Thursday, May 14, 2009

Coop! Coop! Coop!

Marie wanted the chickens out. They were starting to stink, and they were kicking up huge dust clouds in the dining room. I promised her that they would be out by Mother’s Day weekend.

I ended up spending Friday and Saturday prepping the coop area and collecting supplies. Before I knew it, Saturday night had come and I still hadn’t swung a hammer.

She began to worry.

“I’m just a little worried because you said it would be done by this weekend…” she started.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get up at the crack of dawn and –"

“That’s what you said this morning!”

“This time I’ll really get up early, and you’re gonna wake up and come downstairs and be like, 'Whoaaa! It’s beautiful! I’m really impressed! You did it!'”

She looked skeptical but said okay.


At 6:30 am the alarm clock buzzed. I got up and dressed, made a pot of coffee, and headed outside.

The night before, shortly after I assured Marie all would go perfectly, I envisioned myself amping up on caffeine, hauling out my power tools and radio, and playing some classic rock while I erected the perfect chicken coop. It wouldn’t take me more than a few hours. When she got up at 9:00, it would be almost complete. In other words, it would work out as seamlessly as a movie montage.

Instead, I would find myself with a bleeding, blown out index finger and Googling (with one hand) "how to hammer a nail."

The first thing that went awry was the music was all wrong. I couldn’t find any good yard work/construction music. I turned it to KMHD, one of my favorite stations, and one that has music instead of talking or commercials. With some scratchy crooning and clarinets in the background, I set forth. But it wasn’t exactly construction montage music.

I started to assemble four 2x4s into a square, but I couldn’t get a nail to go in straight to save my life. I wondered if they were somehow defective. For every one that I nailed in successfully, I had to pull three out. The hammer wouldn’t grab them and mostly just tore the heads off.

Earlier in the week I had hinted on my Facebook page that coop construction was near ("Tonight we sleep, tomorrow we build," I had boldly announced). One of my friends had become antsy. Checking my email before heading out that morning, I saw a request for pictures. It was followed the next day with simply “Coop! Coop! Coop!” Now, frustrated and wondering how the hell I was going to build it if I couldn’t even hammer a couple of damn nails, the words kept going through my head like a taunt. I closed my eyes and saw the black letters on white background – COOP! COOP! COOP!

I put things aside, and had a moment of reflection. I considered putting out a call for help, but realized it was Mother’s Day, and most people were probably busy. I decided that I couldn’t be that bad a carpenter, took a deep breath, and tried again.

With renewed confidence, I confronted those 2x4s. But I lacked a solid surface to work on and had to hold the boards between my knees, hammering at odd angles and elevations. I got mad at the nails. I hammered harder. I blinked. And when I opened my eyes I felt excruciating pain. I raised the finger to inspect it. Just in time to see dark red blood oozing out, the end looking like a squished grape.

After continuing unsuccessfully with a lot less vigor, I decided to rouse Marie. I prodded her gently with my good pointer finger and woke her up. “Happy Mother’s Day,” I whispered, so as not to awaken the sleeping baby next to her, while sticking my smashed and bleeding finger in her face. "I'm a terrible carpenter," I admitted. She agreed to help.

After that, things went relatively well; at least in relation to the previous two hours. I Googled how to effectively hammer (who knew that there were so many facets to it!). She found a decent hammer that a friend had forgotten (with the recommended waffle print on the head). I consulted a contractor friend via text message and found out that yes, you can cut a 4x4 with a skillsaw.

We cut a 4x4 into four pieces (legs) and nailed our 2x4s to them in the form of a square frame. Plywood was attached and another set of 2x4s to secure it. By the time we left for my mom’s house for a Mother’s Day barbecue, we had our foundation.

Driving to Salem, Marie erupted into a giggle.

"What is it?" I asked, looking at her in the rearview mirror.

“We worked for four hours and all we have is four posts nailed to a piece of plywood!”

We laughed the rest of the way to Salem, with “Coop! Coop! Coop!” echoing in my mind.

Another 2 hours were spent touching it up

*The Coop has since made serious progress. Pictures to come soon!


  1. don't those kinds of projects ALWAYS take triple the time you think to finish? don't forget, matt is an excellent helper on projects such as these. and he's pretty handy with the hammer.

  2. (Chris Q.) Hey... but, it does look like one sturdy little minimalist/Zen coop tho... The wound must have bought you sometime with Marie, eh? I'd be glad to help to, if you give me a little lead time, but it sounds like you have it well in hand... Coop! Coop! Coop! teehee...

  3. hmmmm. What is that for? I do not think that chicken can sleep on top of it. Are you sure you know what you are making?