Design #4

The Chickens

Client: The Chickens
Location: Finca Florecer
Date Started: Feb 2012
Date Finished: On going
Design Process: O'BreDIMet
 Observation
History

I have been keeping chickens for the last 9 years, with varying degree of success. I have let them free range, which causes a lot of problems from them digging up all my vegetable, making a home of my house, to getting eaten by hunting dogs and foxes.

The first coop I built was below the herb garden which was a good idea at the time. I could chuck garden waste down to them and it was not too far to take manure back up to the compost area. I had ducks and a pig in along with the chickens. But kept finding drowned chickens in the shallow duck pond. I had even made steps in the pond for the unlucky chickens to climb out. Until one day I watch my big daddy Muscovy duck holding the head of a chicken under the water. I had seen him before knock a chicken into the pond while it was drinking, thinking he was just being clumsy. But no, he just did not like chickens!

My pig at this time was also being a bit mischievous, knocking down the gate and the fencing, to come and raid the dogfood bin. So it was time for a change.

In February 2012 two volunteers (Wwoofer project 2012.02, Jamie) and I built the pig pen/chicken coop. This allowed the ducks to have the coop to themselves.

The new coop/pig pen was located next to the compost toilet. This area that was more suited to my life, as by this time I had move into the house. Visiting the compost toilet everyday meant that I could feed the chickens and the pig at the same time.

After the pigs moved out ( a story for another day), I began to building up my stock of chickens. I kept my old birds out in the mobile coop while the new stock got settled in. I divided the coop into two parts. One side for the layers and the other side for the broilers.

The egg supply was enough to feed the family and volunteers, and the surplus I could sell to guests and friends. All was going well.

I have had many problem with foxes and hunting dogs. Two stray hunting dogs killed all my ducks in one day, this was heart breaking and I decided to put Ducks in hold for a while.

The fox only seemed to pick off a chicken every now and then, until the last time the fox paid the coop a visit. In one night he had managed to break down a fence post and climb over the chicken wire fencing. He took away 16 chickens and left 4 behind, dead. With closer inspection I realised that he/she had been trying to get into the coop for a while before finding a weak spot. The fox had tried to dig under the pallet fencing but to no avail, as the pallets had been been dug in well below ground level. S/he finally found a week spot on one fence post that had rotted at the base due to termites and had only been secured into the dry stone wall.

This again was very traumatic and I decided to wait until I could build them a safer environment to live in before starting again.

In the meantime the coop became overgrown, and I was surprised how and what grow in this space.

 Boundaries Resources 

What are my Boundaries?

Physical: Keeping the chickens safe on an every day basis and during times that I am away.

Legal: (Codigo de explotacion granadero). All farm animals have to be registered with the local council. http://www.gencat.cat

Skill: A good chicken call, a sense of humour, and a resilience when your chickens are lost to exterior forces.

Key Functions

Stop feeding the fox!

  • Better security.

What are my chickens need?

  • Shelter, food, companionship, a run.

What do I want from the chickens?

  • Eggs, meat, land clearance.

What zone should they be in?

  • Close enough to the house to maintain them every day, ideally zone 2.

How can I make the chickens safer?

  • Improving the chicken environment for their security. This will involve repairing the fencing and replacing the old rotten posts.

  • Chicken house construction. They have only a very roughly constructed shelter made from pallets, orange boxes and a cut up plastic pool liner. There is no way of collecting the manure or to be able to clean the boxes well. They are also exposed at night to any predators that manage to enter the coop.

  • Make more mobile coops.

Aims

In the long term plan I would like to free range the chickens under the olive trees for control of the olive fly. The best solution for this would be to have individual terraces with its own fencing and hedgerow but this would be a lot of work and expense.

Ideally the main coop would be used for broody chickens and their young. The rest of the chickens would be put to work on the land. The main coop needs to be big enough for keeping all the chickens together when I go away, making it easier when someone else to comes in to feed them.

What do I want out of my chickens?

  • Eggs: the eggs I get from my chickens are much tastier and fresher than shop bought eggs. I know how they have been kept and what they have been eating.

  • Meat: as above.

  • Manure: from coop to add to compost and on free-ranged chickens to fertilize the soil under the olive trees.

