When I was growing up in Brazil at the Ecocentro IPEC, I had a little black chicken. My chicken followed me everywhere, and when my mum wasn’t watching, I would let her into my room at night to sleep under my bed. She would stay in my room until she laid an egg on my pillow and then jump out of the window. Strangely enough, she was my best friend for almost 6 years before she got eaten by the native maned wolf. I wanted my son to have a similar experience of collecting eggs and caring for small birds. Once my garden was up and running I decided that it was time to make a chicken coop.
In Permaculture every element needs at least 3 functions. So the functions for my chicken/coop would be:
- Recycling of scraps from the kitchen,
- Egg production,
- Natural pest control in the garden,
- And an added function of fastening the process of creating soil.
Also a bonus is that by caring for small birds my son would strengthen his environmental ethic of care for the earth. Friendly and loving pets can teach children about caring, sharing and responsibilities. Many scientists are presenting research on the benefits of having pets. They state that ‘service’ animals can help people to reduce anxiety, stress and even improve our immune systems.
The chicken coop
I was quite happy to learn more carpentry during the process. I definitely needed some help on this project! To build the coop we used hard untreated timber, aviary mesh, left over recycled decking timber and corrugated iron from the garden beds. The coop was designed to have 3 nests, 2 perches and an open space.
Basic points to remember when building a chook pen:
- Use as much recycled material as possible, but remember you need termite-resistant timber.
- The ‘ladies’ can share nests; about 3-4 chooks for each nest depending on the size of the coop.
- Chooks need a perch in a contained and protected coop (from weather, foxes, cats and rodents).
- They need room to move about.
- The coop should be in a convenient place for the egg collection, feeding and coop cleaning.
- Chickens need clean cool water. Their food must be protected from rodents. I leave mine in a clean rubbish bin that is lidded near the coop.
I decided to buy bantam chickens two Silkies and my son was gifted two Pekins. All my chickens are essentially miniature chickens, small and docile. Great for my son to handle. They are very active at scratching and pecking.
Their names are:
- Boss (black) Pekin
- Maisy (sweet and shiny) Pekin
- Coki (white and fast) Silkie
- Buffont (the one with the groovy hair-do) Silkie
I am heading towards three more bantam chickens. I’m hoping I can find some Araucana chooks as they are good layers.
Once my chickens get accustomed to their coop, I plan to free range them in the backyard.
Permie Hint: I highly recommend The Contented Chook by the ABC Gardening Magazine. I learnt how to keep my ‘ladies’ content and the ups and downs of my coop.
As a general rule, you will need two bantam eggs for every standard chicken egg in recipes.
Author: Laila Helena