah, farm life is always this fun you guys.
My mom usually avoids the power tools around here, but I convinced her to use the pneumatic nailers while I was cutting boards this time…
And also go catch the chickens when the ran across the street.
Chicken-catching Level: Expert. (I love this pic.)
Back to the run though, I thought there was no possible way it would take me more than an afternoon to build this very large box with some hardware cloth attached to it.
After a full day of work Saturday, I got up bright and early Sunday to slap some temporary boards on the unfinished side of the “bonus room”, and create a tunnel between this section and the coop. It’s the most slapped up, hacked together thing I’ve ever done, but I only had 3 hours until I had to jump into my car and drive to Chicago.
My ego isn’t quite ready to show you what a hack job I did on those parts, so, in the meantime, check the whole thing out from a prettier angle.
The bonus room added another 64 square feet of space to the outdoor run, and the chickens were confined to the coop and run for 2.5 days without an issue.
I did hang a few apples and heads of cabbage to help keep them entertained though…
There’s still a lot of clean-up work to do on the run plus some landscaping to make it look pretty, and I’ve got one more fun addition planned at some point this spring (hint: chicken maze, anyone?) I really don’t like locking my free-range flock up, but for now I can leave for work or go out of town for a few days at a time without worrying that something will come by and get them, and that counts for something.
Plus the donkeys are thrilled because they think I spent all that time building them a new scratching post…
Don’t worry donks… I’ve got some fun things planned for you guys too. (Donkey maze, anyone?)