As regular readers of thesnailofhappiness will know, there are four chickens who take delight in trying to escape from their end of the garden in order to wreak havoc in the vegetable beds. Indeed, now Purdie seems to be having a holiday from laying eggs (perhaps she has reached the henopause, I don’t know), half our hens appear to have formed an escape committee.
To thwart their attempts, we had put a makeshift barrier across the path, between the house and the fruit cage. However, the chicks have become more and more resourceful and were making use of their returning flight feathers to scale the ever-increasing height – we were in an arms race (a wings race?) with the hens!
The barrier, as you can see, had become completely unwieldy to move and was also slowly falling apart. Time to build Barrier 2.0!
In the good traditions of re-purposing, I decided to use a pallet to construct the gate. The only things I ended up buying were a set of hinges, some fence staples and a large bottle of whisky (I hate DIY, it always goes wrong for me and that’s before I have even started on the alcohol).
This pallet came from the builders’ supplier down the road, and had already been reused as a step (into the raised area where the chickens live) and a piece of decking (well, OK, I left it lying around but it could’ve been decking if I had chosen to view it that way). Then I decided to put some shelves in a cupboard in my office and used the middle strut of the pallet as a shelf support. I was pleased I had done this because it cut down the overall weight of the finished gate whilst not detracting from structural integrity*. It was like I had planned it or something.
The mesh came from Perkin’s old aviary/building-of-a-million-and-one-uses at High Bank. We already know how good it is at keeping in the chickens, as there are five sheets along the front fence protecting the outside world from Esme and her beaky gang (a.k.a. “Beaky Fliers”).
So, in five easy steps (and a million little, really difficult ones)…
1. Attach hinges to pallet
Having removed one of the slats, there was nowhere really to attach the hinges so I replaced the slat (it had only taken about half and hour and a bruised thumb to remove so, hey!) just slightly to the left, nearer the middle. I still can’t use all the holes but the worst that can happen is the hinge can bend if it isn’t thick enough.
2. Drill holes in the wall of the house for the hinges.
I hate this bit. I like to think I worked hard to earn the money to pay for that wall (well, buy it off the mortgage company) and the thought of removing a piece of it, however small, makes me very nervous. The fact that I might hit the water pipe or an electricity cable is also kicking around my brain somewhere, but frankly it is eclipsed by the idea that, by drilling 6 holes in the wall, the house might fall down.
As you can see, it didn’t. Still, if it did, I know how to put up a yurt!
3. Make sure that the gate opens fully as intended.
Here, because there is a window sill one way and a pipe the other, positioning the gate so that it can hit both is very important. OK, it isn’t. The pallet is just too tall to fit under the window, but that doesn’t matter too much, as long as there is enough room to push our SmartCart** past.
4. Attach mesh to pallet and fashion an anti-wobbly device (Patent Pending***)
The mesh is so tall that it is prone to wobbling in the lightest of gales so I used another slat from a different pallet, removed the nails (having prised it off with a combination of a screwdriver, a jemmy and some interesting Anglo-Saxon) and cut the end into a T shape to fit between the slats. A few nails later and hey presto! No more wobbling. Well, not much anyway.
5. Attach gate to wall, fashion a latch arrangement and make a cup of tea
Note the strange bit of wood just below the top on the right-hand side. This is a latch-thing that goes behind the not-very-upright upright of the fruit cage. It’s just a bit of wood that fell off the pallet when I removed a slat (I think it was a spacer or something) that I kept because “it might come in use one day”. It’s good, because I have a million other bits of crap whose days have yet to come.
After a cup of tea, I went back to admire my manly handiwork. The gate opened but…now it was dragging on the ground. I could see the problem immediately – the lower hinge had bent because there wasn’t enough support for it. I removed Gate 2.0, replaced Gate 1.0 and went in for a large glass of wine****.
I swear I could hear the chickens laughing on the other side of the barrier.
* As a Star Trek fan, I know just how important structural integrity can be. It even has its own field, for crying out loud, and usually goes wrong just minutes into an episode.
** A posh two-wheeled wheelbarrow. We have had ours for years and apart from a bit of a crack in the buckety-bit (I don’t know the technical term), it still does sterling service.
*** Pending the Patent Office regressing to 1852.
**** Or a bottle, as I call it.