Main Coop Upgrade Begins!

Today was going to be the day that we moved the nest box from Andy’s plot to ours. Quite how we were going to do it, I had no clue but it would be done somehow. When we arrived there were quite a few people on site who I felt sure we could rope into help. Shed open, we walked down to the fruit section. The nest box that we borrowed from Cliff a couple of years ago. Moving it onto Rachel’s plot was tricky. It wasn’t just the weight, it was the complete lack of grip points. Oh and the whopper spiders who were living in it didn’t help either! It was a very tight fit to manoeuvre it along the back path between the coop and the fencing of the Community Garden – literally millimetres to spare on each side. Sometimes, there was even less room. Eventually, we got past the difficult bit and put it into place on Rachel’s plot. Although the nest box isn’t attached to the run, it would be a quick job to do when someone uses it for their broody hen.

Flushed with success, we walked up to Andy’s plot and found that he had already shifted the nest box away from the run, giving us access to two breeze blocks. My husband lugged them both down to our plot and I got busy getting them into place. Back up on Andy’s plot, we all got together to discuss how we were going to move the nest box. Most people had left by now so it looked like it was going to be just the three of us. Fortunately, Andy had a plan – using a metal trolley with the sides off for transporting it. This was a great idea but it didn’t solve the problem of moving it several metres across to the trolley and lift it up onto it. The nest box was so heavy that even shifting it those few metres seemed like miles. Suddenly, my husband had an idea. If he and Andy lifted the nest box, I could move the breeze blocks and then we could shift the nest box along the breeze blocks rather than lift it. Genius! It took a couple of attempts but we got the nest box shifted on the breeze blocks up to the edge of the small raised bed.

Andy then had to take down the uprights on both ends of the raised bed so that the nest box could be lifted across the raised bed to the path. Without breeze blocks to help, getting it across the raised bed wasn’t pretty. We all looked rather anxiously at each other when we realised quite how high we would have to lift the box to get it onto the trolley. My husband took the front and Andy and I took the back corners and just managed to get it balanced on the edge of the trolley. As I guided it back, Andy and my husband shoved it further onto the trolley. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, we held the nest box in place on the trolley as we thought about the next stage.

As always, the bit that seemed the simplest part was by far the more difficult. It turned out that the nest box roof was the same height as the front section. Leaning the nest box back wasn’t an option as Will’s greenhouse was directly behind. One slight miscalculation and the nest box would fall backwards and crush the greenhouse. Heroic efforts by Andy and my husband saw us squeak through the tightest parts. Once on the main path, we all had a break. This was so much harder than even I had thought. At that moment, Cliff spotted us and came to help. I don’t know what we would have done without an extra pair of hands! As the guys all discussed the next part, I ran down the path and began to clear as much stuff out of the way as possible. Carefully, I put Phil’s plant pots into the greenhouse and moved various other bits on the edge of our plot out of the way. I turned around to go back up to the main path and help, only to discover that the nest box was already nearly halfway down the path! Andy was pulling at the front with Cliff and my husband pushing from the back. Another few dodgy moments saw the nest box arrive by the coop.

Relief all around was short-lived when we remembered that we hadn’t moved the base. Until the base was in place, someone would have to support the nest box on the trolley. My husband got busy running up and down, dropping off the heavy breeze blocks. As soon as they arrived, I dropped them into place under the careful supervision of Andy to make sure they were roughly level. Two sides and the blocks supporting the front of the nest box in, we decided to move it onto the blocks. This was definitely a four man job. A combination of lifting, shoving and heaving got it onto the blocks. Final tweaks to make it sit securely and parallel to the path and we all declared it done. There were a few smaller jobs to do but we all ambled up to Andy’s shed for a break. Drinks in hand, we sat and had a chat, revelling in our success.

By now it was getting past lunchtime, so whilst my husband sorted out all the chickens, I screwed in the iron sheets to the back of the nest box. These provide protection for the wood as well as an added layer of insulation for the birds once they are inside. I made sure to allow a section of the sheet to extend past the edge of the box to block any attempts by predators. The only problem with having the nest box outside the coop is that the join between the box and the run is the weakest point. And don’t the foxes know it! But with the iron sheet on one side and strong wire on the other, it should be fine.

So the plan over the next couple of days is to attach the nest box to the run, put in the ramp and sort out the guttering at the back of the nest box. I will also go a depo clean of the nest box provided the weather stays dry enough for long enough. The old nest box in the coop will stay in place for a bit before being removed. This will allow the chickens to get used to their new home. Once the old nest box is removed, I will also get rid of the old perches and make new ones.

The main coop has needed some work for a few years. I just hope the chickens appreciate all the efforts we went to!

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