The thing about getting this place started (organizing the garage with efficient, cleaned-up hand tools; covering the garden beds with poultry wire so neighbor cats don’t defecate in the freshly-planted radish rows; getting a sturdy chicken yard established before we raise a few pullets) is that it seems there’s always something else to finish off first, a lengthy list of chores that need doing before we can actually begin doing what it is we want to be doing. These are lingering, frustrating tasks—the type of work you must slog through with optimism that a day will soon dawn in which you have what you need in its rightful place, ready for your earnest, diligent maintenance.
We knew when we bought this place a year ago in April that our goal was going to be to try to provide an honest portion of our food for ourselves. The main way we’d accomplish this would be to grow a vegetable garden in place of our lawn. We also researched the prospect of keeping a few hens so that we’d have fresh eggs. As such, a small chicken coop was one of the very first items we picked up when we first moved in. We didn’t get chickens, though, for close to another year and a half.
The delay stemmed from not knowing exactly where to place the chicken run. We wanted to maximize the amount of space dedicated to gardening (issues of seasonal light and accessibility needed to be thought through), and also had read that letting hens run freely through yard may pose problems for the garden. A year after we got the coop, we finally thought we had nailed down where we’d put the run—at the very back of the yard—and began erecting a fully enclosed run approximately 18 feet wide, 10 feet deep, and about 8 feet high.
Once the run was framed out, though, we quickly recognized that the structure would be substantially more permanent than we first imagined. That wasn’t a problem, per se, but it did mean that if we were going to replace the rickety chain-link fence right behind the run—like we had been wanting badly to do—we ought to take care of that before we got any further on the chicken yard.
So, putting the chicken run on hold and after a few months of budgeting, we got a wooden fence up around the backyard. In order to do that, we had to move the chicken run frame out near the alley, in the far corner of the property behind the garage. The longer it sat it there, the better it looked in that position, so much so that when the fence was complete, we left the chicken run be. In retrospect, it’s a far smarter place for the hens, anyhow. Not only have we made the most of the yard space available to us, but we were able to construct an auxiliary opening in the side of the run which allows the chickens to be able to roam on the thin, shaded strip of yard on the side of the garage. The coop sits at one end of the run, while we made a sizable roost and dust bath area at the other.
Now that the coop and run are fully functional we have four pullets comfortably situated there. Soon enough, we hope, they’ll start laying eggs and we’ll have moved one step closer to a type of self-sufficiency.
What’s becoming increasingly evident at our small house on this 1/12-acre of urban land is that everything we undertake, no mater if we’ve done it for years or haven’t the foggiest idea how to begin, is actually a start, a launch, a new stab into the darkness of the future. There is always new weather and shifting knowledge and conquered obstacles and unknown challenges. And what we’re learning is that you can’t ever get up early enough—there is always something to do, and you probably won’t ever be as ready as you want to be. But despite that fact, you just have to get up and get going. The day is real. It is hard and true beneath you.