Building the Chicken Coop

I wouldn’t say my 2020 posts are out of order. I would say rather that my posts at times encompass events that took place before and after the post that follows. I began planting the new additions to the homestead before i was sick and by the time the last tree was in the ground, i had pretty much recovered. However, the chicken coop was built smack dab in the middle of my 7 week window of symptoms. If it seems like a mess, its because it is. The timeline is really blurred together in my head, both because i was trying to move quickly, i didn’t feel well, and i had a lot of irons in the fire at once, all in different stages of completion.

The next time i had two consecutive days off i knew i needed to build a chicken coop and a chicken pen. I figured the best thing to do would be to build the coop first and then erect the pen around it. Out on the homestead there was an abundance of foxes. They would walk across the yard in broad daylight sometimes. At night i would occasionally hear raccoons chittering away on my porch and i often saw them crossing the road on my way to work. They looked like little masked bandits with beer guts. There were owls and a steady supply of hawks. The hawks had even tried to take Cashew on numerous occasions when she was only 5 lbs as a little pup. Not to mention, the coyotes and mountain lions that might find a chicken dinner interesting as well. I knew what i had, and that was an abundance of predatory animals that considered chicken to be on the menu year-round. I had to build something heavy, that couldn’t be dug under, with a roof. I decided to put the chicken coop in a dog kennel. Ultimately, the kennel i chose didn’t end up being very big. It was 5 x 10 feet. There was a larger one available but i rightly assessed that in my physical condition with the time-line looming over my head and a bathroom full of too-big chickens, i was not up to building the bigger kennel. Also, the panels to the smaller kennel were secured with a sturdier system of rounded pieces of metal secured around the edge of each panel with nuts and bolts, as compared to the larger dog kennel whose panels were secured with wire that resembled the chain link of each panel. The smaller kennel had cross-hatched metal bars. It appealed to me and it felt like the better choice for the situation so i bought it. The problem was, the chicken coop was a tad bit bigger than 5 ft…probably 5 ft 2 inches on the side that was supposed to measure at 5 ft. I finally figured out where the discrepancy came from. The bottom of the coop measures at 5 ft exactly but the roof stuck out over the coop an extra inch on each side to keep rain out. So, if one were to erect a pen around the coop, the measurement of the roof dimensions would be more pertinent to the situation than the measurement of the base of the chicken coop. I was sick, i was tired, and i was running out of time. I had to figure out what i was doing to make this coop fit inside the pen i was set to erect around it. Eventually i decided to begin erecting the chicken coop and figure out which pieces i could take off as i went along until i managed to shave the thing down to 5 ft on the narrower side of the kennel. So i began.

I got to about here in the assembly process before i began to realize what was what. The side with the giant horizontal window in it would be the place where the nesting boxes jutted out. Then there was the window with the wire fence on it. The next side with a little chicken door in it would open into the wire pen area with a roof.

It was at this point that i realized the solution to my problem with the kennel dimensions and the two extra inches of coop roof. I would take off the wire panels and not even put them on the coop at all. The kennel would be bigger than the yard set to attach to the coop anyway. Then i would turn the coop so that the side with the wired window faced the narrow side of the kennel. Suddenly things were looking doable again.

I got my drill, switched it over to the setting that would pull the screws out, and began taking the wire panels off.

I get tired of talking about it because it was the running theme of my life for nearly two months and now that i’ve recovered i’m tempted to bury the memory that i was ever weak or unable to do something. I’m tempted to wipe it from my memory/reality all together and never speak of it again, but, in the interest of documenting life on the homestead honestly, i will leave it in.

Building the chicken coop with step-by-step tractor supply instructions and all screws provided in labeled baggies should have been a cinch. I should have been able to knock it out with a power drill and a hammer in a couple hours but it took all day. It took all day because i lacked the strength to lift the pieces and most frustrating to me, i lacked the strength to push the drill with enough force to utilize a screw to draw two pieces of wood together. Instead, the screw kept going through the first piece of wood and pushing the second piece of wood out of my fingers, further away from the piece i was trying to attach it to. I was furious. I kept having to reverse the drill and pull the screw out only to do the exact same thing. The two pieces of wood would separate, the end of the screw between them, and i would turn my face to the sky and do one of three things; cry, beg and plead with God to let the screw go through both pieces of wood, or demand answers as to why this was happening to me (with not so pg-13 language peppered in there). Both the crying and the screaming made me breathless and further unable to operate the drill with any kind of real force or precision. I went through stages of sadness, optimism, defeat, and unchecked anger. Throughout my entire ongoing conversation with God he was silent. I was not ready to hear anything that might be taught to me at that time. I was not open to instruction. I was pretty much rage-filled, vengeful, and desperate to finish my project. I was a hot mess and God would give me some time to get myself together before speaking. Instead of answering my pleas and accusations God let me rage and rant for a couple weeks. I was given enough time to build the green house, the chicken coop, the chicken pen, and plant a couple trees before i had to answer for my words and my actions, sitting in the mud outside blubbering like a tantrumming child about strength and a power drill and some ******, ****ing screws.

