Everything Put Together Falls Apart…then gets put together again 2


Where we left off last time… open topped house

The story so far: a wooden chicken house was bought and housed some chickens before it became so infested with red mites that it was replaced with a recycled plastic house that became infested with chickens. The old wooden house was taken apart but not really disposed of, apart from the roof and hinged lid, that were. Some chickens died leaving two who hadn’t. Cue rebuilding of old wooden chicken house to temporarily act as a holiday chalet for new chickens that have been bought to replace the dead ones.

With me so far? Of course you are…

The things we now need are a roof for the house bit and a hinged lid for the nest boxes. We also need another leg – seriously, I’m not being smutty or anything. Without the run to stabilise it, the house might fall over onto the nest boxes if said boxes were full of heavy chickens, as could be possible.

So, what materials to use? My immediate thought was “pallets!” but then that and “chocolate!” and “wine!” form an awful lot of my immediate thoughts:

Observation: We need a new table.

Thought: Pallets!

Observation: I’m going to need some inspiration.

Thought: Chocolate!

Observation: I’ve run out of chocolate and we needed a new table two hours ago.

Thought: Wine!

However, that aside, there was actually something better suited to make a roof and a hinged lid. The remnants of our old compost bin includes two hinged lids and some wooden planks that formed the sides. The rotten stuff was burnt but the OK stuff was put to one side, you’ve guessed it, “in case it is useful”.


One hinged lid complete with wildlife and hinges

I constructed the roof of the house first from four of the planks. I reused the screws that had once held the original roof on, and everything fitted on OK. The only issue was that the wall with all the slats (the “Worst. Accordion. Ever.” wall) wasn’t secure – a screw that had held it in place had rusted through at some point. I had to use a new one for that, a long one so that it was properly fixed.

The planks had handy plastic runners on each short edge. So handy, I removed them. They may prove useful one day, like so many things do.


Handy Runners and screws

Then I clad – well, you know, covered – the roof with a piece of plastic from the side of the old greenhouse. I had to get jiggy to cut it though:


Note the lack of blood. The overhang IS deliberate, honest.

To make the lid, I only had to remove one half of the existing hinged lid, cut one side so that it could slot into the existing gap for the lid, and attach that bit of the hinge to the back of the house. Unfortunately, the slats on the back wall are pretty thin, so I had to screw the hinge through those into a couple of blocks of wood I scavenged from the unused piece of the lid. Because I had put the main roof on, I had to hold the blocks in somewhat blindly. One out of two of them is reasonably straight. Not bad for me.


Hinged lid in place with plastic cover and latch.

I used the off-cut of the plastic from the main roof to cover over the cracks in the hinged lid. I cannot tell you how amazed I was when it all fitted and worked!

I built a leg from a compost bin plank and a thick piece of wood left by the Limery builders. It is screwed to the underside of the nest boxes:


Actually, it’s a Formula 1 wing for McLaren

… and constructed a new ramp out of another compost bin plank and some familiar-looking plastic doo-dahs. I had to use new screws to attach these because I didn’t have any old ones that were short. Honest.


See? A lesson to always keep everything, “just in case”.


A smug-looking Author with all his fingers present.*

Time to lie down on a pallet with a bar of chocolate and a bottle of wine. Bliss…


* I want to thank nerdinthebrain because I guessed her 10-digit number in April and was awarded a gift voucher for from where I bought the T-shirt I am wearing here. In case anyone is wondering, the T-shirt depicts the Periodic Table entry for the element of surprise.

Categories: birds, gardening, General silliness, recycling, repair, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Everything Put Together Falls Apart…then gets put together again


New Chicken Run in May 2010: now it’s May 2016 and although somewhat battered, decrepit and in pieces, the Author attempts another DIY project…

That original chicken run was built to house our first chickens ever – Esme, Gytha and Lorna. With Lorna going to that great free-range pasture in the sky, er, our raised bed, it is time to acquire some more hens to boost the somewhat pathetic number we have now (two barely constitute a flock, more a flap).

The introduction of new hens into a flap or a flock usually requires a separate house for the newbies until everyone settles down with everyone else. Unfortunately, when we bought the new mite-resistance recycled plastic house, the old wooden one (which had a roof that was perfect for a billion red mites to set up a country in) was (eventually) dismantled and left lying around “just in case it might be useful”. It had survived as a hospital wing, as it were, before being redeveloped into a pile of stuff. The roof and hinged lid on the nest box had all been recycled (er, burnt) – they were rotten and full of red mites.


The Bits and Pieces – about to become “useful”

Turns out, the pile of stuff would be useful – as a chicken house. This time though, I could build a new roof that wouldn’t be quite such a Shangri-La for bitey things and also remove the run part of it, because that made the whole structure almost impossible to move around without sustaining some kind of back injury.


Worst. Accordion. Ever.

