As part of our shift to try to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle I wanted to have animals to help provide more protein for our diets (eggs, milk, cheese). The tricky part is that I have no clue what I’m doing. Perhaps you don’t know this already, but I’m not exactly a farm girl. We didn’t have animals when I was growing up – we didn’t even have house plants. My husband on the other hand, was raised in a swamp (at least for a little while) and had pigs, chickens and turkeys at various points in his childhood. The kicker is, he’s not here, he has been working in Canada for the past six weeks, leaving me here with three kids, a jungle and a renovation project of epic proportions. So, I’ve been doing what any sensible woman would do in this position; I read a bunch of blogs online and then bought a bunch of chicks.
This transaction underlines some of the difference between living in Canada and living in Costa Rica. For example, many websites go into great detail about the different breeds of chickens and the pros and cons of each type when it comes to temperament, egg laying, etc. Questions of size, personality, colour. Here: we have chickens. That’s it. They come in tiny chicks and full grown hens, take your pick. I went into the farming store armed with my list of must-have supplies in order to have happy little brooders. I asked very politely for ‘una lamparita para calor por pollitos’, also know as a heat-lamp, apparently necessary for the very survival of chicks. The gentleman looked at me like I was nuts. I repeated myself more clearly, thinking my lousy Spanish was the problem. Still nothing. He went and found someone who speaks English. The guy who speaks English comes over and goes “Oh it’s you. How are your goats?” I don’t have goats. Yet. But I had been talking to him the week before about having goats and what I need for them… And just like that, I’m the crazy, clueless gringa who wants farm animals. Anyway, it turns out heat-lamps don’t exist here, what everyone uses here is a 120watt bulb on a string, but I had to go to two more stores before someone told me that, rather than just telling me no they don’t sell them. OK.
So we have six adorable fluffy chicks living in a series of cardboard boxes in our center cabin with a light bulb while I construct their permanent home outside. I found lots of different plans for DIY chicken coops online and finally decided on adapting one I found on Modern Farmer. I am building it myself, no power tools; hammer, nails, bow-saw and a little slightly reluctant child-labour. I have to say I’m feeling pretty buck. (That’s right, ‘buck’. I have street-cred coming out of my… wherever really white people keep their street-cred. Fanny pack maybe? But I digress.)
The first step for the coop is to dig holes for the posts and dig a trench around the perimeter so that the fencing can go down a solid foot to keep predators out. So I painstakingly map out where the posts should go and measure to make sure my holes are 30cm deep. I made a very specific list of all the materials I needed, (ex. 4 4”x4” posts, 8’ long, 3 4”x4” posts 6’ long, etc.) and asked our construction guy to please pick it up at the little hardware store when he made his next trip so it could go in his truck rather than end up strapped awkwardly to the top of my car. He came back with a pile of assorted lumber of varying lengths and sizes, none of which is precisely equal to any other piece and said this is what they had available and they hadn’t wanted to cut it. OK.
There is a lot of concrete and cement kicking around here from construction and I asked if he would help me cement in the posts after I made sure they were the right lengths. Not a problem, but apparently the holes I had dug were too small, so he gallantly made them bigger, poured the cement and stuck the posts in. Unfortunately, there was no measuring to ensure that they went down the same amount, so once again they are just random pieces of wood, except now they have been cemented in place.
It’s coming together though. I will post pics when it’s done. The chicks are 10 days old now and are getting little feathers and little nubs for tails. The kids have been naming them, so we now have an Agatha (book reference), Butter, the two my 3-year-old has named, Princess and Freedom (!) and a couple that we haven’t settled on names for yet. Stay tuned.