“It’s not pretty, but it is functional,” is probably my go-to motto here on the homestead. I remind myself constantly that although it is not pretty it does it’s job. Let’s take for example the most recent thing we built, an A-frame chicken tractor. Here are some examples of what other people have built:
Do you notice how these look nice and even, no screws sticking out at odd angles, or multiple types of wire? This is the level of construction I would like to get to, however right now my building skills look more like someone who just found some junk and put it together.
Perhaps I am being a bit harsh on myself, but it is hard not to be when you see some of these amazing structures other people have created. This is where my motto comes in, “it’s not pretty, but it’s functional.” This reminder that what you build or how you build it does not matter if it can do the job you need it to then you have succeeded.
When I built my first chicken coop ever I did not have much money, so it became a “what can I make happen” project. What I was able to make happen was a very rudimentary coop. I had a great area off of the back of our shed that had a roof so all I needed to add was some walls. I did this as cheaply as possible, I used poultry netting and some metal poles to create walls. I attached the netting to the poles with zip ties and called it a day. In this “coop” we raised our first 3 birds. I will honestly never know how we did not have predators get in and kill them.
My next structure after this was similar, except that I upgraded to large logs (found on the property) lining the bottom and actual chicken wire for the walls. Again not an amazing feat of construction but it did the job. Finally, my flock outgrew this, and I decided to make an actual coop. I used the same area, brought in railroad ties for the base, and used 2×4’s for the walls. The walls were not perfectly straight and some of the boards are now warped, but it is functional.
As we got more birds we needed more places to put them. New bigger brooders, a juvenile coop, a section just for the turkeys, and finally a chicken tractor. None of these things are Pinterest-worthy pretty but they all do the job they were meant to do. When you are just starting a homestead it is really easy to look at the pretty things and think you have to build something just as great. I know I would see some of the things people did and get discouraged because mine didn’t seem to work without a flaw or look like I had any clue how to make it. I just kept pushing through.
I have since learned a little about building things. We recently got some better tools (which will make the jobs easier), and have been working hard to make what we want on our own. The learning curve has been steep and we are still climbing it, each day getting better at what we are able to throw together.
So if you are just starting out, or maybe you have been homesteading for a while and you still have iffy building skills remember that it doesn’t have to be pretty just functional. Once you change the way you approach your projects they won’t seem so daunting. Be willing to improvise and throw some scrap wood or wire onto a project to complete it. As Joel Salatin said at the Homesteader Conference in 2019 “function over form.” If this idea is good enough for someone like Joel Salatin, I am sure it is good for all of us.