Part two, in a three part series. Click here for Part 1 of Helpless Female Builds PVC Pipe Chicken Pen
So there I was with my yellow garden wagon. It was filled with the staple gun, air compressor, fence tying wire, and pliers. I had also gathered my shovel, fence posts, ladder, and post pounder. I had had my hands-on lesson with the staple gun the day before, then my engineer left for a business trip to Italy. Neither of us had thought I would need instructions on how to use the Cosco ladder.
Stupid ladder. It had labels plastered all over it with cautions. Don’t stand on a high rung! Don’t lean precariously! Don’t fall off! Duh. But I couldn’t get the legs to swing apart. The only instructions were on the blue knobs near the top. They said, “Turn and push.” I did it with one knob at a time. I did it with both knobs at once. Nothing. I wondered if I needed a couple more arms to pull it into shape.
I was in the front yard, trying to remind myself that the neighbors had better things to do than stand and laugh at me wrestling with a ladder. Increasing embarrassment was like a mental fog. Finally, I went inside to do an internet search. Apparently, no one else had this trouble. I resorted to asking a mildly feverish daughter what she remembered about the ladder. She wanted to come out in the fresh air for a moment. After a couple of moments of fiddling with it, it opened for her. She denied understanding what she had done and went back to bed.
The next step was to put in the fence posts to support the end of the PVC pipe frame. A few years ago, I had split my thumb wide open using a post pounder (ALWAYS use the handles on a post pounder), so I was very careful with this step. Even up on the ladder, the height of the stake was challenging. I had to rest every five to ten pounds. Once it was to the level I wanted in the ground, I twisted some wire to attach the PVC pipe to the fence post.
When I was done, I needed a break from that, so I stretched some 14 gauge wire along the side and the bottom of the pen. We had agreed that I would extend the wire out from the edge of the PVC pipe about two feet, then cover it with two to four inches of dirt. That way a digging predator wouldn’t know where the wire edge was and would likely get discouraged. Some fencing wire was also used to secure the wire to the PVC pipe at upper and lower points for each overhead hoop.
I had had such optimism at the beginning of the day, but now I realized that getting the outer pen done was going to take much longer than I had hoped. Still, the chicks were getting very crowded in the pen in the greenhouse. They were getting more active, too. Dust from the sand that I was using for bedding was drifting through the whole house. I decided to attempt to fortify the coop from both predators and freezing temperatures.
Fortunately, there were a couple of pre-cut and shaped pieces of chicken wire that had been around it in the previous location. By some miracle, I got those placed perfectly around the outside on my first try. I know this was not due to my spatial reasoning skills. I don’t have those. Dirt was shoveled over this wire, too, and a few rocks were used to hold down uncooperative corners.
The biggest problem was the front of the coop. The wire had to be folded down or cut. Folding seemed fastest, but it didn’t want to stay up against the coop. I decided it was time to get out the staple gun. Trying to remember which way to turn it so that the staples would end up over some wire, I persevered. Or rather, I decorated the front piece with strangely placed staples. About half way through, it quit working.
I went through all the steps of set-up again, making sure that it was unhooked from the compressor hose before checking the staples inside of it. I was stumped, which at this point shouldn’t surprise anyone. I was resigned to an emotional breakdown, but then I remembered that my dad lives only half a mile away and he is a very helpful fellow.
He came right over, and for reasons unclear to either of us, the staple gun began to work again. He also took a minute to help me figure out how the ladder works. I can now fold and unfold it at will. What it needed was a firmer turn and CLICK of both knobs. Then the sides do whatever you want until the knobs click back into whatever it is they click out of.
After my dad left, I fired staples freely to attach the chicken wire. I was NOT out of control, no matter what you hear. When I surveyed my work I saw that the particle board was thinner than the staples were long, so I had to hammer them flat into the board so that they wouldn’t perforate the
bird brained cute chicks.
It was time to do final set-up to bring the chicks out. My engineer had thought that by the time I used the water heating stone, the new brooder, and the heat lamp, the chicks would stay warm out there. This meant extension cords from the garage. I used a Christmas light, and an outdoor adapter with 3 plug-in spots. The brooder needed its own cord because its adapter was too wide to fit in the adapter.
When I brought the chicks out, they seemed to sense the vastly increased space, both sideways and overhead. They began testing their wings and I realized that the front barrier was not high enough. I was really getting the hang of this using-scraps-of-things-laying-around-the-yard and right away remembered an odd rubberized wire grate that was laying around. I painstakingly cut it to fit the door width (I have discovered new muscles in my forearm), then pounded in two nails to hang it on. I felt like singing with satisfaction!
With the chicks thus contained, I did a little more work on the outside pen, but in a more relaxed way. After a while, I recognized that my working pace had slowed down a lot. I was tired. I had to bend the nails for the new grate, so that the door to the coop would close. Then, I shocked myself by thinking of how to use a couple of nails and some fencing wire to rig a hook to keep the door closed.
My mother hen instincts required that I go out and check on the chicks every couple of hours throughout the night. I wanted to make sure they weren’t huddling and smashing each other. I also wanted to see if the set-up was holding up in the wind, as well as discouraging predators from prowling. However, like the exhausted mother of a newborn, I missed my early dawn wake-up call and accidentally slept a couple more hours.
The chicks were fine in the morning, but I noticed that they were already eating significantly more. I am assuming they are burning calories to stay warm. Now I go down to the pen a few times a day to make sure it is all connected. I go all the way inside the coop twice each day to check the water and let them eat out of my hand. Several of them climb into my hands when I do this. I laugh when they peck at my freckles on my arm, but it can be a little startling, too. They have forceful pecks even at this age (4.5 weeks old).
All my chickie babies seem very happy in their new apartment. My girls talk to the chicks and tell them they have no idea how much work I am doing for them! Maybe its just that I understand being helpless.