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Put a Bird in it

May 20, 2012

This morning I woke up to foul screeching outside my window. No; this morning I woke up to fowl screeching outside my window. That’s right: I got chickens! Five layers and a coop; it was quite a process getting it all transported three miles up the road and into my backyard.

First we disconnected the run from the coop with a sawzall and a cat’s-paw. The birds didn’t like that one bit, so we let them roam around while we worked. Brandon and I hauled the 4×8 foot behemoth through the obstacle course of his yard and somehow lifted it into the back of my truck. We threw a few straps over it and the first load was ready.

Just as we pulled onto Division street a cop drove by. He must have seen stranger things in SE Portland than a chicken coop in the back of a truck, because he didn’t blink an eye. I drove slowly and made it home without mishap. Then it was a question of getting it into my backyard. One side of the house has a wide gate, but getting it under the patio cover seemed problematic. I measured the smaller gate and determined we had a half-inch to spare. It worked!

We went back for the coop. It was extremely heavy and we could’ve used another set of hands (or two). Lacking such a luxury, we screwed a couple of 2×4’s to the bottom and hauled it out ourselves. Then we leaned it on its side and flopped it into the pickup. Another slow ride through town and we found ourselves in a conundrum: the siding on the coop added an extra inch to its width!

We tossed around several solutions: roll it under the patio cover on a skateboard; carry it on its side; dismantle the small gate… in the end we measured the patio cover’s height and determined we had two inches of clearance. Amazingly enough it worked, but by this point we were getting tired. The last twenty feet took a good ten lifts and drops. However, the coop didn’t fall over, we didn’t get hurt, and in the end it was sitting exactly where we wanted it.

The third trip was for the birds themselves. Now I must tell you the bittersweet part of the story: these chickens belonged to my daughter’s best friends’ family, who are moving to Colorado. Isn’t that how it goes? Everything comes with a price.

We set the canopy back on my truck and chased the chickens around Brandon’s yard until they were all secured. As we drove home people behind us pointed and laughed at the silly birds hopping around the truck. For the first time I actually felt like a farmer. Then it was time to go out for a celebratory beer.


This morning I spent a few hours putting the roof back in place, stapling the screen onto the chicken run, and generally securing the perimeter against raccoons. Then I opened the door and let them out of the coop. I think they’re happy – they’d laid two eggs! Frankly I don’t know much about chickens. They’ve not been in my life since I was about seven years old.

We had three back then. All I remember is one became dinner (it was stringy) and the other two tore up the ground around our house until my parents decided to get rid of them. Easier said than done; they were wily old birds. One day I squatted behind a banana tree with a string in my hand – it was attached to a stick which propped up a laundry basket, under which I’d scattered a bunch of chicken feed. It took a while but I caught them both and was the proud owner of a fifty-cent bounty.

I’m curious to see if I spend more on chicken feed than I’ve been spending on eggs, but I’m more excited about closing the ecological loop. They’ll turn my compost and yard trimmings into eggs and poop, which I’ll eat (the eggs) and put in the garden (the poop), which will in turn transform into vegetables and flowers. Symbiosis at its best.

There they are, scratching away. I’m going to name one Henrietta and another Omelet. The white one keeps her name; Honey. My daughter gets to name the last two. She loves animals, but I think she’s most excited about her chore routine changing. Instead of opening the compost bin to a ‘hurricane of fruit flies,’ she gets to dump the bucket in the coop. I’d call it killing two birds with one stone, but that seems morbid in this particular situation. Let’s call it feeding two birds with one hand, as an old friend used to say. Or five, in this case.


From → Journal

  1. Prana permalink

    I like it! Especially the pictures and the last few lines.

    • Thanks sis! I was very fortunate to have inherited such a luxury coop. I’ve since fenced in a larger portion of yard so they can roam a bit more freely when I’m here… but won’t tear up all the grass, and we don’t have to worry about droppings all over. Also, the cats love to sit under the trampoline and watch them.

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