  • Pest control: maybe the most important job of the chickens is to eat the olive fly grubs before they can pupate and affect my olive crop.

  • Yield: to have enough eggs and meat for the house hold consumption including volunteers. And a surplus to sell to guests and friends.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Specific

  • Build permanent chicken house

  • Fix fencing

  • Get chickens out and about

  • Create safe areas for free ranging

  • Eggs, meat and manure

  • Use them for land clearance and fertilisation

Measurable

Now

  • The chicken house and fencing around the main coop is the easiest and most important first step in obtaining chicken security

Immediate future

  • Start to build up the number of chickens by buying point of lays, obtaining a cockerel

  • Build mobile coops with movable fencing to maintain olive trees

In the long term or ultimate goal

  • To having a mix of varieties from broilers and layers to broody chickens such as Silkies, or bantams

  • Fence off terraces one by one with chicken wire and hedging to allow for free ranging

Measurable

Now

  • The chicken house and fencing around the main coop is the easiest and most important first step in obtaining chicken security

Immediate future

  • Start to build up the number of chickens by buying point of lays, obtaining a cockerel

  • Build mobile coops with movable fencing to maintain olive trees

In the long term or ultimate goal

  • To having a mix of varieties from broilers and layers to broody chickens such as Silkies, or bantams

  • Fence off terraces one by one with chicken wire and hedging to allow for free ranging

Attainable

Easy

  • Build chicken house

  • Repair the fence

  • Can use leftover wood from building front of house perimeter fencing. The boards for the side of the house can be bought.

  • The fencing posts can be replaced with new wood and chicken wire reused.

  • Stones for the base of the posts can be sourced from the land and fixed in place with a dry mix of sand, lime and cement.

  • Buy basic red chickens and white eating chickens from farmers markets, the down fall to this is that they have their beaks cut. The can be quite expensive if buying at point-to-lay. The broilers are a lot cheaper as they come in much younger.

Medium

  • I would be able to free range a number of chickens as the mobile coop is already made, and it would not be too hard or expensive to create mobile fencing

  • Putting power into the coop to run solar door and electric fencing

  • Buying solar door

  • Getting chickens off friends would be the nicest way to obtain chickens, but I have to wait until laying season. Not everyone wants to let their chickens go

  • Once I have a cockerel I can start to bread my own chicks

  • Finding the right breed: Ideally I would like to have a good all-round breed, one that would function well to provide both eggs and meat

Hard

  • The most unattainable step is fencing off the terraces this will involve a lot of expensive fencing, rebuilding of terraces, but can be done terrace by terrace, at the same time as I rehabilitate the terraces themselves

  • Incubate my own chickens

Results

  • Chickens that have a holistic environment, where they can do good for the land, have happy lives, be good pest control, produce quality eggs and meat.

  • Live long and happy lives without fear of predators.

  • Chicken can be kept well after their egg laying has stopped as they can be used to clean and fertilize the land.

  • Entertain and give valued companionship to children.

  • Help educate people to the value of domestic livestock in our lives.

Time-based

  • The chicken house and permanent coop needs to be completed as soon as possible as I have two free range chickens that were given to me by a friend that could not keep them any more. I am happy to have them running around, but it will soon be time to plant the vegetable beds and I cannot have them getting into those. I would also like to get a few more chickens before spring as they will be ready to start producing eggs.

  • Spring is the time for the olive fly so it would be good to have the mobile coop up and running again for then.

  • By summer it would be good to have the first terrace plans underway for free ranging.

  • Hopefully fence and hedge one terrace or part of, every year after that.

1/1
Chicken coop before House
Evaluation
  • Chicken kept in a 20 square metre enclosure with make-shift shelter, water supply is via a 1000ltr IBC into self-filling dispensers. Shade is provided by a mixture of trees, original grouping of a carob (Ceratonia siliqua), self-seeded olive (Olea europaea) and a Mastic bush (Pastacia lentiscus).

  • Fencing of pallets and chicken wire. There is a dividing fence in the middle of the coop that was to keep the broilers separate to the layers.

  • It is located in Zone 2, as the coop is next to the compost toilet which is visited on a daily basis. The waste material from the kitchen is taken to them and the eggs collected at the same time.

