Sunday, January 29, 2012

Last minute nest boxes: what should have been an easy project

Making a nest box from an old crate
What I've learned about chickens is they are happy anywhere. They need no special accommodations, they don't care if their roosts are the exact 24 inches off the ground, they don't care if they are laying eggs in a corner with hay or in an old milk crate. They want food, water and to run around the backyard when you let them. When building our first coop I took months planning all the details. The roosts were to exact specification, the nest boxes exactly 12 inch squares and exactly 12 inches off the coop floor. Only to find out they prefer to be on the branch outside of the beautiful house we built them and go in only on the coldest of nights. For our second set of chickens I stuck to the basics.

Our second set of chickens were supposed to be the 'eating kind' with exception of maybe 2-3 I was going to move in with my laying hens so I only had to maintain one coop. It turns out it is mentally harder to process a hen than a rooster, especially after they have started laying eggs. With the roosters we processed them according to their character; the pushiest was the first to go and in a way we always felt like we were doing the flock a favor. But the hens are so pretty and petite and are just starting to provide eggs. Maybe it's women's rights, who knows, but I have 10 hens now. 10 hens do not all fit in one coop so I had to make some modifications to accommodate the now laying hens in the second coop. I was using a milk crate filled with straw, but they kept knocking it over. I really needed some permanent nest boxes. The husband has been busy so I took this task on myself. Hear me roar.

I knew the old wooden crates I had would work perfect and save me a bunch of time. I cut a strip of plywood to screw along the front to keep the straw and eggs in as the hens are going in and out. Easy. So far, so good. I even pre-drilled the holes I was going to use to screw the crate to the coop wall so I didn't split the old wood on the crates and was feeling very accomplished early on. Camera in hand to document this great achievement, I grabbed my supplies and crawled in the coop. I held the crate against the wall where I wanted it to hang; the bottom of the crate was about 6 inches from the top of the pine bedding. It was an awkward position to be in - I didn't really want to sit right down and get comfortable since I was squatting in chicken poop, but my noodle arms were already strained from the few seconds of holding the crate in place. I got the screw out of my pocket, dropped it in the shavings, dug around, gave up and got another one out. Holding the crate to the wall, I placed the screw in my pre-drilled hole, put the drill up to it and gave it all I had. Nothing. The drill bit spun and the screw turned but the screw wasn't really going anywhere. I figured it must be really dense wood and I had to put some weight in it. Still feeling good about my accomplishments thus far my language and attitude were still in high spirits "golly, this construction stuff is tough." I set the crate down to give my shaking arm a quick break and tried the screw driver again; it sounded like it should be working and yet, when I let go of the crate it was not attached to the wall and my screw dropped and disappeared forever into the poopy shavings. Feelings of appreciation for my husband overcame me, his big strong arms specifically designed for holding crates and successfully screw driving (see, I don't even know proper terminology) at the same time. But I am woman, and I will complete this small construction task without asking for help. Pretty much forgetting about the fact that the shavings I was now completely kneeling in were laced with poop, I held everything in place, got out another screw and became aware of my language starting to turn on me a little, "dammit you better work this time." Same thing. There was a small hole developing in the wall of the coop where I was drilling, but nothing significant and the crate is definitely not holding. "M*%#$ *#&%*#." Hat's off, gloves are off, sweat breaking on my forehead at this point. "Son of a *#$%#%#$%." It's just a nest box! A NEST BOX! How will I ever succeed in life if I can't even screw a crate to a wall?! And then I realized I had the screw driver going the wrong way. It was set to take screws out, instead of screw them in. The project was done with ease after that little issue was settled. And making 2 nest boxes out of old crates is a fun and easy project.


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