Every piece assembled was a battle. I lacked the strength to push the pieces of wood together with one hand while pushing the drill into the screw with the other hand. I sat in the dirt, tears streaming down my face, occasionally screaming at God, asking “why…why…why…why” repeatedly, and begging “come on, come on, come on” with each new attempt. Ultimately, when it didn’t work and the screw pushed the second piece of wood away from the first yet again and i had to reverse the drill and pull the screw out one more time i would throw my fists into the dirt and scream at the heavens. I was so frustrated. I couldn’t make my body do what i wanted to do; what i needed to do in order to run the homestead by myself. I was utterly defeated but also having an identity crisis. I had always been strong. I was 5 ft 0 in. I was 100 lbs. i was a woman. Nobody took me seriously. Nobody viewed me as much. But when the shit hit the fan, i could lift my weight in bags of feed, human beings with gait belts at work, i could haul, build, chop down, erect, construct, and lift with the best of them, because i wanted it more. I would push my body to the limits to get the job done because i wanted it more than the 215 lb guy that occasionally worked out once in a while but looked like the better choice when assembling a crew to get something done. Others may have been born with more mass to work with but i had a fierce desire to be independent and able, and i was, until this moment. I was weak and out of breath and no matter how much i swore, tried, or pushed myself, i could not access the strength required to put the screws through both pieces of wood. I was having an identity crisis in the middle of all other things going on because i didn’t know who i was if not strong.

As the pictures demonstrate, i did figure it out. My lack of strength was directly connected to my lack of breath. My muscles needed oxygen to work. Pushing myself towards a deadline was not going to yield results here. I had to change my methods if i wanted to finish this. I stopped looking at the big picture and said “**** it i don’t care.” I focused on one task at a time and looked at nothing beyond that task. I rested for a good three minutes before attempting to drive in each screw. Sometimes i took a break and watched a little 3 to 5 minute cartoon skit on my phone via youtube just to keep myself from physical activity for a few minutes. Then, when i was fresh and not breathless, i grabbed the drill and drove in a screw. It wasn’t perfect. The perfectionist in me was angry that not all the screws were perfectly straight, but with at least 3 minutes of rest time needed to gather enough strength to operate the drill effectively to push in one screw, i couldn’t afford to be unscrewing screws that actually went through both pieces of wood. The progress was slow going but it was coming together. It was starting to look like a structure, and at least now i had a strategy that was yielding results.

From this point on it was just a matter of pacing myself and resting before each use of the drill, something i was not used to and didn’t come by naturally. I hated every remaining step of this process because it required a discipline that i didn’t want to have. I wanted to travel at break-neck speed, forgo food breaks and bathroom breaks and just hurry up and get it done. Life does not always give us what we want.

So i trudged forwards.

Piece by piece

The roof going on was a real moment of relief. I knew i was close to being done now. I wanted to be done with my 3 minute rest increments and that blasted drill. I did not enjoy this project. I just wanted to be done.

It was not until the roof was on and the floor was slid into place that i allowed myself to open the door and imagine what the chickens, who had only ever known the environment of a stock tank in the bathroom, would think of their new home. It seemed cozy.

There were bars for the chickens to perch on. I imagined them as full-grown chickens, big and fluffy, sitting on those bars, flapping their wings to try to balance before settling down.

I cried when it was finished. I sat on the porch steps and looked at it from the house. It was done. That was all i had wanted for the last 3 or 4 hours of the project. I just wanted it done.

It was beautiful. I had no idea how i’d done it and i didn’t want to think about it again. I would strike the experience from my memory and move on. the beginning of 2020 had not been a pleasant experience for me. If i was going to live through it, the homestead would need to be maintained and projects would need to go on, whether i was up to it or not, because if i lived but didn’t maintain the homestead, there would be nothing to return to when i did recover.

The chicken coop was built.

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