If you’ve read my earlier chicken posts, you’ll know that we bought seven hen chicks, and one of them turned into a rooster. Since we are vegetarians and animal activists (and just plain softies), I opted to try and keep him. I don’t want fertile eggs or chicks. So far the neighbors haven’t complained about the crowing and I kind of like it. The store from whence he came said that they’d give a refund, but Emerson (the rooster) would end up as an employee’s dinner or in the dumpster. Squawk! I contacted my very amenable and patient vet Dr. Pyne about ‘fixing’ him, which I found out is what capons are (which was common practice up until fairly recently, and capons were often used to sit on eggs because they were calmer than the hens. Hmmm.), but since the rooster’s, um, or-gans, are internal, this would be an involved surgery and we left it at that (he’s fixed feral cats for me, helped my tortoise, many dogs… I wish he could be my personal doctor because I’d get better treatment there!).
Since E-Day (Egg Day) is coming up in August, when the six hens will be old enough to start laying, and since Emerson has become more aggressive with them, and since the chicken tractor is too small for that many chickens anyway, I decided to add on. I am terrible at measuring things. I do just as good a job eyeballing a length or walking a thing off and counting my foot lengths as I do with yardsticks or measuring tape. I have an interesting set of curtains as proof of this. No matter how I try, and how clear-headed I am with the numbers, I get it wrong. If I am to build a thing, I have to start with pre-measured lengths and not cut them. About fifteen years ago I built a very respectable movable chicken coop that way, using 2x4x8’s, a lot of chicken wire, screws and piano casters. I didn’t cut any wood. However that had to be dismantled when we moved and I used the wood for other projects.
If something bends or stretches, now, hoo-boy that’s a whole ‘nother story! I’m all over it! So today my ever-patient and forgiving daughter and I stood out in the blazing sun for a good eight hours and glued together a chicken coop extension made of leftover 3/4 inch PVC water pipe! My sketch, of course, was on the back of some unopened junk mail, but I only had to run to the hardware store once in the middle of the day for some extra fittings. Much as I don’t want to contribute any more to the manufacturing of plastic, I had all this pipe leftover so I’m recycling. The coop is a rectangle divided in half lengthwise with chicken wire, so half of it becomes a bachelor quarters for Emerson, and the other half an extended run for the hens. They will access it through a hole cut into the wire on the side of their coop, and they can keep company with Emerson on two sides of the coop without being, um, disturbed. Emerson isn’t going to be very happy about it, but we certainly didn’t ask him to be a rooster, either! In fact, he was the smallest and least-aggressive looking chick in the bunch.
PVC is fun to glue; it bends and is forgiving, and if it is a little off, on a project like this, it’s okay! If anyone ever asked me what kind of fingernail polish I use, I’d have to say Red Hot Blue Glue. Working with wire is another story. I believe that all discontented former employees, people with grudges who believe that the world is either out to get them or owes them more than what they have, all work at poultry wire companies. Rolls of wire are treacherous and evil. When you uncoil the thin wire that binds each roll of tightly wound chicken wire (or any other, for that matter), the roll slips and tries to nip off your fingers. The outer edge is raggedly folded under, and the cut ends poke out at angles so as to scratch you and draw blood no matter how careful you are. As you reach the end of the roll it requires almost superhuman strength to unroll, and if you are working alone it will recoil with a snap that can take you up with it. Any work with poultry wire, no matter how innocent, ends in several copiously bleeding scratches and possible loss of limb.
By seven o’clock tonight, we’d finished his side enough to move him in. My daughter went to catch him and boy did he put up a fuss, making all the girls panic. You’d think we’d tortured him every day since his second day on earth instead of treating him as a pet. Perhaps I should put a photo of a dumpster or a stewpot up in his quarters just to make him reconsider his behavior.
So tonight Emerson is separated. The girls were very concerned and he looked confused, but they share a wall at night and can plainly see each other. He has a roost near theirs, too. We didn’t get the girl’s side attached yet, and we need more chicken wire for their roof (we wired a tarp over it temporarily). I’ve also decided that I will put wire on the bottom as well. The PVC is lightweight and I’m afraid of raccoons getting under it. I could always put it on small wheels and make a chicken tractor out of it, or fill the entire thing with water to make it heavier! Or not.
I point out to my daughter constantly that other people are at the beach, or doing some typical summer activity, while we glue a coop, cob an oven, trim nails on our cat… all of which draw blood, come to think of it. The chickens are laughing.