Flying the coop

If someone flies the coop, they leave the situation that they are in, often because they want to do something different. Well, we definitely wanted to change the situation we were in. This has been the most dragged out project – ever! The new chicken coop has been lying in kit form on the patio for more than 10 months. It was finally time to get it all assembled.

In most cases, we try and do most things ourselves. But with the chicken coop, we thought we should do it properly – animals’ lives will depend on it, especially if there is the odd stray fox involved. So we decided to buy the coop in kit form, and we made the “executive call” that the laying of the foundations for the coop will be outsourced too.

Coop - starting at last

Coop kit stagnating on the patio

So after we returned from our overseas trip (one of the reasons the project has been on hold), we tried getting someone to lay the foundations. Our first post on the local “Lara residents” Facebook page led to no response. Landscapers posted they will get back to us, and they never did. It was interesting to see other people complain about it too. A few weeks later, we retried the process and from more than 10 concreters and landscapers, we got two responses. It is now months later and I still haven’t heard from the one. Scott, a good friend of ours, even suggested we should do it as a mini-krieg (I guess the term “blitz” has been copyrighted by the perma-blitzers). I was just starting to get cutting lists and concrete pricings together, while Patricia was investigating BBQ options, when Simon Gatt of Gatt’s Concreting replied, called back and made the appointment. (Tradies, concreters and landscapers, please note – that is how you should do your admin.) Thankfully he stepped up to the plate, as I quickly realised that laying foundations is no quick Saturday morning job, especially if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing…

In the meanwhile, I cleared and marked the site. So a week later, Simon and his guys were on site. Day one they put the fox wire and the form wood in place.

Day two they came and poured the concrete. Due to the location of the coop, the cement truck had to park at Homeland, and they had to wheel the concrete by wheelbarrow through the narrow little gate to Dreamland. No problem for these guys, they did it with a smile.

The concrete truck driver said we had a good thing going at Homeland – I have to admit it’s a little bit rewarding to hear that after all the effort we’ve put in – and he hadn’t even seen Dreamland!

Day three, they came and removed the form wood. They did a really nice job, according to our agreed specifications, with no mess.

I have to add that Simon is really easy and straightforward to deal with too. I really couldn’t fault them on anything. If I’m really, really forced to complain about something, the only thing I can dream up is that they left the Homeland gate open – twice. Simon told me his family farms, so he should know the rule about leaving gates as you found them… Luckily our dogs are too complacent to run away, and the chooks aren’t anywhere near running around yet!

Coop - Simon at work

Simon Gatt at work

So we let the concrete dry for 2 weeks, as per Simon’s instructions, the next weekend saw us all on rollerblades for a good friend’s birthday party – one of Scott’s children’s, and so the third weekend was earmarked for construction. A certain young gentlemen had taken a big interest in the chooks, and volunteered to help set up the coop, while his little sister went to her best friend’s birthday party. This was Scott’s other child – lots of birthdays in their household at this time of the year!

Apart from keeping the half-assembled coop upright through a few wind gusts, assembling the coop was very straightforward as per the instructions. Luckily they warned us that it is a two-person job. I have done many two-person jobs by myself – you just make a plan and wing it – but this one would have been very tricky. We had great fun putting the coop together. The instructions say it takes three hours – well, maybe if it is your third coop. We worked non-stop for about five hours. (OK a certain young gentleman does ask a lot of questions… but most were answered on the fly.)

As the sun slowly started heading westward, we started on the run. It couldn’t be that hard, we thought, it’s only three boxes compared to the coop’s eight, there are no laying boxes, roosts, cleaning trays, etc. My, what a surprise we got! The parts were different and differently numbered to the instruction manual, but fortunately there were additional manual pages loose in the box (something we didn’t get with our “modified greenhouse design” a few years ago.) While the coop was sturdy and everything lined up perfectly, the run, on the other hand, had these hinges between the panels, which made them bend in all kinds of directions, even though you bolt the panels across the hinges. (So why put hinges in the first place?). The coop’s roof slides onto sturdy panels, while the run’s roof panels had to be balanced in mid-air, while you screw in these short support struts, also in mid-air. Anyway, with Patricia’s help we finally got the run sort-of straight, and bolted it to the coop before it could move, collapse or do any other undocumented trick (bolts not provided).

Assembling the flimsy run

As Patricia started preparing dinner, Markus showed his little sister his handiwork, and where her ducks would be staying with the chooks, how they would get in and out, where you would get the eggs, what must be cleaned and a million other fun things about the coop. Right now, while we’re waiting for the chooks to hatch, the children are treating the coop as a fun play area, like the best cubby house ever! They often disappear to go and play there. Just as well they learn the route – one day (in another galaxy it seems) they will have to go quite frequently to collect eggs and check on the chooks.

Coup - overview

Coop / cubby for now

Luckily they forecasted two windless days in a row, so we could leave the coop and run loose on the concrete. On my next “work day” I bolted the run to strong construction timer trusses, which pulled the run straight. I then bolted the construction timber with dynabolts to the foundation (bolts and trusses not provided). Now this coop is not going anywhere! Just as well – the wind blew quite hard the very next day.

Coop and run secured with trusses and dynabolts

The coop and run must still be varnished, but we had to wait as we enjoyed and appreciating some very welcome bursts of rain. Initially Patricia wanted to paint it blue and white (the colours of the Scottish national flag for the Scots Greys – go figure) but fortunately she was persuaded by a certain practical young gentleman that the varnish would look better in the natural forest garden setting.

Coop - view from Dreamland

Coop and run as seen from Dreamland

Coop - from Homeland

Coop and run as seen from Homeland

This past weekend I started the varnishing, but I got told off because I supposedly wasn’t doing it neat enough…. well, now we’ll have to see when and how it gets done. (Two coats, at least.) Watch this space!

So, we’re almost ready for some of the chooks! Note “some of” – as the plot thickens…

About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

5 Comments on Flying the coop

  1. My home is not that fancy. Why are the boxes typically outside of the main structure? Ours are inside, with doors on the outside. I prefer the appearance of a neat square building. The outside boxes look like room additions.

    • This one is really fancy… It’s got nice cleaning trays you can just slide out and rinse off. Ha ha to me the outside boxes look like mal-developed chicken wings! Like the coop needs to take flight.

      • Mine (which was not built) had the boxes inside, with the trays below. The exterior walls were like the exterior walls of a shed. I liked that look. My home was to be of Early American architecture, but because I could not decide on an architectural style, I had planed on California ranch architecture for the hen house. (The low pitched roof would be less of a problem on such a small building.)

  2. That looks amazing! I love the chimney!! You do make me want to start keeping chickens…

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