I am the proud new owner of a couple of hens!
But it won’t come easy because, well, it’s my life, and therefore involves me, and little in my life goes according to any kind of plan.
I’ve always wanted a couple of chickens, and I felt I had enough time to take some on. I should have stopped right there. Me? “Enough time”? But everyone has chickens! They’re easy! Throw them your leftovers and collect eggs!
So I did the requisite research, which is always just enough to get me in trouble. I took Chicken 101 classes. I read the Zen of the Hen.
And oh, did I have coop plans! I spent months on plans. I deduced the perfect location — protection from the wind, enough sun for warmth, and shade for those Chetco Effect days.
My friend gave me the frame of a trampoline to make a half-circle pen! Who else in town has a half-circle pen? And I’d do it all with wood pallets! Upcycling!
Oh, my chicken coop was going to be the envy of all chicken owners in town. It would look just like my 1940 Craftsman house, yellow with white trim, little windows and steps to a porch. Maybe a weathervane on the roof — and color TV!
I scoured plans, sketched drawings, even trimmed my neighbor’s trees so they wouldn’t drop berries into the new pen. I had to apologize by means of promising her eggs, but hey! It’s a small price to pay for neighborhood peace.
Then reality set in.
Pallets are really hard to take apart. I ended up sawing them up, and strangely enough (in my little world) the pieces all fit together like a Rubik’s cube. Score one for me! (I should’ve been suspicious right then.)
When I was wondering what to use for the back of the coop, I remembered a piece of plywood my rabbit no longer needs for shade ... since he figured out how to jump out of his pen. Red flag? Not to me! Problem solved!
When I needed 2x2s for support beams, I remembered my failed attempt at slings for my boat. I dismantled them and — voila! Jane: 2-and-0!
The bouncy part of the trampoline serves as a great half-roof over the frame, and it fits! Hey, in my world, you just never know.
By the end of the day, I had a coop ... of sorts. A white-trash kind of coop. Well, it has a lid — with hinges! — so I can access eggs. It’s square and level. That’s gotta count for something. And a friend of mine from whom I got my chickens — I’ll call him … “Randy” — said they were “way too small” to flap over the fence.
Randy is to blame for everything that ensued. His wife will back me on this.
It took us two hours, but we finally got two very flustered young hens into a crate. I took them home. Released them in their new digs. All is good in the world, right? Right. ...
Because they’ll be cooped up at night, I don’t need to worry about cats, raccoons, badgers, osprey, vampires, snakes or cougars getting them. Right? And they can flutter to their heart’s content all day!
Right then, my cat, Avery, approached. All innocent, and meowed a hello. Mid-meow — “meo-gack!” — his eyes got real big. His nose went up in the air. I built the fence 2 feet higher.
Later that day, I checked on the girls. The cats were hovering. I built the fence taller.
That evening, though, I came home to an empty pen. Rut-roh.
The birds had flown the coop. It took an hour and four neighbors flailing around in ivy and blackberries and climbing apple trees just to find Chicken No. 1. Alas, Chicken No. 2 was not to be found.
“You!,” I said to Randy. “You said they could not fly over that fence!”
“Hmmm. Guess I was wrong.”
I built a secure, albeit, kinda white-trash, net roof.
And Randy gave me another bird — quickly dubbed “Three,” as it goes in my life of “low-maintenance pets.” My coworkers will back me on this, too.
But the other day, I noticed something odd. Three is shaping up to be a “he.”
It’s going to be a long summer.