We eat over four dozen eggs a week. I have maybe six of them, Doggo always has an omelette for breakfast so that’s 1½ dozen more. Janet is the glutton, averaging half a dozen a day (raw, liquidised with cream and honey). Two years ago we decided to keep chickens to get our own fresh wholesome free-range eggs. They have to be far from where we live so any smell from them, and noise in the early morning, will not reach us. They have to be cool in summer and sheltered from the cold in winter. a trench for manilhas P1020480

a2 laying pipes P1020474 In August 2012 we chose a spot on the quinta which would be good. JJ brought his JCB and dug a trench for land drainage. Our builders installed big drainage pipes then I filled and levelled the land.

a3 drainage for chicken land P1020488 Following my visit to England this year we had the builders round to discuss constructing a fox-proof enclosure for a dozen chickens and a pair of ducks. They started to make the chicken shack in late April, in our chosen spot about fifty metres from the house, in a south-facing hollow.


c2 first quarter of Janet's chicken shack P1030829  The first delivery comprised 4 cubic metres of sand and (28 bags) of cement, half of which Luis converted into concrete for the foundations. d make concrete P1030839 By the end of their first day of work the size of the capoeiro (chicken house) and their yard was fixed. The deep foundations are needed because a fox will try to dig under a wall to get at chickens. It then kills them all and takes only one.

e concrete foundations P1030847. end of work day1

f P1030856 second quarter of shack On the second day part two of three deliveries arrived – 450 agglomerate  blocks and five more bags of cement. All these were unloaded by hand, there was no crane to help.

first course P1030864 Unlike all our previous builders, João had (and used) a tape measure and a spirit level. He laid out level strings to mark the working perimeter. They enjoyed working here, in a partly shaded quiet corner of the farm, allowed to just get on.

fP1030867They set out a nice little picnic area on site to have lunch, and each day when they finished work we all had a cold beer.

h P1030875  The blocks with a groove in them are used around the perimeter. When the wire mesh is fixed it is put into the groove which is then filled with mortar to give a fox-proof joint.

The final delivery included concrete posts, a large roll of 2m high heavy-duty mesh, steel bars, fifty more blocks (for another job), more cement and more sand. The afternoon temperature was around 30°C so we usually took them iced water mid-afternoon, which was greatly appreciated.

l P1030893We already had on the quinta some long steel roof supports, roofing and metal doors from the garage we removed from beside the granite house four years ago, and metal doors we had saved from the old cowshed which we converted into our kitchen / living room.  João cut the metal and made roof beams from it, before fitting the corrugated cement roofing.j  welding door frameP1030935

He made new frames for the metal doors and fitted them. My design incorporates storage space at the back of the shack, for feed, and a space for storing gardening materials, of which we seem to have a lot. They put double doors on that too.

Finally they fitted the tough wire netting, which we hope will keep out the sacarrabos (Egyptian mongoose) too. It is the size of a large rat over two feet long, and bites chickens to drink their blood. It eats chicks, and can get through a flock in one night.

k fix wire  P1030906After two weeks, the shed (more of an hotel for chickens, really) was ready. The poultry can go to roost, go out, eat and lay eggs all in safety within the compound, without us needing to be there every day; the plan, though, is for them to be free-range.  However, chickens really like green vegetables – and there’s another job to follow  . . .

The chicken house

The chicken house