Sunday Blog: Coming home to Roost

Carrying on from last week’s chicken blog, you may remember we have three hens on their way, the gift of friends who are moving to San Francisco. The past few days has seen considerable evening woodworking activity in the garden. At least it’s been sunny.

Having been informed that chickens like wood chips and a level playing surface by the authoritative Haynes Chicken Manual (yes, they are the very same publisher which produces practical DIY guides to the Ford Fiesta etc), I set about building a Chicken Runway.  Our garden is on a gentle slope, and the coop is to be sited at the bottom, by the wall (potentially a convenient jump-off spot for passing foxes, but the coop is supposedly fox-proof). An evening’s work with a saw and several six-foot planks, bought at a modest cost from Blenheim sawmill, and I had a robust rectangular framework in place, like a very large raised vegetable bed. Proud of my achievement, as I am not really that handy with a toolkit, I then went and checked the measurements against the Eglu chicken coop plan. Really I should have done this first.

The second evening saw me dismantling the whole thing, as I had made it too small. This also meant a second trip to the sawmill for yet more planks to rebuild the frame to the correct size.  I then had to fill the frame – all twelve square meters of it – with earth, to level the slope. By the time I had done all this I was beginning to regret the whole chicken idea, but a bath and a couple of glasses of Lidl’s finest (we are still in recession, after all) put me in a happier mood. All I had to do now was buy the wood chips, spread them in the frame, and we’d be ready for our Eglu eco-chicken house.

According to Omlet’s own website, hardwood chips are available “from all good garden centres”. This is sadly misleading. BARK chips are widely available – but they are quite different, and not recommended – too soggy, apparently. After calling most of the leading garden centres around Woodstock – and there are quite a few – I was eventually directed to a local sawmill. The very sawmill, in fact, where I had bought the planks. And the extra planks. This time I was welcomed as an old customer, and felt at one with the other horny-nailed outdoorsy DIY types who were busy buying stacks of rough timber, no doubt to built a huge garden deck or maybe an entire house. Six eighty-litre sacks of chips – what with the wood, and the chips, you’ll gather by now chicken ownership is not a low-cost venture – were ferried home on Friday evening, ready to be spread out like a red carpet for the chickens’ arrival – this very evening.

Byron