Building Moving: Preparing for Winter Chickens
Something that I have never experienced in my young days is seeing an entire building being moved. I come from a generation that has never heard of recycling old buildings. But that’s not how it used to be. We attended an estate sale down the road about a month ago and the elderly owner was telling how her home of 60+ years had originally been built 10 miles away in another township. She spoke of horse drawn vehicles capable of moving an entire house down unpaved country roads and then transplanting the house where it currently sat. To illustrate the efficiency of this once ordinary practice, she retrieved a mint condition kerosene lamp that had apparently survived the entire journey perched on a kitchen shelf.
I thought at the time that I would have loved to see something like that! Well, God must have been amused by me, because last Wednesday, he showed me building moving first hand.
Our happy flock of chickens (I should call it a flock-ette; there are only three hens and a rooster named Reinhold) have been spending the last year in our old dairy barn. My father and a friend built a make-shift coop last fall when we acquired the chickens from a neighbor. Now, however, we are diligently cleaning out a decade of non-use in order to prepare for … gasp! … milking cows! (That is for another blog post or twelve.) We need the three stanchions that the coop takes up and the chickens need a winter home.
Last year, my Dad purchased an old brooder house from a relative who happens to be a neighbor and a farmer without chickens. It’s been sitting patiently at the neighbor’s property for a year, awaiting our pick-up. With the push from Andrew’s parents, who are really interested in our future plans for fresh eggs and free-range poultry, we decided to come together and move a house. A chicken house.
The first step after arriving at the neighbor’s place was to maneuver two sets of rounded wood fence posts under the building. That required our trusty skid-steer to lift one corner and then the other, until Dad and Andrew’s father (Steve) could shove the posts in place. The house was sitting on railroad-tie skids, so the fence posts would (ideally) allow the building to roll across them quite efficiently. Next, Dad took the big Ford tractor and began pushing the brooder house backward, to get it out of the deep ground it had sunk into. That took some patience and several tries, but eventually the house was sitting on green grass.
The Hay Wagon
The next phase was to lift the whole building onto a hay wagon frame. This frame had a sturdy metal body, but just to be sure, we slipped two very long, very thick railroad ties across the length of the wagon to fully support the brooder house. All in all, the wagon stood about three feet off the ground. Still, three feet is like three stories when one isn’t sure how to lift a building! The first idea was to lift both sides at once; the Ford and its bucket on the left, the small skidsteer on the right. All went well until about one foot off the ground. The skidsteer couldn’t lift any higher; its hydraulics were maxed out.
Ok, plan B. Dave drove home and picked up two hefty metal barrels that stood about four feet off the ground. The plan this time was to lift one end of the building with the Ford and have Andy and Steve shove the two barrels under it at the lifted end. Once those were securely placed, Dave would drive the Ford to the other side and Andy would hop in the skidsteer and together lift the rest of the building level with the barrels. At that point, Steve would push and direct the waiting wagon under the brooder house and center it. Finally, the two tractors could gently relax the house onto the wagon and remove the barrels.
Did plan B work? You bet it did! I thought those barrels would push out and the whole building would drop, but they stayed like anchors. After a few more tweaks and shifting, the brooder house was our very own mobile chicken coop!
Dave hooked up with the tractor to the wagon and slowly plodded through the neighbor’s yard and headed home. Andy drove the skid, Steve followed Dave in the pickup, and Elly and I hopped back onto our bike ensemble. Elly and I had very important roles, too! I took the photos and logged this event into my memory. Elly made sure the men-folk kept a sense of humor when frustrations began to build.
We got home before Dad did, so I was able to capture the “mobile home” on film. It was a novel sight to see a bird house nearly floating over the road behind a noisy tractor. But it made me smile.
I got to catch a glimpse of yesteryear and felt sure that my grandparents would have been smiling too. As Dad pulled into the driveway and passed the house, he stopped the parade and a single question came over all of us at once:
Rebekah Sell lives on a small plot of land with her husband, Andy, on which they are hoping to build a sustainable homestead. With a small business and four kids, life is always interesting as Becky and Andy live fully the idea that the journey is the reward.
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