Monday, March 7, 2016

How to Build a $10 Chicken House

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Not too long ago, we decided to slightly expand our flock. See, it's a real funny story, so buckle up.

We stared with two chickens. Almost immediately, we noticed that one wasn't quite like the other. About the time the tail feathers appeared, we figured out we didn't have two chickens. We had a chicken and a rooster. 

Well, my dad wanted a rooster, so we swapped the mild-mannered rooster for a chicken.

And that one turned out to be a rooster. Oh no, it doesn't stop there. See, THIS rooster, whom we named Bruce, is the rooster from hell. He is a magnificent bird, no doubt. He is bigger than any other rooster we have seen, and that includes the quasi-illegal "rooster farm" down the street. He is aggressive. He is mean. And he doesn't learn.

But, regardless, we added another two chickens a few months later. For awhile, we were happy with our egg production. I was letting them out every morning and they would roam, which is great. We don't like snakes and other insects. And, free ranging makes for better tasting eggs and (I think) healthier birds.

But, as the days grew short, we quit getting eggs from two of the birds. Only one would lay. We just figured the changing of the seasons had cut short the laying. So, we got another chicken, whom we called Captain Phasma. That brought our flock to four chickens and one really mean rooster. 

But, that went on for a little longer than we thought it should, so I started poking around, thinking that maybe they were laying elsewhere. But, I couldn't find them.

Until one day I was on the far side of my detached garage and Bruce was uncomfortably and illogically (I thought) hostile towards me. But, as he was getting knocked around by a shovel and my foot, I heard the clucking of a chicken. I couldn't see her. It was the clucking they made as they laid. Sure enough, I found her in a dilapidated playhouse on the neighbor's property sitting on a stack of no less than 12 eggs.

So, I started keeping them penned up. But, when I would go out at night, at least one of the birds would be roosting on top of the house.  To make matters worse, one of the chickens was flying out at some point late at night or early in the morning. The results? See for yourself.

I figured I was being told that there was no room in the inn. Indeed, the chickens only will lay in one of the lay boxes and they will only do it one at at time. I guess that gave new meaning to "**** or get off the pot." They needed another house. 

I have already invested too much money in these chickens, of which I will never recoup in the form of free eggs. So, I was little apprehensious about spending more coin. Instead, I looked around at what I had laying around. And, I came up with a plan.

Last year, I wanted to build a rain barrel. But, people were charging so much money for the barrels that it was cheaper by the dozen, literally. So, I bought a dozen. I gave a lot of them away and I was left with three. They ended up costing me $10 a piece.

I also had the remnants of some old cabinets from building The Barn. I knew that simply setting the barrel on the ground was a recipe for disaster. Not only would it roll around, but it would kill the grass under it. So, after removing a door, sawzawing some sections, I had a stand.

Additionally, I had some left over pallet wood. One of the slats would make a great chicken run as well as a roosting board.

First things first. I took the sawjaw and made an (ugly) opening. Then, I screwed the run onto the barrel.

Next, I used a 2: hole saw and my drill to knock a hole in each side of the barrel. Into this I slid the board, which the chickens could roost upon. The finishishing touch was to use foam insulation and seal up the remainder of the holes.

The only issue you may have comes from access to the egg. This setup is so light, you can easily tilt it forward. A little bedding and viola! A cheap and easy fix to not having enough room. Is it pretty? No. I could make it better, but I am engineer. Function over form. I spent less than $10 on this whole project.