22 February 2011

How to build a chicken coop for free

I found an ad on Craigslist several weeks ago, that offered 5 laying hens for $30.  How could I pass up that?

So we pulled out our stockpile of "this might come in handy", and looked it over.  Because chickens require a coop, of some sort.  Here it is:

Also available were several varieties of boards, two sheets of plywood (one long and skinny, one 4'x4') two rolls of linoleum, and a bucket of hinges.

We used the platform (formerly Monkey1's loft bed) for the floor, and cut the 2x4s in half for the corners.  Monkey3 helped:


We nailed them to the corners, using a square to make sure they were...well, square:
Monkey3 helped some more.
Monkey1 helped, too.  Once the 2x4s were on, he and Monkey2 wandered off to build a tipi:

It was a building kind of day.  We tied the 2x4s at the top with strapping:

 Next up was walls, and we didn't have enough wood for that, so we headed to the local building supply store.  But not to buy wood; oh no.  They pile their pallets out back, free for the taking.  We went through and picked the nicest ones, and came home with these:

(I still can't believe that was all just going to be thrown away.)  You know, getting pallets apart without wrecking the wood is really hard.  They use these twisty nails that think they are screws, and just really don't want to let go.  Kind of miserable, and my arms are still sore, but we did get enough wood for the walls.  We added more strapping around the middle, and screwed on the boards top, middle, and bottom.  The screws stuck out on the inside, which led to Monkey1's favourite part:


See the sparks?  That was even more impressive after dark.  But that came later...

That first day (Saturday) we finished the back wall and used the 4'x4' sheet of plywood for the floor.  We pieced it together, and left about a foot hanging off one end to floor the egg boxes.  We decided to stop, since it was getting nippy with the sun going down.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and we left the coop out in the yard to finish on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday morning we woke up to sleeting rain.  The plywood for the floor was mostly soaked.  We'd left a pallet on top of it, so that part was dry, but we knew we couldn't put linoleum down over a mostly wet floor.  We hauled it into the garage, and left it to dry while we headed off to church.

It actually did dry out, so we stretched the linoleum out and tacked it down before lunch.  A longer drying time would have been good, but we had a time crunch because (fanfare) we were picking up the chickens that afternoon!  (Stop shaking your head at me!)

We drove WAAAAAAY up north - about an hour - to the land of never-ending wind, and met the girl who was selling us the chickens at a BP.  She had her boyfriend with her, and the chickens in a cardboard box.  The monkeys wanted to see the chickens, so she pulled them out of the car, and pushed the flaps down a bit.  One hen poked it's head up through the hole, and the guy said (very quietly) "I am not chasing these chickens all over the parking lot." Just one more long-suffering male, dealing with a crazy woman.  :-D  She made the monkeys promise to take good care of her "ladies", and we headed home.

We carted them home (after a quick stop to pick up food, waterers, and feeders) and put the box in the yard, while we tried to finish up the coop.

It probably would have been good to start with a plan, but when you're making the best of what you've got, planning can be a bit difficult.  I suppose we could have sat down with our pile of junk and sketched out a detailed plan for what to do with it, but where's the fun in that?  So we had to pause, here and there, to figure out what was coming next.

About 8:30 we finally put on the egg boxes, hung the roost, and put the final wall on.  We used the long skinny piece of plywood for the last wall.  Cut in half, it fit perfectly.  We hinged both pieces at the bottom so we can open the whole wall for cleaning, or only half just to let the birds out for the day.

We covered it with a tarp, because we didn't have enough wood on hand to finish the roof...plus, it was late, and we'd been working hard all day.  The tarp was good enough for a while.

Final result:

For the egg boxes, we used a sheet of heavy plywood off one of the pallets.  The Mad Scientist built a u-shaped frame, inserted it into the coop, and screwed it to the 2x4s on that side.  He screwed the floor to the bottom, and we hinged the remaining plywood to the top.  It wasn't quite wide enough, so we filled in the back with a piece of strapping.
Total cost so far:  $3 for the tarp, plus three hasps and three latches for the two doors and the egg boxes.  (I don't remember how much those cost.)

Next up:  "It's not about what you have in your closet!  It's about who your friends are, and what they have in their closets!"  (Name that movie.)

08 February 2011

Negatives don't add up to a positive.

