Chicken Coops, Woodworking and the Woods

Just prior to the pandemic I traded in the Chicago condo for something my daughter and I hadn’t had in years…space. We made the decision that Chicago schools were great, but that we wanted to lock in a school district for the last six years before college.

There was one glaring problem. What do you do with space? The furniture we had was completely inadequate to fill even a portion of a house…and the lot was actually two lots…one of which was a woods.  What are you supposed to do with woods?

My problem was solved within months, I saw an article mentioning that Long Grove allowed for chickens. Admittedly I didn’t know much at all about chickens. I grew up on a small farm in Wisconsin that had chickens, but I was 12 when we moved to the city. At three years of age, I was attacked by a rooster…probably one of my earliest memories. Long Grove doesn’t allow roosters…problem solved.

I figured I wanted to have a chicken coop built prior to the chicks arriving. I was able to convince other decision makers in the house that “if I built the coop myself” the “investment” would pay for itself over the five-year run of the project (projected life span of a chicken.) Spreadsheets are your friend. Thus, set in motion a short term obsession and long term love with building and working with wood. Woodworking and building projects, it turns out, is an excellent way to pass time when you are not allowed to see other people…

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Since there was really nothing in almost half our yard, I was given permission to “go crazy” … I set off on a goal to “Build the Best Chicken Coop in the County.” I normally don’t like tooting my own horn, but I think I exceeded the goal.

Now I would assume that by this point I have mentioned the words Chicken Coop enough that there are people reading this article who have no interest in Wealth Management or green investing, and are really just interested in “Where do I buy the best chicken coop?” I’m going to tell you flat out…my favorite is Carolina Coops…those coops are really just spectacular. I’m not going to say I copied anything, from these professionals, but I will say that I found the videos they published on YouTube to be extremely helpful!

If I bought what I really wanted, it may run me 10, 15…maybe $20,000. I had been approved to “go crazy” … what I didn’t have approval to do was “go nuts.” I gave myself a budget of $1000 and hoped I didn’t spend that much.

It turns out that designing and building a chicken coop is a kind of Zen like experience for me. I didn’t have a clue at the time how to use a CAD program, so I spent almost a month sitting with graph paper drawing and figuring out dimensions. I hadn’t used any of that part of my brain since college.

It was also fun to see how many different people got in to the act. It turns out the people like chickens…kids love chickens. If you ask someone “hey can you help me with this thing having to do with the chicken coop?” virtually everyone says “yes!” It’s like they innately know that eggs will be received as payment. Even my mother-in-law showed up for a shift of painting.

Its been about three years since the chicken coop has been built. The coop is nowhere near as clean as the photos I am going to post of it…chickens live there.

I have concluded that chickens are a nonstop set of delightful problems to solve:

  • How do I build this thing?
  • What do you do with three day old chicks? What do you do with three week old chicks?
  • How do you time lights to sync up with the sun?
  • What temperature do chickens need? What is the best way to do that in January?
  • How do you keep water from freezing without starting fires?

There are a million problems to solve…puzzles are my jam. The chicken coop now has heating, cooling, auto watering, auto feeding a timed door to allow maximized “bug eating time” and a light schedule of my own design that maximizes egg production over a chickens lifetime.

Many of my clients get into lifelong pursuits. I tend to think that lifelong pursuits take too long. I like to obsess over short and mid-term projects with high likelihoods of success! My clients like to remind me that “in the long term…we are all dead.” While that’s true…I’m a bit of more of a Pollyanna. Most of us have time in our lives to learn, create and have fun along the way. It took about six months for me as a total amateur to build and fill the coop. Next step was filling the house with furniture…for that I would need a whole new set of woodworking skills…back to YouTube.

Deep Blue Financial