I borrowed a book about chook sheds from one of our friends a few months back. I thought it was going to tell you about the essentials in a chook shed, maybe suggest optimal sizes for a chook run, but instead it was a series of pictures with little captions that said how this person had built their shed out of an old silo (complete with curving windows), or that person had converted their children’s cubby house. All of the photos made the sheds look adorable. I gave the book back saying, This is more like chook-shed-porn – something to look at, to salivate over, to desire.
But now that we have our own new chook shed, I have to admit that there’s nothing wrong with chook-shed-porn. Ours is made from recycled pallets and pre-rusted corrugated iron. It has a tiny door with a spindly ladder for the chooks, and a bigger door with a big bolt for us to reach the eggs and clean out the chook-poo straw. The chooks are contained by a wire fence that folds under, to deter digging predators, and it has a gate that springs shut via an ocky strap. Part Heath Robinson, part inspired improvisation, it works brilliantly.
Our old chook shed – a mere, uncharming, unhip kit – sits unloved, its door hanging off since the dog-next-door pushed too heavily to make her way to the eggs, its tiny run filling with a feral pumpkin. We’ve taken down the electric fence that we had used to give the chooks a bigger run. We’ve also stopped giving them unfettered access to the whole garden, and everyone seems happier. Our plants aren’t dug up the minute they’re planted. The chooks seem calmer in being contained, not bothered that they only have one tree (albeit their favourite – the chermoya) to scratch under. Maybe they’re just happy to sleep in such an adorable shed, to form such gorgeous tableaux as they climb their stairs, to be laying eggs in cut-out water containers, and to have a sustainable, ethical abode that could feature in a magazine on organic gardening.