Having reassembled the back wall with nearly all the slats – I was unable to fit all of them in (well, I’ve put on a bit of waistline in two or three years, it’s all the eggs, so I imagine almost the same is true of wooden slats: come on,  I’m a writer, I live in a weird world where everything is actually possible) – I found that the four bits then fitted together pretty well. Being me, I had kept the screws after dismantling the house, so had them to reuse. Of course, I knew exactly where I had stored the screws, and didn’t just find them in with the other screws – how could you even think that? Oh wait, I see how…


It was like they were meant to go together

I put the bits cut off the sides (they formed the run originally) to one side because they might be useful if we want to add a temporary run back at some point. A voilá! An open-topped chicken house.


Now for the roof…

All that was lacking now was the roof and a hinged lid for the nest boxes, but that is for the next post. The question is, will the new roof involve pallets? I won’t keep you in suspense, I promise.

Are you sitting down? The answer is no. But it does involve a rotten compost bin and a defunct greenhouse. And eleven new screws.


Categories: birds, gardening, recycling, repair | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

The Actual Bum of the Flightle Bee

View of a Bee Hind

View of a Bee Hind

When technology works, it can be really fun (also when it breaks down, that can be really fun too because you can take it apart). Three or so years ago, I bought a tablet computer on which to “do my writing”. The idea was simple (like me) – a nice portable device on which I could write using a stylus-type pen, a device I could train to ‘read’ my handwriting so that I could then convert my scribbling into digital form, ready for the creation of the next novel.

It didn’t work that way. The device I purchased, whilst being OK and having a detachable keyboard, didn’t have reliable handwriting recognition software for it (it had some, but no-one who used it thought it worth the money). So I used it, primarily, for games. Quite crummy games.

Last year, when I went back to Reading for a contract, I bought myself a new camera, a Ricoh WG30, which has wi-fi on it. Great I thought, I can transfer pictures easily to my laptop PC. Only that didn’t really work because Ricoh neglected to design the thing to be sensible (I’d put some technobabble in here to explain, but you’re probably already wondering what the hell this has to do with bees, so I won’t).

The other thing that the camera could do (allegedly) was be remotely controlled from your internet browser. Obviously, this didn’t mean the one actually already loaded on your tablet, but hey, that’s technology for you. I found a browser that DID work and now – well, now you see the point of this mini-rant.

She's got legs... and she knows how to use them

She’s got legs… and she knows how to use them

I have been able to set up the camera a centimetre (‘really close’ in proper distance units) from the flowering leek plants in the garden and then sit in the Limery with a cup of tea watching patiently. These pictures are my very first attempt (there are about a hundred others, all out of focus, with no bees or discernible image).

It's soooo furry!

It’s soooo furry!

The detail produced from such a small camera is astonishing. I was really surprised when I enlarged these pictures and could see the pollen and the hairs on the bees’ legs, and their ‘fur’ in general.

I also set it up to monitor the back of the garden bench as the birds like sitting there as they wait their turn at the feeders. Clearly this sparrow thought it would be funny to moon the camera. It was right.

A Sparrow gets in on the act

A Sparrow gets in on the act


Categories: bees, birds, camera, gardening | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

Birds of (and not of) a Feather Flock… er, in the garden

The Fed Sparrows

The Fed Sparrows – I love the orderly queue on the Climbing Hydrangea

Now that our garden is once more a tranquil haven, punctuated only by the cursing of a man being attacked by a willow hedge (see Willow Talk – 1 for more details), the birds are back in numbers. The very occasional woodpecker may be great to see but I do love the common-or-garden ones too, particularly as their habitat is in decline. In the UK (and I guess elsewhere) concrete and lawn always seems to win out over food and bird feeders.

I keep a camera near the kitchen window – I could spend hours watching these guys. It’s like having a private TV channel!

We have Blue Tits in spades...

We have Blue Tits in spades…

...and on spades

…and on spades (he looks a bit annoyed at being photographed)

I just love watching this lot, taking it in turns to feed from the peanuts or chase each other off the seeds. I suspect that at least one of the juvenile Blue Tits is one born in our nest box, just round the corner from the Limery.

Dinner Time

Dinner Time

A Chaffinch lurking...

A Chaffinch lurking…

...and a Robin not bob-bob-bobbin'.

…and a Robin not bob-bob-bobbin’

We actual have a camera in the nest box but this year those clever birds managed to completely knock the focus out – perhaps they were trying a selfie? I don’t know but see if you can spot the bird here:

If you kind of squint, you can see it. Sort of.

If you kind of squint, you can see it. Sort of.

And very occasionally, we have a visitor. We don’t see pigeons here on the coast by us here in Wales – they prefer to holiday on the Aberystwyth promenade where they can fight the seagulls for the chips. This one looked a bit bewildered (much as I am every day) but seemed to figure out about eating seeds and nuts dropped by the little ‘uns.

Slightly Lost-Looking Pigeon

Slightly Lost-Looking Pigeon

Our visitor doing his best to blend in

Spot the Pigeon: Our visitor doing his best to blend in

It’s so much better than pretty much anything on TV these days!


Categories: birds, gardening, Sustainable Stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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