  • The coop is cleaned out weekly. The waste vegetables, cardboard (that is used to line the bottom of the coop for the collection of droppings), and chicken poo, is composted on site and then added to the humanure which is composted close by, on the terrace below.

  • Mobile chicken coop, used in conjunction with electric fencing for free-ranging the chickens under the olive trees.

  • The chickens are used to clear the land from under the olive trees. Four chickens are able to clear the ground under a tree in less than two weeks.

  • Egg production is good for most of the year with a down time normally during the months of November (just as it starts to get cold) and at the start of spring (just as they start to get broody). At the peak they can produce 5 eggs a week per chicken, so 6 chickens in full production can result in 30 eggs a week, which is a good number for a Spanish Tortilla, a rich chocolate cake and a few to spare to give to friend or sell to guests.

Base Map

Systems

Functions

Elements

Chickens

Live and breed

Eggs meat and Fertiliser

Shelter​

Chicken house

 

Concrete/lime base with rebar mesh.

Wood planks and posts

Trees

Olive, carob, Pastacia lentiscus, Almond, Mimosa.

food​

Bought grain

Corn, wheat, bran,

Garden veg

Green annual and perennial waste

Free-range forage

Grubs and insects

Shop waste

Cabbage leaves, over ripe or spoilt fruits and veg.

Security

/protection

Chicken house

Solar door

fencing

Chicken wire, Pallets,

Electric fencing

Yields

Chicken

Eggs, Meat, Manure, Feathers

Other chickens.

 Design
Permaculture Principles

Relative Location:

  • The placement of the coop, next to the compost toilet will conserve my energy. I have to visit the toilet everyday, while down there I can check on the chickens, collect the eggs and make sure they have enough food and water.

  • The terrace is located in zone two, the adjacent terrace to the orchard. It would be easy enough to secure Zone 1, from their access, but give them access to the rest of the land.

Each element Preforms many functions:

  • Apart form the obvious return of eggs meat and fertiliser, having chicken that will be able to free-range when and where I choose, will help me gain a yield by not letting them get into the veg patch.

  • Thinking about the habits of the chicken and taking their needs into consideration, has helped to design a coop that will give them a safe environment and shelter them in all seasons.

Each important function is supported by many elements.

  • Chicken safety is supported by fencing, chicken house, plants and trees

  • Plants provide fodder, shelter, windbreak, wildlife habitat, soil conditioning and can be grown up the fencing,

Efficient energy planning:

  • Located next to the compost toilet which is visited by at least two people everyday.

  • The terrace is sheltered from the harsh north-westerly winds by being on the down slope terrace and sheltered by trees, but gets the cool south-easterly winds coming from the sea in the summer,

  • The chicken house will have a window facing to the east for the morning sun.

  • The House will be installed with an automatic water dispenser, food dispenser, shelves for shooting grains for a healthy chicken diet. Perches for sleeping on, a solid floor to help keep the house clean

  • By building a solid floor we can remove the dropping and use them for composting.

  • Sprouting grains not only helps the chickens to have a healthy diet but also saves money on bought feed.

  • Water can be supplied via gravity from an IBC on the terrace above.

Using biological resources:

  • chicken when free ranging are good to clear the ground from olive fly grubs.

  • Generate fertiliser.

  • Land clearance and tilling.

  • During summer month (growing time)they can be kept in their coop.

Energy cycling:

  • Left over kitchen scraps and waste from the veg garden can be fed to the chickens to create manure.

  • Use mobile coop and fencing to keep the chickens in the places I want them to work their magic.

  • Surplus eggs can be sold to friends and guests.

Small scale intensive systems:

  • Start with a few chickens and then build up numbers.

  • Build coop and house first and then in time start to work on securing other terraces for free ranging.

Accelerate succession and evolution:

  • Start with just hens and then introduce a cockerel for building up the stock.

  • Start close range and then move them out to the further reaches of the farm.

Diversity:

  • Have a selection of different breeds for eggs meet and breeding.

  • Free ranging for a healthy diet.

Edge effects:

  • Using the fence line to grow plants for security and food.

Permaculture Ethics

Earth Care:

  • Using chicken to maintain the olive trees as a natural pesticide

  • Take a waste product such as food scraps and converts them into a useful compost accelerator

  • By producing eggs and meat on site reduces transportation, unnecessary packaging, animal suffering and pollution

  • Reduce over consumption of meat. Due to respect for the animals we raise and cull

People Care:

  • Companionship and fun

  • For people to form relationships of care and consideration for animals.

