I am delighted! This morning I spent an hour or so making the first of the chicken runs that I've been planning (read about our planning thoughts here). It was easy to make and relatively cheap too. This one will have a dual purpose. At the start of the year I will put chickens into it so that they can till the soil in a raised bed and fertilise the area, while they are scratching around in the soil and eating the weeds and last of the crops in the bed.
Then, when the chickens have done their thing I can plant the bed with brassicas and put butterfly netting over the chicken run to create a vegetable cage. This should keep our cabbages and other brassicas safe from the voracious appetites of hundred of little green caterpillars.
To make the frame I used 8 x roofing battens 3.9m long and lots of 5cm (2 inch) screws. The total cost of frame was £25.
The uprights are 90cms long and the cross pieces are 105cms long, this was the most economical way of cutting the wood. So, there are 4 full length (390cm) pieces, 8 uprights, 6 cross pieces, 1 long diagonal and two small diagonal pieces. I will probably add two or four more small diagonal braces to add to the strength and stability of the frame, but it started raining and using electrical tools in the rain is a silly idea.
Here's how I put it together (if the video below doesn't work, you can find it on YouTube here)
The next step is to staple chicken wire around three sides (leaving the end without the cross brace uncovered) and to fix windbreak fabric or debris netting to the top. I will then create an end panel that can be held on with either a couple of bungee cords or small hook and eye catches. The end needs to be able to open so that the chickens can be let in to the run in the morning and out again at night. Once I am using it as a vegetable cage I can use cable ties to keep the end panel on it for the season.
I am really rather pleased with my handiwork and even though it has meant that I have been able to do little else today and I hurt all over, it was worth it. I had fun making something that is useful, that allows us to put the chickens to work without them having a free-for-all at their favourite 'all you can eat buffet bar' (our annual vegetable garden).
Projects like this are good for the confidence and spirit. There is something highly satisfying in being creative and when I can make something that is multi-functional, it is even more pleasing. This evening the plan is to have a hot soaky bath to soothe aching limbs, but first of all, it's time for a cuppa!
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