Thursday, May 27, 2010

Let's Move the Coop

I've had my vegetable garden laid out in four freeform "S"-shaped beds for years. The long horizontal sections work as a terrace system on ground that slopes away to the east. But the curves are getting harder to reform each Spring, and are difficult to cover to stretch my season. I have one more bed in a separate area below the main four beds, but it's down by the fruit trees and the plants never do as well.

We've done ok with those five beds, but six would work better for crop rotation. So I've been mulling over a garden remodel for a couple of seasons now. If the main garden was just a little bit wider . . . and I got rid of those nasty, thorny blackberries there . . . I'd have room for six long beds, stretching all the way across the slope, plus have the perennial stuff (asparagus, horseradish, sunchokes, and berries) all inside one big sunny space. Get rid of the lower shaded bed, and with straight planting beds, maybe even devise a grow tunnel or two for more fall and winter eating . . . .

So . . . more measuring, plotting, and planning. It would mean moving the fences out, including that old arbor, but everything would pretty much fit just right. Except there in the lower, north-eastern corner - if only the chicken coop were a bit more to the east . . . .

Time to go get sweet husband, draw lines in the dirt, step off some measurements, and explain what I have in mind. And then wait another week for him to take it all in - share in my vision, so to speak. Once he can see it too, he's a git-er-done kind of guy.

Our chicken coop has a slatted floor, with the droppings pit underneath. So first item of business is to pull the bottom skirting off the outside and clean out the pit. A full wagonload, plus more, goes up to the compost bins, covered for use later in the season (kept dry, it doesn't smell at all).

A couple of car jacks from the garage were enough to get one side, then the other, up enough to make a board "highway" atop cinder blocks.

With pieces of metal conduit for rollers.

And so, with a bit (ok, lots) of muscle power, the coop moves east. Time for a design conference: how about, if we also spin it around 90 degrees, so that the east side faces north? Then we redo the pen on this side, and put the gate over here? If we drop it down the hill a bit, the water faucet should be fine, and we'll have the pen door, the coop door, and access to the nest boxes all lined up together, here on the west.

Ok, that's the plan, but it's getting dark. Time to let the flock get back inside for the night, and he'll do the rest tomorrow.

Next morning, let the girls out, rearrange the board "highway", pull down the fence (keeping the ratty, tacked-together, quilt of wire pieces in one long piece to reuse), move everything else out of the way, do a bit of leveling here and there, and the coop spins to the north. Let's get rid of that old pen door, and use this salvaged dog run gate instead. We've got room to give them a bit of pen area east of the coop too, to give them a bit more summer afternoon shade. If we attached both ends of the fencing, and then stretch it out into shape, and then put in the fence posts, we know we'll have an exact fit without having to reconstruct any of the fence pieces.

Dig trenches to bury the bottom of the fence for predator-proofing, and attach new skirting to the bottom of the coop. Get the food, water, and shade sheds into the new pen; get all the re-construction debris cleaned up; the tools cleaned up and put away.

Moving some dirt around with the rake lets the gate swing freely. Meanwhile, the girls are hopping in and out of the coop, inspecting the new pen area, and settling right in. At nightfall, one of the guinea hens walks right past the open door to the east side, then stands there looking quizzically for a door that's no longer there. I have to walk her back around to the north, but then hearing the others inside already, she hops in too. Everyone else, no problem at all. And there are eggs from everyone, even the guineas, in the nest boxes the next day.


Melynda said...

That is quite a task! Keep us informed on the garden.

Polly said...

Wow, had no idea so much work would have to go into moving a coop. Good job.

Nancy M. said...

Wow! What an undertaking! Looks good, and I'm sure the gardens will be great!

Annodear said...

Hahaha! LOL the guinea hen :-) I'd be looking for the old wooden gate, too!

What a huge undertaking... and beautiful resolution. That looks great!

Lindy said...

I'm exhausted just reading about your new plan and work! Keep the pics coming. I love to see your progress.

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Anonymous said...

Not sure if you reply to these comments but I was checking out your site and find it the most imformed site I have ever read on the internet! Good for you and on averything you have wrote about and achieved. I have a life about the same but not as big as yours is but trying to get there lol! I live in the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario Canada and this year desided to get chickens! Our temperatures reach around minus twenty to thirty in the winter and I am very concerned about a chicken coop suitable for these temperatures. I really like how you described your coop and am soon going to be building a new coop and want to build the best I can for my chickens for the winter! I have Guinea hens, golden and silver phoenixes and white and black checked liked chickens! Any sugestions! Please can you reply!