I know everyone is anxiously awaiting the resolution of our chicken run conundrum. Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The wait is over.
After puzzling over the situation for weeks, a friend asked why we didn’t just throw the hens into one of the side yards. Hm. I had thought about that, really. But there is a law in Austin stating chickens must be penned 50 feet from surrounding houses. Our neighbors’ bedrooms are five feet away from the side fences. So I had dismissed that idea.
But what if the neighbors didn’t mind? So I asked the friendly ones to the west if we could give it a try. (Not the mysterious neighbor to the east.) This latest idea would be easy to disassemble if they changed their minds. In typical fashion, they shrugged and said sure.
It didn’t take more than a weekend morning to throw it all together, reusing the material from the first attempt. I took the 1x2s off about half the cattle fencing. Then I attached a 7′ section lengthwise to the corner of the porch. Directly across from it I attached another section to the fence. Then I nailed an 8′ section across the top, reaching from the porch to the fence. This left a 3×4′ opening in the cattle fencing. I parked the coop in front of this set-up.
The coop doors open into the 3×4′ hole. I made a cover for this hole with another piece of cattle fencing, just bending an inch of the end wire to make hooks that attach to the fence. When I pull the coop away for cleaning, I hook on the cover to keep the chickens penned.
I attached the eye of an eye/hook to the inside of the left door. Then I (clumsily) made a giant hook out of wire and fixed it to the fence. The hook slips into the eye to hold the door open. On the right door I attached the hook part of the eye/hook on the inside and made an eye out of wire (again, clumsily) and fixed it to the fence. These hold the door open and block a chicken escape route.
But why would they want to escape? They’ve got an area plenty big enough to roam and stretch their feathers. It’s mostly shady and protected from the wind.
To protect the air conditioner, I fenced it off by re-using four t-posts (love that post slammer!) and the plastic chicken net. I was hoping the net’s flexibility would deter them from roosting on it, and so far I’ve been right. However, the bird-brains have managed to dig underneath the fencing and get stuck in the space between it and the AC, so I had to pin down the edges with bricks.
I also attached a length of cattle fencing across the top of the fence bordering the front yard, just in case. Lord knows we don’t need chickens marauding through the neighborhood. We worried the fencing would look a little livestock-in-the-yard trashy, but it really disappears unless you’re looking very carefully.
The hens seemed to love their new digs right away, unlike the last run. They get tasty treats when we eat on the porch and the kids like being able to just walk out the door to play with them. It’s pretty obvious that the birds enjoy being near the humans.
Feeding and watering them is much easier. Unfortunately, fowl appetite plus desperate drought equals complete destruction of green grass. In fact, our side yard is now just dirt. But it’s easy to keep clean. In fact, we haven’t been bothered by any barnyard-ish smell while sitting out on the porch. (Or maybe because the drought has made outside smell mostly like burning). The neighbors aren’t bothered either.
But cleaning the coop in the new set-up took practice. I had to recruit the kids to block the hens from escaping the run while I closed the coop doors, dashed through the porch around to the other side of the coop, pulled it away from the run, and attached the cattle fencing cover. The kids were outnumbered. Little known fact: three stupid chickens bent on freedom are actually smarter than two smart kids with brooms.
Turns out, Rob is smarter than all of us. “Why don’t you just cover the hole from inside the run, before you move the coop?”
I was totally going to think of that.