Every time I talk to someone I haven't seen in a few days, the first question I'm asked is, "Do you have the chickens yet?" Apparently, half of Indianapolis is invested in my search for chickens. The good news is that I have tracked down a farmer (Code name: Chicken Man) who confirmed he would sell me Rhode Island Reds of the right age. The bad news is that he hasn't answered his phone for a week and a half. Either he's found a chicken-sitter and gone on vacation, or, more likely, he's neck-deep in county fair stuff and is ignoring all calls.
Either way, I'm frustrated. I need chickens. I have the most unbelievable chicken coop in America and NO CHICKENS. Those of you who have been following the blog know that my dad and his BFF (Mr. Dan and Mr. Roy, respectively) offered to build me a coop. The result–well, it kind of defies description. So I present to you, "The Chicken Palace: A Pictorial Essay."
The run is the outdoor element of the coop. It allows the birds access to fresh air and sunlight while keeping them safe from predators. And in this case, it's the fanciest damn bird cage you've ever seen.
Why yes, that is constructed from 4×4 set into poured concrete. And yes, the hardware cloth is buried a foot below the ground to keep digging raccoons and the like out. But hardware cloth is pricey, so the top half is covered in 2"x3" metal mesh. The roof is translucent plastic; it will keep the rain off the birds and their bedding.
I was planning to use an old screen door, but Misters Dan and Roy were convinced their creation needed a custom-made portal. So they created one that has the same half-and-half construction. It could take a hit from an enraged bull.
I had very little to do with the construction of the run, except for minor toadying duties. I did paint the sign, though.
The little door is called a pop-hole. Dan and Roy custom made this ramp so the birds can get in and out eaily. I was going to recycle the climbing wall from the triplets' playset as the ramp, but this one is better. So instead, I set the climbing wall in the run for the chicken exercise. You can see it in the first picture. Why yes, I do believe that these chickens might be the only ones in the country with their own climbing wall.
Before, I had to go around to the automatic garage door to get in. Now I can go straight in from the back yard. This is a recycled door, and I'm planning to paint it the same blue-green as the potting bench. The trim will be cream. Why yes, Dan and Roy built the steps too.
Once you enter the garage, you are greeted by the glory that is is the henhouse. Dan and Roy have a friend who buys and flips buildings. He offered them anything they wanted from his latest acquisition, so they snagged a bunch of materials–which is why I now have what is likely the only henhouse anywhere made of cherry wainscoting. These are some lucky freaking birds.
In fact, this henhouse so classy that the door is actually hidden. It swings outward to let me into the house for cleaning. My neighbor asked me when I was going to open the nightclub, seeing as I already had the bar built.
You may have noticed that the henhouse is pretty short. There's this frame on top that keeps the birds in. When I need to get in, I pull on a cord attached to a pulley on a rafter beam (no, really) and the lid rises. I clip it to a ring to hold it in place. Seriously. I wonder if Dan and Roy were inspired by Rube Goldberg.
Here you see the outside doors to the nest boxes (hidden, naturally). To collect eggs, I drop the doors open and reach in. I don't have to walk through the coop. Are they good or what?
Here you see Dan risking his neck to install a vent fan in the garage. Without airflow, we'd be looking at some broiled chickens. So this attic fan kicks on whenever the temps get about 80 degrees. One of the windows has been replaced by a hardware-cloth-covered screen for the summer to permit the breeze in.
With the vent fan installed, the last task was lighting. Track lighting, also salvaged from Dan and Roy's friend. My chickens will have track lighting. CAS thinks we should name them all "Steve" in honor of Steel Magnolias.
So as you can see, the coop is ready for its occupants, if the farmer would just call me back. In the meantime, the only resident of the Chicken Palace is this guy, donated by yet another friend of Dan and Roy's.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Dan and Roy. Once the girls start laying, it's all the cream pies you can eat!