Backyard chicken keeping in the Bahama's has its challenges for a beginner
but so far has been completely doable. On our island there is nothing available as
far as chicken supplies, chicken coops or cool chicken accessories like automatic
coop door openers and happy hen treat balls. A few months ago I got three leghorns.
Providing my kids with our own eggs and not spending too much (any) money on this
project were my goals...I've had a lot of fun browsing through all the awesome coops
on this site, getting useful tips and implementing them right away,
so here is my 'coop experience' in return, hopefully it will help somebody out there.
.It all started when I spotted some tilecrates on a construction site I was working on:
I figured that would make a nice chicken coop for my couple of chickens.
Here's a stock picture of what the crates look like when they come from the factory:
So I brought one home, turned it upside down and put a roof on it...
this took me a whole Saturday in 90+ weather..
I added a door, I put some plywood on top I had leftover from last years hurricane
season and added some roofing material I found in the back in my garage and by
this time I was feeling pretty good about myself:
It actually started to look like something.
I added some hardware cloth and a chicken-wire run out of some
2x4's I had lying around:
The climate is hot and humid throughout the year here, (less humid in the winter) and
frequent afternoon tropical downpours followed by beautiful sunshine.
And from what I had read, "..in the tropics, chickens needed ventilation..", so
I figured everything needed to be open in the coop...
I soon noticed however that the chickens were hot, sleepy and seemed
bored, they stayed in the little house all day,
So I build them a little tikihut with some tatch leaves..
Around this time I figured that my set up wasnt cutting it.
Yes it had plenty of ventilation but the house seemed too open for nightly
predators to keep them awake all night, too low, no privacy.
When it rained the whole thing looked like a sorry muddy excuse
for a chicken coop. My wife gave the whole project the stink eye, so realized
I needed to do some changes...
So I went through all the coop designs on this site, reading it all, night after night.
After that, the first thing I planned to do was elevate the coop,
So back to the construction site to get me another crate
and the next Saturday I cut it in half:
I added braces to support two sheets of plywood that
had wipeable formica on it that were going to be the floor.
(..I sacrificed an old kitchen cabinet for the cause)
The little house I made earlier went on top of that.
I added a new larger run (3 ftx 8 ft) made of leftover 2x4's with a plywood
(...hurricane supply is dwindling by this time) roof on it. The run is high enough
to send my oldest son in there to clean up.. The run door is on the shortest end
of the run so you can stick a rake in the run and rake everything out if you have to.
(The ladder is on a hinge so you can lift it with the rake while you rake).
The run door is made of a rusty piece of grill mesh I found, it looks similar to this:
The piece happened to be the exact size of a standard size Bahamian chicken run door!
The coop + run weighs five tons, so I decided to abandon the chicken tractor idea
and park the chickencoop in a shady corner of the yard, where some sun
still filters thru the vegetation.
I was able to get some free left-over shingles that I put on top of the little house,
(which made it look really professional and like I know what I was doing)
I added a neat chicken ladder and a sliding door with a pull string. I always wanted one of those.
I used some left over white trellis to shade the little house, but with every
tropical downpour I noticed the inside of the coop still got wet,
and made the coop bedding smell bad.
Also I noticed that the chickens stopped laying...I was still doing something wrong,
so back to BYC to read up what to do....
from what I read the area where they lay their eggs needed to be dark and private..
ok, so I experimented with covering all sides with tatch leaves.
This seemed to work, I noticed the chickens went in the coop right away and
egg production went up....so I abandoned the complete ventilation idea and
closed the sides of the crate house with some pieces of tongue and groove
siding I found in a dumpster, I left the area under the eave and the gable ends open.
(it has hardware cloth) I also put some chicken wire on the 'half crate' supporting
the little house for added chicken perusal pleasure. Dry leaves were added to
the run which totally helped with any poop scent. I rake it every now and then and
there is no real smell, unless you're on hand and knees crawling to get your
youngest son's toy out of the back of the run.
On the inside I used some driftwood sticks as roosts (looks really homesteadish I must add)
and a bakers tray (found on the beach)
that was almost exactly the side of the inside, its filled with
hay and wood shavings a local carpenter saves for me.
It makes cleaning up real fast, I take it out, empty it on my
compost pile, hose excess poop off and dry it in the sun.
also I used an old plastic container (beach) as a nest box
and a golf ball (kids toybox)
to get them going .
This is what it looks like when you open the door on the side.
I will eventually enclose the side where you now see the white trellis
around the chicken pop door:
I soon noticed that the nest box was covered in poop every morning,
Its located underneath the favourite roosting spot... I guess all the girls
want to sit by the window,...so I had to rethink this idea..
I added a proper nextbox to the side away from the poop rain coming from the roosts,
(I always wondered why you'd see these nest boxes poking out all these chicken coops... )
Now the bakers tray and the plastic container function as coop floor/dropping pan.
Much better. Just empty it in the compost pile.
Its funny how the chickens went in the new nest box right away and started laying,
like my dad making a run for the bathroom after a long drive.
The box is about 12x12 inches and 15 inches high. The lid can come off.
And the whole door with box attached can swing open for cleaning. (once a week)
About my waterers and feeders:
There are no chicken supply stores on this island,
so until I go to the mainland (South Florida) to get me some proper chicken waterers and
feeders, I use cut milk jugs for their ACV water for now. I prefer the square
Almond Breeze almond milk bottles, they fit snug against the chicken wire,
regular plastic milk jugs wobble too much
I found some chainlink and 'mcgyvered' a jungle run for them,
to scratch for bugs and semi free range, using some existing
palm trees as a structure. I will give them
access to this area when I am home and in weekends.
The "Jungle run" addition:
I will have to make a little pop door or something for access to the jungle run, for now
I just fold the wire of the old run to one side.
The chickens love this area, they dig and chase each other for bugs.
Chickens here really prefer shade, around noon they all huddled under the coop...
so I added a coconut frond canopy:
Which did the trick:
So this is what it looks like so far:
I am really happy how it turned out, It's almost Frank Loyd Wright-ish with the
new wood siding! (yeah..almost)
and it works really good. The chickens are laying much better now since they
have their closed area. There is still plenty of ventilation.
If I have to and can find 6 people and a forklift, it could move it to a different area of the yard.
The house and run are able to disconnect. I am looking around the island to see if
I can get one or two more chickens. Keeping chickens is way more fun
than I had anticipated!
Yes... chicken farming on the Bahamas is hard work...
* update 30-4-14
First time incubating,..Hatched 2 redstars and 1 easter egger cross roo!
grow out pen (also from a slate crate)
:Chicks 14 weeks!
New additions chillaxing under the coop..
Nieces checking out the chicks.