  • Healthy food, 'Eating Better'.

  • Interaction for people (guests) who normally are not surrounded by farm yard animals.

  • Education for volunteers who are working on the farm.

  • Teach children how to care for and respect animals.

Fair share:

  • Have compassionate and caring attitudes towards animals

  • Surplus can be shared with friends and guests

  • Chickens are loved and cared for in a more holistic way

Chicken Terrace Design
Chicken House Design
Implementation
The mobile Chicken coop

I wanted to design a mobile coop that would keep the chickens safe from predators. Looking on the internet I found several coop designs but I could only find one type that was totally fox proof, . I used an A frame design which could be easily moved about the land with handles. The coop will have two nesting boxes and a large area up to 8 chickens to roost.

Mobile coop designs March 2014

The coop took about 4 days to build and by the end of it I was thinking it would have been better to buy one but I had spent 80 euros on materials and one ready made would have set me back over 400 euros, so I felt happy to have made it myself. I could also make some moderation's to it myself such as meshing the bottom for extra safety, as the chicken would be able to leave the coop during the day for forage further a field.

I Bought 50 meters of electric chicken fencing which we set up on the terrace below the chicken terrace. I was very interesting trying to set it up but eventually the land was cleared and the coop and the chickens were in.

Stage One

September - October 2015, Volunteers: Neil (Chicken house) Celine, Remi and Lisa (fencing).

Chicken house;

  • Chicken house (made of wood) to fit within the size of corrugated roof (which is already here) and tall enough to stand up in.

  • Main door for easy access to cleaning out.

  • A solid floor to keep out rats and allow collection of manure. Using a concrete /lime mix with metal mesh support.

  • Sufficient perches for 15-20 birds.

  • Nesting boxes; two separate boxes with removable dividers in each one. Exterior hatch for easy egg collection. Wire cage doors on the interior, which can be lowered when broody chickens are sitting on eggs to stop others from pushing them off and to control the amount of eggs that are sat on.

  • A chicken size drawstring door that can be manually shut at night but opened in the morning to allow the chickens access into the house during the day.

  • Automatic water and food dispensers

  • Shelves for sprouting grain and fermenting bran.

  • Bins for storing food (grain and bran etc.).

  • Introduced trees, Almond and mimosa for shade.​

Fence rebuild;

  • Use leftover wooden post from fence to replace old fence post. Using concrete/lime mortar to set them in place, reuse existing chicken wire, bedding the bottom of the wire into a dry concrete/lime mix with a stone capping to stop the fox from digging under.

1/1
Stage Two

Start date: Spring 2016

Finish date Spring 2018

Aims;

  • Buy more chickens to build up stock

  • Buy cockerel, start to get fertilized eggs for more stock.

  • Plastic fencing for mobile coop approximately 20m for a 3 metre radius olive tree. Re-bar posts concreted into upside-down flowerpots or old PVC pipe.

  • Re-design chicken terrace for feeding chickens with appropriate foods.

  • Fence in chicken terrace.

 Maintenance, Evaluation and Tweaking 

In the end the pallet fencing rotted and deteriorated beyond repair resulting in my new dog breaking in and killing some of our chickens.

To make life a little easier for myself and the safety of the chicken I invested in a light sensitive automatic door for the chicken house, which is incredible, probable the best investment I could have made.

I went back to the drawing board, designing more substantial fencing, I decides to enlarge the coop. To make the coop more permanent we (Sarah my volunteer) and I decided to build the wall using brick and stone with a cement mortar. For the fence line rebar was cemented into the wall to a height of 1.5 meters with chicken wire attached. It was funny at the time as we were down to 3 chickens with this huge coop.

Georgia had taken up the responsibility of cleaning the coop feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs so that she could sell them to the guests. With the money she makes we put it into a pot and at the end of the month after buying grain she gets what ever is left as pocket money.

She has got very excited on how much money she has been able to save and has invested back into the chickens by buying an incubator and fertilised eggs of breeds which produce different coloured eggs, which will make her egg basket look pretty. This is still at the experimental stage but very exciting.

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MCC 002, 03,2014

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