I received a very interesting comment on my Of Princesses and Frogs post, which I would like to reply to.  An anonymous commentor (who I hope wasn't my brother, since I always lose arguments with him, even when I'm right) stated:
If you consider yourself "a woman of strength, honor, resourcefulness, and intelligence, who respects herself, and these qualities, enough to hold out for those things in a life-partner" (which I am sure that you are!),then I believe that you learned to think for yourself and were not unduly swayed by the Disney movies YOU loved as a child. What makes you think that you will not bring up a daughter who can also think for herself? A person who can think critically and clearly can be "exposed" to all sorts of "influences" without harm to their true selves. In fact, it can be like dating, the real lessons learned are what you really DON'T want in a life-partner, so you can move on to the real thing.
There are a few problems that I see with this point of view, and to facilitate discussion, I decided to address them in a new post:

First of all, yes, I did learn to think for myself...after a lot of trial and error, involving decisions that I deeply regret, based on a romanticized view of life that was certainly not hindered by the Disney movies I watched while growing up.

I would prefer my daughter to learn positive lessons (i.e. "This is what is good, noble, true...") rather than negative ones (i.e. "Here is an example you should NOT follow.)

And while it is true that "A person who can think critically and clearly can be 'exposed' to all sorts of 'influences' without harm to their true selves.", I don't think that a four-year-old is really capable of that kind of critical thought. I'm certain that, when my daughter is older, we will be able to enjoy the fun aspects of these movies together, and also some good conversations about the less positive things they contain. But I will be waiting for that until AFTER she has developed the ability to look at them critically, rather than letting her see them now, when she will fall in love with the swooshy clothes and assimilate the ideas without first thinking them through.

I will add: If you're learning what you DON'T want by dating, that's a whole lot of negative experiences to carry with you through life. Again, I'd rather my children not learn their lessons by experiencing everything now that they shouldn't want for the future.

Further thoughts and disagreements welcome, as long as they're worded as politely as this one was!

04 February 2011

Of Princesses and Frogs

I was perusing old posts over at Prairie Mother, looking for her pumpkin pie recipe, when I happened on this post about the Princess Syndrome.  You know what it is:  Every little girl is a princess!

I typed out this whole comment over there, and then realized it was more of an entire post than a comment.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The "comment" was:

Yes, there is definitely a "Princess Culture" out there, and Disney is most certainly leading the charge.  I loved the Disney movies when I was growing up, but now, with a daughter of my own, I have avoided them like the proverbial plague.  When you really consider the messages they send, there is very little of value.

 Snow White is gullible and foolish, saved by a magic kiss.

Aurora is...gullible and foolish, saved by a magic kiss.

Cinderella is meek and obedient, saved by a Fairy Godmother and a troupe of animals to whom she has been kind (at least that's something positive).

Ariel...don't even get me started on her.  "But if I do that, I'll never see my father or my sisters again."  "But, you'll have your man!" the witch says slyly.  And that's ok by her.  Oh, and she's sixteen, belligerent, stubborn, and determined to have her own way.  And obviously completely mature enough to fall in love and live happily ever after. 

Jasmine, well, she's probably a step up as far as the feminists are concerned.  Which is to say, her father is preoccupied and out of touch, her boyfriend is a "bad boy" that she has to help rescue, and her pursuer is skanky and must be overcome by her wits and resourcefulness.  So if you want to teach your daughter to look down on all the men in her life and only rely on herself (and any magical genii she happens to find), Jasmine's perfect.  Especially if you like skimpy outfits.

Belle is pretty much the same thing, only she does it all with more clothes on.  So I'd say from Aladdin on, (chronologically speaking), the Disney princesses stopped being helpless females waiting to be rescued, and became the only intelligent people in the whole movie.  Not much of an improvement.

When I think about qualities I want my daughter to admire and emulate, I don't think of waiting around for her hero to find her, kiss her, and sweep her off to some type of happily-ever-after.  Nor do I want her to feel that she should be some type of super-hero female, relying on no one (because they're all unreliable) as she charges ahead with her own dreams and plans...hoping that some man will fall into her life one day and want to come along for the ride.  (Because make no mistake - the hero is still necessary for the princess.  The difference, now, is he's the sidekick, rather than the rescuer.)

I want my daughter to strive to be a woman of strength, honor, resourcefulness, and intelligence, who respects herself, and these qualities, enough to hold out for those same things in a life-partner.  I don't think she's going to learn that from the Disney cadre of princesses.  Any other suggestions for role models?  Because the ruffles and twirly dresses are hard to compete with, I gotta tell ya.