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This is not a raised bed.

This is:

a) A beautiful garden, ready for garden plants this weekend.
b) A hole left behind when The Roommate harvested sod for a baren patch of lawn.
c) A large grave in which I can bury “planning ahead of time,” “organization,” and “perfection.”
d) What happens when you procrastinate digging your garden because the May 2nd plant sale seemed a really long time away.

Answer is … drum roll please ….

You are correct! Has long as you did not answer (a) (and why would you?!?) you are correct!

(Going to go cry in the corner….)

Curious

Before acquiring chickens, I had only used a power tool only a few times. My major construction experience was building wooden giraffes from my dad’s scrap piles as a ten year old. Should I really be undertaking a chicken coop? I evaluated my options.

Option A) Let’s go shopping!
My online choices were attractive and functional. I wouldn’t have to borrow a drill, I wouldn’t have been stuck with 7 week old chickens, a week of rain, and no coop. Unfortunately, I would also have been poor … as most of them start around $500USD.

Where to Look
My Pet Chicken
Eglus
Local Craftsmen in the Agriculture Section of your Local Used Everywhere

Option B) Let’s get some plans and build from scratch
People who are really good at this sort of stuff hate plans. They just want to get started and “make it up as they go.” If you are minimally skilled like I am, you will agree with me that they sound crazy. Here are some lovely free plans I found. One is quite beautiful, and not that hard. The other is so simple that even I could do it, if I tried.

Free Plans
Mini-Coop Plan from a Dog House
A-Frame

Option C) Just get started
Plans are good, unless of course, the plans freak you out even more than no plans. Despite being minimally skilled, I learned that I was not really an instructions sort of builder. I did spend hours and hours combing over photos, to get a sense of what I liked and didn’t. Then I used one of my life-lines and borrowed a smart friend for two afternoons. He and I spent an hour sitting in the chicken wire aisle of Home Depot, making sketches — mostly to figure out how much stuff I needed to buy. We went home, he showed me how to use his jigsaw, power drill, sander, and staple gun, got me mostly through the construction of the run, and I was on my own to finish!

Inspiration
Coop Design Inspiration at BYC
Chicken Coops on Flickr


Option D) Mix and Match

I knew I did not have the skills to really build the coop and run by myself. So I bought an old cedar doghouse in great shape and decided to retrofit it. It only cost $75CAD, and there is no way I could have purchased that much cedar for just $75, let alone figured out how to assemble it.

The coop, when it was a dog house

Conclusion:
If you have no skills, no tools, no friends with skills or tools — save yourself a lot of hassle and just buy. Try to look local first, for better deals. Make your first DIY project something much simpler, like flower boxes!

If you have access to tools, someone to help you with questions, desire to learn, desire to save money — go for it!

Good luck everyone, let me know how it goes! Send me links!

To Make, or not to Make?

This article sums up a lot of the questions I’ve been asking myself lately… is it cheaper and tastier to make staples (like bagels, cream cheese, yogurt, jam, crackers) yourself at home, or just buy them? Yogurt is on the make list — as are many of the other items … check it out!

There is this nursery rhyme that I love to sing … that Evil Cat must have heard and gotten some ideas. Because late last night, that is where she went. Out the second story window.

Our house, it is very old. Over 100 years old. And we have old windows, with no screens. Still, we need ventilation sometimes, so we will crack the windows open just enough for some fresh air, but hopefully not big enough for the cat to get through … as we live on the second story!

Yet, laying in bed last night reading … after my final exam was over … I hear a rustle at the blinds. This is normal, evil cat behavior … she likes sitting at the window. Then I hear this very faint and decrescendo “MEEEOoooww.” I think, could the cat have fallen out of the window? Oh my god! And I run to the window … and I look all around outside, calling her name. And look around inside? Where did she go? And I hear this faint little meow of the cat on the window sill. On the 2 inch window sill … above a second story drop off … just purring without a care in the world.

Yet another example of how she got her name … giving me a heart attack and such. She is safe and sound, but the windows are staying shut.

Make your own yogurt

I am looking to exam-free time (next week, people) where I can do things that modern life has made extremely easy and uncomplicated, but I’d like to do in a very tedious and time-consuming manner. Like make your own yogurt!

Let the milk cool to around 115 to 120 degrees, somewhere between very warm and hot. For each quart of milk, stir in two tablespoons of yogurt, either store-bought or from your last batch, thinning it first with a little of the milk.

Then put the milk in a warm jar or container or an insulated bottle, cover it, and keep the milk still and warm until it sets, usually in about four hours. I simply swaddle my quart jar in several kitchen towels. You can also put the container in an oven with the light bulb on.

Full story here at the NYT.

Yogurt is on my list of absolutely favourite foods … and I’ve been weaning myself off the fruit-flavoured, sugar-loaded stuff … to just eating plain old skim yogurt. Is that weird?!? I love it! I eat it every day, and I am not a scientist, but after eating yogurt daily for the past 6months or so, my lactose intolerance has pretty much gone away. I can eat ice cream with impunity. Which is also on my favourite food list. Which is also good for exam time. Win win situation here….

I was so sick yesterday and most of today. Yuck! Won’t go into details. However, I will share these photos of Evil Cat stalking my chickens. Evil Cat is not an outdoor cat, as we live on a very busy street, though she wishes very much we did not. I was trying to be sneaky, so I took them with my MacBook, so sorry that it’s rather fuzzy.

Photo 2

Here you can see little gray tabby Evil Cat staring down my chickens.

Photo 4

And there she is on the roof. Chickens remain unfazed. Evil Cat then jumped on top the mesh run, and it must not have been a pleasant experience as she quickly got off. I scooped up Evil Cat after she was done crawling around underneath the coop, coming out dazed, still hungry, and covered in pine shavings.

Coop is now certifiably cat proof, at least.

Chicken Coop is Finished!

My tip about building a chicken coop is that take however long you thought it might take to build, and then multiple it by two. I worked every day last week, and much of this long weekend on it … but it’s finally done! Chickens are living outside.

I will post all my pics in a big coop tutorial … but for now … my rocking video tour:



Related posts from this blog about coop building:

The Coop: Weekend One

Here’s how I built my coop.