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How Building a Chicken Coop Saved My Sanity

October 13, 2015

It’s Tuesday after a holiday weekend and yet another weekend has gone by with a whole lot of nothing happening on the outdoor front. My toe is finally (FINALLY!) starting to feel a tiny bit better but any real activity sends me straight back to Hobblesville and that is not a place that I want to be.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been making the most of this down time and getting a lot of things done that wouldn’t be getting done otherwise. And one of those things was building a chicken coop.

When I came home from work with chicks (much to my husband’s chagrin) one day a couple years ago I needed to get a coop for them fast. I read everything I could find about chicken coops and saw many many people advising that you build your own because the ones you can buy at the store are crap. But I didn’t have the skills to build my own (or so I thought!) so off to the feed store I went.

The coop that I bought was really small. This wasn’t a big problem in the summer because my ladies free ranged all day and were only cooped up at night. But when winter rolled around and they started hunkering down inside a bit more? Yeah, I felt bad.

When I got a fourth chicken a few weeks ago and the old coop started falling apart I decided it was time for an upgrade. I talked my husband (who has started referring to the chickens by their names which I take as a sign that they’re growing on him …) into building me a coop. I scoured the internet and found the plans from the folks at The Garden Coop and decided that the Basic Coop was just what I was looking for. I told my husband I wanted him to build me that one. I knew it would be a while before he got around to it.

Then I started reading more about it and how beginner-friendly the project is. And about how people with no prior building experience had made it themselves. Can I do this myself?, I wondered.

When I floated the idea past my husband he chuckled, looked a bit skeptical, and said I should give it a go. I think he was mostly happy to be out of the coop construction hot seat for a while.

And so it began. I downloaded the plan, got the materials, and set up shop on the side of the house for the next few days. A few days later I had something that looked like this:

I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty damn pleased with myself.

A week ago I had never used a drill or a circular saw. I had never measured or cut wood or worked with hardware cloth. I had no idea how to drill pilot holes. I was nervous and not at all convinced that I could do this.

It was actually a whole lot of fun. I got to spend multiple days hanging out outside. The dogs and chickens milled around and a certain three-year old did some product testing. I got to paint and play with power tools. I learned lots of new things. And at the end of the day I ended up with something I’m really damn proud of.

But the best part about all of this? I got to challenge myself during a time when I was feeling a little complacent.

A broken toe may be the lamest of injuries but it has still taken me out of the game for the better part of six weeks now. While I’ve been able to do some workouts on this toe, it’s been a good month and a half since I’ve done anything that even remotely pushed me. And this challenged me in a totally different way.

The truth is that when you’ve been doing outdoor stuff for a long enough time, you get comfortable with it. Sure, the sports may change and you may try new things but they’re all still a little bit related. Going from from skiing to snowboarding, mountain biking to cyclocross, or regular trail running to trail running with donkeys isn’t really that big of a jump.

Mountains and bikes and burros are in my wheelhouse. Power tools? Not so much.

Over the weekend I tore down the old coop, moved the new one to it’s permanent location, and propped it up on deck supports so the ladies can go underneath. I’m currently clearing gravel next to the coop to build  a nice, enclosed run. I have plans to spruce up this generally neglected side of the house to make it a more pleasant place to hang out (watching the chickens is SO relaxing you guys!). I’m dreaming about other home-improvement projects – and feeling a lot more confident in my ability to do them.

What I learned from this experience is that, yes, we can do a lot more than we think we can. And that at the end of the day, a challenge is still a challenge and stepping outside of your comfort zone still feels really damn good.

I also learned that power tools can be a great way to work out some under-exercised angst.

Leave us alone. Can’t you see that we’re trying to sleep?!

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  • Reply Amy Hodge October 13, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    I love this so much! Do you have a close up of the sign on the door?

  • Reply Deb October 13, 2015 at 8:27 pm

    Love this! It’s great to try new things and I love the sense of accomplishment you feel once complete. I think your ladies will be very cozy!

    • Reply jendz October 13, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Totally! 🙂

  • Reply Alexandra October 16, 2015 at 5:48 am

    Hey! New follower here! Love your blog and seriously love this post! I used to have chickens and it’s seriously the best, fresh eggs everyday that came from your backyard, what’s better?!

    • Reply jendz November 10, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Right?! They are the best! 🙂

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