So last week we finally got around to building the new chicken run. We really should have done it sooner, but it’s so easy to put off jobs you know will be a bit of a faff, and probably take ages.
We are expert procrastinators if the sun is shining and we could be enjoying what might be the last day of summer (in Britain you just never know when it will end and simply must make the most of every warm day).
But how long does it really take to build a chicken coop? For us, in all honestly it took longer to decide where to build it than to actually do the work itself. Honestly, we spent weeks discussing the merits and potential problems of every spot on our small plot.
Time to Get On With It!
In the end the ideal spot was obvious. MrDB placed the hen house in our designated new chicken area and we both knew it was wrong and that the perfect site was a neglected corner that served no useful purpose. The only problem with our new chosen site is the abundance of trees, including dead conifers. Potential pruning and tree felling would make building the hen compound take even longer surely.
Well, perhaps. But we had vastly over-estimated the time it takes to build a run. In reality a full days work is all that was required (though of course this was split over a few days to ensure we really did make the most of the sunny weather!).
A little time clearing the area was followed by some serious sledge-hammering of posts into the ground (the toughest bit of the job which I expertly avoided with some well-timed lawn mowing). Next it was onto the worst task of all; encasing the run in chicken wire. Chicken wire, as anyone who has ever used it will concur, is the work of the devil. And the very worst chicken wire, is recycled wire that has been rewound into a roll of evil sharp tangled wirey-ness. Sadly we had to deal with both old and pristine versions of this evil but practical material.
Still with two pairs of hands it doesn’t take that long to attach the wire around the run. It does of course take a little longer to bury a skirt of wire around the outside of the compound to deter any predators which will otherwise try to dig their way in. It’s well worth it though, and if funds permit using galvanised mesh (hardware cloth for the non Brits) would be much more secure.
We were lucky enough to have an old hen-house left in the garden by the previous owners. It’s not as large as we would like, but for three hens purely for eggs it’s fine. Best of all it does include a small run that is walled in galvanised, fox-proof mesh. With the “girls” locked in from dusk till morning (definitely not dawn) they should be safe from predators.
Keeping hens is not very time consuming at all. Give yourself an hour for a good scrub down of the coop and clearing of the compound once a week. Daily you’re looking at only minutes to let them in and out (only necessary if you don’t have completely predator proof run), water, feed and hopefully collect some eggs.
Add in a day initially sorting out a chicken coop and compound and most of us should be able to find time to home some happy egg laying hens. Of course it’s quickest if you’re lucky enough to get your paws on a free house. Sites like craigslist or gumtree (in the UK) are great for sourcing random wood, wire and even sheds. So if you can’t grab a freebie hen house you might still get the makings of one.
Our Chicken Run #2
Our British hen housing looks very different to the Spanish chicken coop, but in reality is very similar and provides all the benefits of the original.
The UK coop is on a much smaller plot and much nearer to the house, so needed to be a little more pleasing to the eye for a start. Again we wanted something permanently sited with the option to allow the hens to free-range occasionally. The chicken tractor route is a great idea for some, but we find a permanent compound more practical on our relatively small plot. This meant the compound needed to be large enough to provide interest and room for the birds to root around. It also needed to be large enough for us to pile in waste vegetation as the fastest way to a good compost pile is to let the hens root around in the green matter adding their own delectable compost activator to the mix.
The overall look and size of the compound is based on the spare space we had, alongside the desire to keep the project as low cost as possible.
- The house itself was left by the previous occupants so simply had to be used. Ideally it would have direct access to the nest box and be somewhat larger. But as far as the hens are concerned the house is perfect; secure, dry and draft free.
- The chicken-wire for the compound was partly left-over from another project (so almost free) and the rest was old wire left by the last owners (sometimes we love that they were a little untidy and left lots of garden bits and bobs).
- The posts were bought! From a shop! Yes I know, A Self Sufficient Life has taken a turn for the worse. Luckily a few “posts” were simply trees already in situ, so we didn’t need to buy many which was lucky as we didn’t have any solid enough, long enough lengths of wood to hand.
- The door to the run is bit of trellis the previous owners left, though the hinges are new.
- The feeder and waterer are both new. Hardly necessary, but food wastage with simple bowls in the past was pretty high since hens seem to love sitting, shitting and singing in food. A quick look online though and we found both feeder and waterer half price.
- The block base for the chicken house itself was an existing “feature” of the garden.
- The jungle gym for the hens also utilises random rubbish left here!
One thing we didn’t budget for was the roof of the compound. A slight miscalculation on our part since the trees in and around the compound are the average chicken’s dream roosting spot. So even hens used to electric fencing and said to have no desire to fly, were quickly lured skywards. However, since the roof is light-weight bird proof mesh more often seen on vegetable patches, even that wasn’t too pricey.
In fact the biggest expense has been the hens themselves. It seems prices in the UK are far higher than in Spain, perhaps because keeping chickens is now a popular suburban, middle class pass-time here.
Let’s just hope they actually start to lay regularly soon before MrDB starts calculating the true cost per egg of these girls. As things are we could have afforded to buy super organic omega enriched eggs from the happiest eggs on the South Downs for a few years yet!