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Chicken folly

Man-o-man. I got in trouble yesterday.


As I mentioned, I hired a guy (Erick) to build a chicken coup for my six beloved chickens. They are too big for the cage on the porch, and I am slowly trying to set up this new farm-ish lifestyle at the new digs because we will be moving there in six weeks (God willing). Mark is so busy with building the house that I didn’t want to bother him with the project. I thought about asking Denver to help me build it, because I am clueless about how to wield tools (a handicap I have every intention of overcoming) but she is working all the time, and preparing to move back to Orlando next month, and I could see that our building a cage together just wasn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, my chickens remain, unhoused. So, rather than whine about it, I took action and found someone to help me get the job done.


I bought a book on farm animal housing , a “hobby farming in your backyard” sort of book, and I started looking at chicken coops other people had. Don’t laugh, up here just about everyone has kept chickens at one time or another. I picked a nifty design that not only offers a shed for the chickens, but has a safe covered area for bunnies too, and I showed it to Mark. He said it looked fine. I was excited!


We met Erick at Subway to give him the plans. Now, I should point out that the picture of this chicken coup is simple, just a little shed with a door and a little chicken going into a small square hole (like a doggy door). I told Erick not to bother with the inside, because I was going to buy ready-made chicken nest boxes. I was trying to make things simple.


That evening, Erick approaches Mark for reimbursement for the chicken coup materials (not labor, mind you, just the wood for the project). IT WAS $1,600.00!  


Mark calls me and says (in this controlled voice that he uses when he is trying hard not to kill me or overreact). “What did you ask him to build, honey. (Honey is the same as saying “Asshole” in this marriage. It is in the tone, ya know.) I reminded him that I showed him the plans. It was just a little shed with a little chicken dancing by the door.


I said, “Certainly that figure includes the materials for the llama windbreak too.” But Mark assured me that this was the cost of just the chicken shed materials. Eek. I was afraid to imagine the end costs, with labor. And we haven’t even begun to discuss the fence that has to be erected around this coup for the chickens too. (Like I said, I am in big trouble over this one.) Mark says dryly, “This is going to be about a 4,000 dollar chicken cage. Hope you want this really badly – like more than that trip to Europe.”

Remind me to torture you next time you make a mistake, Honey.


I hang up, but it keeps bothering me. I mean, I could have bought a ready-made shed at home depot for seven hundred bucks and had Mark cut a hole in it. I thought of that, but considered it too extravagant – I was thinking this chicken thing would be about 400 dollars, which I thought was already indulgent. I start wondering how a person could spend 1600 dollars on a small amount of wood. Something was definitely wrong.


So I called Mark and said, “I gave you the plans because you are the wood guy. I’m just the girl who likes chickens. I assumed that picture was to scale of that chicken in the drawing. Just how big is this chicken coup?”


Mark pauses and says, “I’ll call you back.”


Turns out my plans were for a chicken house that could easily house 200 chickens. I have only six. I was hoping to stretch the envelope and go to ten, tops. Mark says, “Erick, we told you Ginny only has about 8 birds.”

Erick says, “I thought it was big, but hey, who am I to point that out? You gave me the plans.”


At this point, who to blame is debatable. Because Mark did review the plans, and he knows what he is reading, considering he is a builder-guy. But I am at fault for thrusting that book in front of his nose at a time he was obviously going to be distracted.


So, we agreed to make the coup smaller – but still it is going to be big enough for about 50 chickens. The stuff has been purchased, and while we can use some of it for the llama shelter, much of it will remain in the chicken project. There goes my new couch. The good news is, Neva and I can raise just about anything we want to for fun at this new facility. Turkeys, peacocks, rabbits – a damn buffalo might even fit.


But that was not the extent of my folly. Because last night Erick called and told Mark that he needed him to cut a trail into the area where I want this chicken coup, and he also needed Mark to level the spot where he is building it – by this morning. So, while I hired this guy because I didn’t want to put demands on my husband’s time, Mark still had to drop everything, pull out the tractor and start plowing down trees at the end of a hard day working on the house. I gotta hand it to him. He didn’t complain. He just gave me that, “You better damn well appreciate me,” grimace as he made the trail.


Truth is, as guilty as I was over his having to put time into my project, I have been dying to get him to make some trails around the land for riding, so I was thrilled to see this opening in the trees. Kent and I took the four wheelers up and down it to “test” out the trail a few times last night – more to keep Mark company and be supportive than anything else. I saw that 100-foot trail open up in about one hour and thought with glee of the other 50 trails I am hoping he’ll create. But I’m not stupid. I won’t start hinting at that until I paid penance for today’s trouble. 


Anyway, in a few days I will have the biggest, most overpriced chicken house, ever. It is made of treated lumber so it will last 80 years – longer than I will last. (What is that – 160 generations of chickens?) I will probably be paying for this (and I’m not talking cash) for months.   But the way I look at it, if you are going to do something, dive in a do it with conviction. We wanted to experiment with a holistic, natural lifestyle – back to basics – be one with the earth – yada, yada. You need tools for such a lifestyle, and that includes a barn, a chicken coup and some trails. Joy costs, ya know.


I may not make it to Europe for some time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get to have a great adventure. Because I feel as if I am visiting another country now – everything is so alien and different in this world of forest and farm. The attitudes are different here – the culture – even the heavy accent of the natives makes me pause to translate what they are meaning in my mind. People say, “How can you stand living in the country, after all your years in New York and in Sophisticated Sarasota?”


Ha, I think, “How can you stand not living somewhere like this, where everyday is filled with wonder and surprise and challenge, all to the tune of birds singing and the wind in the trees. Here, everyday I experience the greatest sensations, warm fur under my fingers, cold noses that nuzzle your arm, and whinnies of delight when I approach. I see pleasant smiles on everyone’s face – because people are not annoyed by the “inconvenience” of life in a slower-paced, less aggressive community.  Neighbors are friends. Best of all, solitude is easy to find in the wide-open spaces of this nature ridden area. God walks with you when you take the time to appreciate his workmanship and I have never felt as spiritually content as I do here, walking among the trees or along the river. I adore the quiet. Yes, I can stand living in the country. Probably not forever.

Definitely, for now.


But being happy doesn’t mean I don’t get myself into a pickle on occasion. Like now. If I was willing to eat my chickens, this big chicken coup thing wouldn’t be such a folly, it would be an investment, like when you pay extra for installation to save money on energy bills in the long run . But I just can’t go there.  So, how do I justify a gigantic animal shelter that I really don’t need?  Peacocks?


About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

One response »

  1. Dear Ginny- Why is it that I am so fond of reading about your life? haha…I was intrigued with the chicken coup story….And I sat and thought; Its a chicken coup! Missing you…glad your blogging ❤ Me



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