Chicken Coop, Chook Shed, or Kuku Nyumba

Some of the local chickens we are keeping right now
Some of the local chickens we are keeping right now

Chickens! There are few things in the world that bring me such simple pleasure as keeping chickens. Their silly antics, unique personalities, and usefulness make them so necessary for wholesome living for me.

I’ve had chickens for most of my life and plan to keep them until the day I die as long as we are able to. Even when we lived in a city I kept a small flock for some eggs and enjoyment. They are a joy to watch peck and scratch around and they bring with them resources for being more productive on a homestead.

IMG_8264Chickens, chooks or kuku are able to eat kitchen scraps, produce eggs, meat and their manure is an excellent addition to the compost for the garden. They eventually help you waste less and grow more food. I love the complete cycle of it all.

Chickens are our big project right now. Before we can get them we must be able to house them. Now you could just get some chickens and throw them in your yard and hope for the best (that’s pretty much the extent to how locals do chickens here) but in order to keep our birds safe and productive we are going to build a coop. We do have chickens right now that we are raising primarily for meat but we are keeping them in our pump house during the night and they have the fenced yard to run around in during the day. It works for now but for long-term chicken keeping a coop is necessary.

The rough sketch of the coop design
The rough sketch of the coop design

So I drew up some plans of what I wanted for our chicken house. It is going to be double sided with a main partition for the general population of birds with a nice-sized run off of that side (facing North). The smaller partition on the South side will have a smaller run attached to it. This way we will have options for housing brooders and chicks separate or perhaps the excess roosters for eating. We may also, on a temporary basis, raise a pig in that side.

The sod dug up after marking out the coop area.
The sod dug up after marking out the coop area.
String is then added marking out the area to be dug for the foundation
String is then added marking out the area to be dug for the foundation

The coop will have roosts opposite the entry door, complete with a poop board. We will have 6-8 nest boxes on the North wall just below the window so they remain dark and well-suited to a laying hen’s preferences. There will be a feeder and water inside and storage space for feed, medical supplies, dishes, etc.

Digging out the foundation ditch
Digging out the foundation ditch

There are many building materials available here including bamboo, lumber (mahogany), mud, bricks and more. Some are more affordable than others once you do the calculations. After doing our calculations it turns out bricks are going to be the most affordable solution for a coop, even lumber would be more expensive. Bricks will will also leave less ability for pests of various kinds to cause problems for our chickens and us (including a local type of bee that bores into wood to make it’s home).

Dave and Nono mixing cement
Dave and Nono mixing cement
Mixing cement
Mixing cement

So we will have brick walls on the outside, a wood partition and a cement floor, but first must come a foundation for the floor. A cost effective and sturdy Congolese way of making a foundation is taking rocks putting them in a pre-dug ditch where you want the foundation to be, putting concrete on those rocks and then adding more rocks until they reach the level  place where you want them. The concrete floor will then be poured on top of that. After that is dry we can begin the brick work to form the outside walls. The partition and “coop innards” will be made of wood after the brick and mortar has set.

Rocks laid in the prepared foundation ditch
Rocks laid in the prepared foundation ditch

One pleasant aspect of keeping animals, not just chickens, near the equator is the lack of winter here. You don’t have to build insulation and other winter-proofing into your coop design. We wont have to worry about enough power for a heat lamp and heated water dishes. We don’t have to pipe hot water to the house to avoid carrying buckets of hot water to unfreeze things. Nope. None. Summer all year round. Glorious!

Cement being added on top of the rocks before another layer of rocks is added
Cement being added on top of the rocks before another layer of rocks is added
Another layer of rocks
Another layer of rocks
A trailer of rocks
A trailer of rocks
The guide line for the foundation being leveled
The guide line for the foundation being leveled

So with our uncomplicated design in mind, we are moving forward on the coop little by little as we can get materials and Dave has time off of flying to work on it. So for now put up the construction site tape and hang an “in-progress” sign. Our goal is to have the coop completed in a month, hopefully complete with both covered runs.

The level guide lines in place for the foundation
The level guide lines in place for the foundation

After that we order chickens! The bulk of the chickens we are getting will come from Uganda but that’s for another post in the future with updates on how the coop and run are coming along.

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