Coop Devil

The sounds of distressed clucking and squawking began to drift into the living room sometime between 10 and 11 at night—long after the hours when the “bukbukbukbukbukbuuuuuuuuuuuk” from Frannie Sue’s tiny but powerful lungs is considered appropriate. The dogs lifted their heads, tilted their ears backward and let out a low, slow growl. I muted my episode of The West Wing and strained to listen in with them. Silence. Then, THUD. WHACK. SQUAAAAAKSQUAAACKBUUUUUUUUUK. CRASH.

“Moosh!” I bellowed toward the bedroom in Heath’s direction. “The chickens! Something’s happening to the chickens!”

Not bothering to put on shoes, I scurried out the side door and stepped awkwardly on the balls of my feet, over twigs and stepping-stones through the backyard to the chicken coop. I didn’t have my flashlight, but I didn’t need it. Even in the dark, I knew what I saw crawling eerily from the chicken coop door.

A few seconds later, also shoeless, Heath came stumbling out into the darkness with rake and flashlight in hand, ready for battle. Except for the shoe thing.

“What is it? Can you see?” Heath asked me, his voice relaying equal parts concern over the mysteries that lay hidden in the darkness and frustration for being pulled from his cozy slumber into the uncertain, barefoot night.

I pointed to the varmint that clung ferociously to the inside wire of the chicken coop, activating the same defense used by Sam Neil’s character in Jurasic Park. “He can’t see us if we don’t move.”

But we saw him, his naked tail, his glowing eyes, his face that would have been cute in a different context. There was a possum in our chicken coop.

kiley the possum

We would have to rebuild.

Our coop had been through much iteration over the years. We built it at our old house, repurposing wood and other materials from the original coop to save costs. Then we hauled it across the highway to our new place before then making one, two, three more additions and modifications to the original plan. We added on a wing, converted it to a duplex and moved doors around from side to side without investing in new materials to get the constantly evolving coop up to snuff. And now we had egg snatching, chicken pestering possums to answer to.


chicken coop


Forgetting that, just weeks ago we were much more a threat to chickens than this 8-pound marsupial, we vowed to spend our weekend reinforcing the coop to make it into a chicken’s fortress. We would plan incessantly, measure meticulously and level ground furiously to create a coop we could be proud of.

Saturday morning, as usual, came earlier than expected. And despite a late night crawl down Rainey St. comprised of pickle-flavored shots, lewd gestures in photo booths and chicken-and-waffle food trailer eats, Heath and I managed to pull ourselves out of bed and into the backyard. Even the White Rabbit would have scoffed at our poor timing, which found us deconstructing the original coop under the incessant and unforgiving noon sun without even a hint of a shade to ease our discomfort. As we pulled and prodded and pried the coop apart, the backyard began to look more and more like a WWI battle field with dismantled structures, entangled metal wires and the sounds of hopeless humans moaning with pain.

Are the chickens even worth it? Maybe it would be cool to start raising possums instead. I could name them after Downtown Abbey characters. Cousin Matthew. Lady Sybil. That would be fun.

We endured repeated trips to Home Depot and lost battery life to our drill at least twice (perhaps a bigger momentum killer than my tooth-hurty joke). We put up and took down support beams at least a dozen times and suffered approximately 87 mosquito bites and 33 chicken wire lacerations to the gams. And we snipped at each other more than I’m proud to admit.

“I don’t work well in groups.”

“Well, I don’t understand why you don’t understand.”

The whole “during” phase of the coop construction was unceasingly frustrating. Less team building and more scream building. But when we stapled that last piece of chicken wire, laid down the hay, and stood back to marvel at the handsome hut, we felt pretty proud of each other for conquering the beast.

“Good job Moosh,” we both said, arms around the other’s sweaty, dirty, sun burned waists.

We stood in silence for a moment; relieved the endeavor was finished and grateful for the promise of sweet, sweet air conditioning in our very near future. Finally, coop complete, we retreated indoors and collapsed in a tizzy of laughter on the couch. The chickens on the other hand, never made a peep that night.







19 Comments on “Coop Devil”

  1. attemptinggreen says:

    In the middle of a coop build myself I cantotally relate to hot afternoons in the sun and the “Why don’t you understand!”

  2. lcsera says:

    Love your coop and your vegetable garden! Plus, the thought of naming possums after Downton Abbey characters….genius! Might have to save that thought for when the kids convince us to start getting them small furry pets (in addition to our large fuzzy ones).

  3. kmom says:

    The coop is spectacular!

  4. Joy says:

    That is amazing. Now that you have it figured out, you can come build one for me!!!:)

  5. dani.o says:

    The new coop looks great! I have been following your blog for a while and the way this post was written seems quite different the usual very relaxed writing… It seems almost literary! I liked the change!

  6. naturalpfg says:

    You done sterling work rebuilding that coop guys! It’s looks great, and the chickens can live in safety and security and you’ll have unbroken nights sleep too. Bonus!

  7. Nika says:

    Nice work. Especially after pickle flavored shots.

  8. Nika says:

    Nice work. Especially after pickle flavored shots.

  9. Lovely chicken coop and gardens. If you didn’t end up losing any chickens you did good. I used to think possums were just scavengers or might just eat eggs, but we’ve actually caught possums killing some of our chickens before. We let ours free range some and the times it happened were when we’d be late closing the gate to the chicken coop.

  10. Sarah Arant says:

    Of all the chicken coops I have seen, this one is probably the cutest. I love it.

  11. Delfina says:

    Darling coop! You weave a really good story, too. And the image of Kyle made me laugh. We’re preparing to build a coop for some cochins and will take this lesson to heart!

  12. CJ says:

    Love the new coop- I want to see it in person! Was this the same infamous Rainy Street Pub Crawl earlier in the year, because, if so, great job guys, I didn’t get out of bed until an embarrassing hour that day. Plenty of snipping when Mike and I built our coop, so all the more kudos to you guys! 🙂

  13. […] headache: Rebuilding the chicken coop After finding a possum in the chicken coop one evening, we knew we had to prioritize a task we had […]

  14. Kelsey says:

    Any problems with predators since you re did it?

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