I know everyone is anxiously awaiting the resolution of our chicken runÂ conundrum. Â 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. Â Hm. Â I had thought about that, really. Â But there is a law in Austin stating chickens must be penned 50 feet from surrounding houses. Â Our neighbors’ bedrooms are five feet away from the side fences. Â 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. Â (Not the mysterious neighbor to the east.) Â This latest idea would be easy to disassemble if they changed their minds. Â 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. Â I took the 1x2s off about half the cattle fencing. Then I attached a 7′ section lengthwise to the corner of the porch. Â Directly across from it I attached another section to the fence. Â Then I nailed an 8′ section across the top, reaching from the porch to the fence. Â This left a 3×4′ opening in the cattle fencing. Â I parked the coop in front of this set-up.
The coop doors open into the 3×4′ hole. Â 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. Â 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. Â Then I (clumsily) made a giant hook out of wire and fixed it to the fence. Â The hook slips into the eye to hold the door open. Â On the right door I attached the hook part of the eye/hook on the inside and made an eye out of wireÂ (again, clumsily) and fixed it to the fence. Â These hold the door open and block a chicken escape route.
But why would they want to escape? Â They’ve got an area plenty big enough to roam and stretch their feathers. Â 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. Â I was hoping the net’s flexibility would deter them from roosting on it, and so far I’ve been right. Â 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 fenceÂ borderingÂ the front yard, just in case. Â Lord knows we don’t need chickensÂ maraudingÂ through the neighborhood. Â 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. Â 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. Â It’s pretty obvious that the birds enjoy being near the humans.
Feeding and watering them is much easier.Â Unfortunately, fowl appetite plus desperate drought equals complete destruction of green grass. Â In fact, our side yard is now just dirt. Â But it’s easy to keep clean. Â In fact, we haven’t been bothered by any barnyard-ish smell while sitting out on the porch. Â (Or maybe because the drought has made outside smell mostly like burning). Â The neighbors aren’t bothered either.
But cleaning the coop in the new set-up took practice. Â Â 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. Â The kids were outnumbered. Â 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. Â “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.