Sunday, December 5

Chicken Pen Meltdown

My chicken coop, as I wrote about before, has seen better days. Mostly those days were in the seasons called Spring, Summer and Fall. That wet, heavy snow we got did a number on the poultry netting and the posts and I got outside to fix it up yesterday. I had already gotten the old netting off and braced the worst of the tilting poles with 2x4's but I had keep the ladies inside since there was no "top" on the pen and I was afraid they would escape or a hawk would get them. They really didn't seem to mind being in the warm coop all day and I gave them extra bread scraps to soothe any sore feelings.

So yesterday I knew I had to do something and I went out with rope. I assessed the situation. Then I did my best.

Considering that I totally out of shape, am 20lbs overweight and have not a lot of arm muscle, my best was the equivalent of a third grader.

I did a little more 2x4 bracing and then strung the rope all across the top of the pen in a zig-zag fashion hoping that it would keep hawks out and keep the ladies in by giving the impression of a roof. all this was done is a surprisingly short period of time and I was happy with the temporary state of it all. I crossed my fingers that the ladies would not figure out that they could indeed fly the coop and went in the house. It was very chilly at this point and I am not a winter person. And it was pretty muddy in the pen. I am not totally crazy about mud either.

I went back out a few hours later to collect the eggs and check my work. I was greeted by half of my flock lounging in the yard, outside of the pen. They were having a fabulous time digging away the snow and munching on the grass underneath. I could only assume that the roof had not fooled anyone.

Dressed in my heavy winter coat, snow boots, hat, gloves and a miserable attitude, I rounded them up and up them back in, only to have them squeeze though a loose section of fencing single file and resume their grass search. they hadn't flown out, they had discovered a chink in the armor of loose metal fencing.

I was getting pretty upset at this point and I realized that I needed to do something else. I dragged some extra fencing into the pen and sectioned off one third. That sounds so easy, doesn't it. Like it only took a minute to do it. Truth is I was a mess. I struggled with the heavy fencing as I dragged it through the snow. I got tangled in a discarded piece of netting and it got stuck in the treads of my snow boots. I was staggering and slopping around in mud mixed with a generous helping of chicken poo. I was sweaty and I was miserable.

I got the divider fencing up and used zip ties to secure everything. I do have to say that the bright spot of all this was my growing love for zip ties. Those things are wonderful and so versatile!

But back to the horrible stuff. As I was hauling and sweating and getting mud/chicken poo all over myself, I cursing and swearing and crying. I was wishing, out loud and with foul language, that I had some help; that I didn't always have to do everything myself. My bulky, clumsy self was flopping around the pen trying to left things that were too heavy and rigging up the most ridiculous pen/rope containment system ever conceived. but I didn't care. I was miserable and all i wanted to do was sit down in the snow, cry, and give up.

This may seem drastic to those of you that are responsible for large farms, the tasks of which I can not even begin to imagine. But this is my first winter with chickens. And I am a worrier. I was worried that they would get too cold; that they would stop egg production; that they would be mad at me for keeping them in the coop on chill days. I did not even think, when the tomatoes were producing or when we were raking leaves, that my biggest worry would be not having the whole thing cave in on them. I am failing at chicken ownership.

After I had shouted just about every curse word I know, in numerous combinations, and after I had completely exhausted myself, did I admit that I had done all I could physically do and that it was just going to have to be good enough. The ladies were safe and they were contained. They also got quite a show as I counted at least 10 little heads staring at me through the coop window every time I looked up. I hope they got a kick out of seeing "mom" have a nervous breakdown in the mud/poo.

Live it up girls, because there is no way on this green earth that your coop will be featured in any Martha Stewart backyard chicken segment.

I wanted to give up yesterday. I wanted to sell the ladies and give up this homesteading thing. I wanted to call and have the cable turned back on and I wanted to run a load of wash in 'warm' and I wanted to buy non-organic, inexpensive chicken. I wanted to go to Walmart and buy a ton of cheap chinese crap that will break within a week on my visa card. I wanted to crank up the thermostat and wear shorts and a tank top around the house.

Then I came in the house and put my gloves and hat to dry by the pellet stove. I changed into a clean flannel and warm wool socks that I just finished knitting the day before.

Here is where some might think I had a 'glowing-light-from-homesteader-heaven' shone on me. Not really but I did calm myself down a little and I worked my way through season three of Dr. Quinn. Her chickens always seemed to do just fine.

I am still feeling pretty miserable here - like a big, weak failure. Trying to do everything myself is clearly not working .


  1. Dont think you are the only one Meredith. I think everyone has been there at one time in our lives. Our chickens figured out a way to get out of the fence both Friday and Saturday. I had to round them up by myself on Friday but luckily the hubby was home to help me on Friday. They love the grass too. I didnt get upset just talked to them and then grabbed them and put them back in. Our chicken run is under construction and we should have a better run for them soon where they can get some of that grass...silly girls. But you're not a failure - just look at all you have accomplished so far! So chin up and chest out LOL.

  2. Oh, I just want to give you a big hug! I can totally see myself acting the very same way, down to the crying, cursing etc. every step of the way.

    You are not a failure. Homesteading is NOT easy, and if think back to Dr. Quinn's time there were a lot of failures encountered, just maybe not by the fictional DQ :)

    You are inspiring!