The great chicken coup
in Mike and the Bush Mechanics on 23 September 2011
GEOFF, the Urban Bush-Carpenters’ spiritual leader, was absent from our fourth workshop last week. He is an engineer. I am not. Whenever I suggest something that won’t work, Geoff pauses a while and hesitantly says this: “Ah, well, ah, you could do it that way…” and then trails off into silence, before politely suggesting an alternative that won’t fall down. He can be frustrating that way.
In fact, Geoff says this so often that the rest of us have begun repeating it to each other, just for fun.
With that in mind, you may be surprised to read that while the big, bearded cat was away, the mice decided to build a large A-frame chook house. None of us had built one before. But hey, our workshops are free, so it would be churlish for attendees to complain. In any case, I was supremely confident. As I’ve found out, everything just seems to work out well for the UBC.
Before we split into three groups to work on the A-frames, the floor and the door, we had to decide on the dimensions of the whole. The various pieces would change greatly depending on our desired width and length, and the height of the floor. Everyone took part in a robust discussion as we considered the timber available, the ease of cleaning, the chooks’ need for roosting space and the ergonomics of the door.
It was a slow start. As we neared 2 pm, our nominal finishing time, the chook house looked like this:
If it were a challenge on a reality TV show, the producers would have been blessed with many opportunities to emphasise uncertainty and delay. If they were honest, however, they’d have revealed the fascinating and fruitful process of cooperation instead.
Here, I have an admission: despite our catch-cry celebrating irregularity (“close enough is good enough”), tape measures were used in the making of this chook house. We measured the lengths between diagonal corners on each of the sides, and the door. It’s a handy technique, because when the two measurements match, you know the frame is square, not skewed.
When finally the chook house was complete, Bobbi, one of the attendees, said: “It’s wonderful to realize that you can just go ahead and do anything!” Indeed. Even when Geoff isn’t around to check it won’t collapse. It was thrilling to see the pile of salvaged timber and tin turn into a sturdy hen home in just a few hours.
Another participant, Nick Ray from the Ethical Consumer Group, observed that while each of us would have done it differently had we made it by ourselves, the final product was very likely an improvement, courtesy of our combined problem solving skills. “The best thing is the collaboration,” he said.