Lovely fresh eggs that haven't been sitting around a warehouse or in a supermarket for weeks! The taste is very different.
After moving here over two years ago we decided we'd have some chickens for eggs and meat. We didn't have loads of room and we couldn't let them free range because of the dogs! Luckily, here in Mallorca, we don't have foxes but we do get many birds of prey including eagles.
In the winter of 2011we discussed the details and did a little research into keeping hens & cockerels. We drew up plans on how to build the hen house (most Mallorquins don't have a hen house and certainly not nest boxes with snuggly straw! - crazy English people). I did enormous amounts of research on what the best options would be and we decided to build it ourselves due to the huge cost of buying one ready made or made-to-measure. So after about six sets of different plans, I drew up the final one and handed it to C, so that he could mull it over and work out the best way to actually build it, and with what materials.
In the first week of January 2012 work began!
We chose the area at the back of the veggie plot as that was the safest and most enclosed area. The dogs can't get in there unless someone mistakenly leaves the gate open.
C cemented in 10 posts for me. I then set about threading thin metal cable through chicken wire and securing it all with tensors, large staples and nails. It was the first time I'd ever done anything like this and I really enjoyed it, although I have to say that looking at it now, I would do a better job next time, but it certainly serves it's purpose. The chicken wire I had was only 1metre tall so I had to do a layer above so we had 2m in height. We didn't put anything over the top of the coop and so far all is well.
Once all the fencing was up and in place - and not too rickety! C began work on the hen house. Sourcing wood as cheaply as possible - we were on a tight budget - we ended up with smaller sized thickness's than was needed! First mistake.
This is a picture of most of the frame. He still had to put in roof bars and create the giant doors at the front.
At the back we left sufficient enough space for when I built the nest boxes, I allowed for four - just in case.
The frame of the house was 2m long by 1.5m high by 1m width, with the height at the back begin 1m.
Once the frame was completed - which didn't take too long, we had to try to source wood to complete it. This proved difficult. Buying it wasn't an option, we had to be given it. Whilst dwelling on this problem C made the gate frame, out of thinner posts we had left over from something, and covered it, literally, in chicken wire (both sides).
Then the house and coop sat there for months & months, getting wet in the showers before the summer and growing gigantic weeds! The veggie plot became an overgrown jungle also as there was no time to do anything with it whilst we were working on other projects.
In July I was feeling fed up and on the verge of buying a couple of chickens. C and I began to ask around for wood. Then we came up trumps with a local farmer who had a load of old windmill sails rotting in the stone carcass of an old mill. This was a brilliant day. C began collecting some - taking only what we needed - and he began cutting them to size and screwing/nailing them to the frame of the house. Only then did we realise that the door frames had warped along with other parts. So some much needed wood surgery was done. We decided that the doors were going to be too heavy for the house if we had them the way I wanted them, so he put in a few extra struts here and there and shortened the doors. I can still lean in to clean but it isn't as easy as I had wanted it to be - beggars can't be choosers and it works well enough.
Just before C started putting the windmill wood on the outside of the hen house I constructed a carry cage, so that we had something other than a cardboard box to transport them in. I was very proud of my effort considering I'd never made anything like it before.
I even counter sunk the screws - whoohoo!
We did buy a sheet of 1m x 2m pine of about 10mm depth to use as the floor.
Then a friend told me a good place to buy chickens is Inca market, as the hens from there always turn out nice and plump! So C and I went off one morning to buy only two hens! We came back with three hens and a cockerel. But the house wasn't finished yet!!
We improvised as the weather was very hot at the beginning of August and they had plenty of food, water and shade under the house, we sprayed the ground with water during the day in a shady patch so they could scratch and cool off - they seemed to enjoy it.
Our 4 pullets. 3 females and a male. It was an exciting day for me as I had wanted these for so many years! I was told they wouldn't be ready for laying till about December - ish, which is fine as we are going to get a couple of older hens from a friend in Campanet, a village not too far away from here.
So here are a few photos of where we have got to so far with it. We used polystyrene insulation for part of the roof (not that they need that here but it helped to build the roof cheaply).
The hole where the nest boxes are going is covered as it's been raining for a couple of days - Autumn is coming.
View with small window covered in mosquito netting. You can see the doors are really rickety, but we like the rustic look and it's better than most here. There is somewhere I know that will build you a hen house and coop but it's very expensive for most people and we've learnt a lot constructing our own.
Front of house with rickety doors and pop hole, which has no flap to it yet, but it will. These 4 take themselves to bed at dusk.
The perch I made for them out of an old palette and fig wood sticks. I need to make it smaller now and they don't seem to use it much!
Polystyrene roof with wood struts.
View from inside. Their feed tray is in there as it's been raining a lot for a few days. They pop in to have a nibble when they feel fed up with foraging.
Ramp made from an old palette and sticks.
Perch and our white cockerel.
Shaded area under a palm frond and bamboo sticks. When the sun shines it gives a little extra shade.
Extra perches made from old rotting fig tree logs. We just dug them into the ground and they seem quite stable, the hens are often on them.
Update for September 26 2012
The hens are growing fast, I am hoping we will soon see signs of laying! but it could be a couple of months yet, who knows. The cockerel keeps them all in order which is good. There will soon be new additions.
The hens and cockerel are all growing fast. Moulting has begun and they are soon going to need their wings clipped again before they all decided to flap over the fences.
There are no signs of any eggs yet, I think we maybe another month or so off from that, but the nest boxes are in and ready for them.
We decided to make four nest boxes so that there was plenty of room should we suddenly increase our hen population.
Installed in the hen house.
Rear view. C made the door to the boxes flap downwards rather than a top flap-up door as I needed it to be as easy as possible to clean.