It seems like ages ago that I last wrote about our 'Great Chicken Adventure' and 'The Mini Coop' so today you're getting an update. Though we've been continuing to work on the run we haven't been in all that much of a hurry due to our hen dealer going AWOL. I called dozens of times and sent a couple of text messages but no response. I figured that he wasn't happy with the prices we agreed to for the chickens so he was avoiding my calls - £20 for four Bantams is a great deal after all! We were disappointed but took heart in the fact that we'd have a bit more time to work on the run without stressing ourselves out. Still, it was a shame since there aren't too many Bantams for sale on the island and we'd had our heart set on them.
Then last week I received an unexpected text message - the chicken deal was still on! Basically what had happened is our youngster of a breeder had lost his mobile on the bus on the way home from school. It was only returned last week so he wasn't able to reach me before. My sincerest thanks go out to that good Samaritan who found the phone and turned it in! The other good tiding is that our Bantam-boy needs a bit more time before we come fetch the hens. Two of the girls have been sitting on clutches of eggs and they're either due to hatch or have just hatched - I couldn't quite make out which one. He asked for a couple more weeks and I happily said yes since the run isn't complete anyway.
Since then the Hubster has been working really hard at putting in posts and screwing together the framework for the run. He's very particular so it will probably be the sturdiest and most right angled run in history. As you can see from the image above, his progress has been quick and we expect to be stapling the galvanised steel mesh to the frame by the weekend.
As always, the cats have been extremely interested in everything that's going on and they've been down inspecting the construction efforts. Whenever we're out there you'll find the two of them fiddling around near the coop, lying in the shade nearby or walking along the top of the frame. They've found that they can hop up from the lower end of the run, where the wall is, and use the top of the run as a short-cut to the shed roof. All I can say is thank goodness I was convinced that we should put a wire roof over the run or those hens would have no peace.
When it's complete the enclosed run will keep our hens safe from cats, pole-cats and any birds of prey that spy our tiny chickens in their pen. The Hubster is also planning on digging the wire mesh into the ground so that larger vermin will have a difficult time getting in as well. There aren't any wild animals larger than a pole-cat here so thankfully we don't really have to worry about foxes trying to break in.
In addition to a wire roof, we plan on installing a movable fence inside the run so we can partition off one side from the hens at all times. The side in which they're excluded can then be reseeded with grass and then be allowed to grow again - the more fresh greens a chicken has, the happier it is and the richer its eggs will be. I'm also moving my compost pile inside the run against the wall in the back corner. Apparently chickens like rummaging around in the greens and their manure help to activate the heap. For convenience, we're installing a small door into the run which will be set right above the compost. That will make it easier to toss material in without having to go through the main door and walk across the enclosure.
There was a real debate between us over whether to put the coop inside the run or outside. I wanted it outside, so that we could check for eggs without having to go inside and for convenience of cleaning the coop's slide out floor tray. He wanted it inside so that the fence would be perfectly square and that the chickens would be better protected. In the end, I'm happy to say that that we decided to place the coop outside.
Though the Hubster is relatively new to construction, he's done a marvelous job so far and his pièce de résistance is most certainly the door. It's lightweight, opens without sagging, and fits exactly into its door frame. We're using small metal latches to lock it at the moment but it's likely that they'll be replaced with a more sturdy and wooden latch sometime in the future. And instead of a rope or metal handle, we have a wooden slat which you can grip to pull the door closed. It's really quite a simple construction but is already satisfying to use.
My job for the rest of the afternoon will be painting the frame a lovely forest-green to both protect the wood and to hopefully decrease the visual impact of the structure. After that's complete, we'll begin putting up the mesh and hopefully within a couple of weeks time we'll see some chooks pecking around inside. That's going to be an exciting day :)