Well, the answer to that question is: labor, and a lot of it. These first three stints out in the valley have been mainly focused on the chickens and freshening up their coop.
When I arrived here way back in May, there was a box of chicks peeping away in the gear room at the house in San Miguel. Five of them were soon to call the valley their home. When we first got them out there in the jungle, they stayed in the hoop coop that Kylie built.
This was a structure made so that they still had access to peck and scratch at the ground for bugs, but it also kept them safe from whatever may be looking to gobble them up out there in the jungle. They stayed in the hoop coop during the day and then for the nights they were put into a cardboard box with shavings, so they stayed nice and toasty warm.
Once the chicks were too big for the hoop coop, they got to move into the hen house. Kylie also built this structure last semester.
As you can see, it was in need of a bit of TLC, but it was an amazing start!
Shortly after we got the hen house ready for tenants, Ramon, our most favorite campasino, sold us two laying hens. After the ladies got used to their new digs, we got our first couple eggs!
Once we got into our second stint in the valley, we really got to work on the hen house overhaul! We decided that it really needed a mural on the front. With the help of one of the Biology interns, Sarah, a sketch was drawn up and the paint cans were cracked open. I lack just about all artistic capabilities, so I stuck to painting the sides of the house a nice, rich, chocolate brown. Sam, Hattie, Sarah, and Kylie all worked together in phases on the mural and the end result turned out beautiful.
The next phase of the hen house overhaul was to build a run for them off of the house. We wanted to give them the option to go outside and scratch around while we are out of the valley on the weekends. The construction of this took place in a matter of days! First, we dug all of the post holes and set the posts. This was done in true jungle form. You harvest your own posts from nearby straight (which is the tricky part) trees. Then you dig the hole to the appropriate depth, set the post, and layer with dirt and rocks from the river until it is solid. Oh, and also in true jungle fashion, you do most of this work in the rain!
Once the posts were set, it was time to build the frame to attach the chicken wire to. We used palm fronds for that part. They were lightweight and nearly straight as an arrow. After the frame was set, we attached the wire, cut some holes in the roof so that we could still toss foliage in there for them to scratch around in while we are gone, and called it good!
The next part of the facelift involved the roof. The palm roof was an awesome part, but it just wasn’t cutting it as far as keeping the inside dry. We decided that corrugated tin roofing would be the best bet. So then it was off with the palms! Kylie expected it to take us a while to get the old roof off. There were about 100 palm fronds up there! But, in true animal science working girl fashion, we got the roof off before lunch!
Then all we had to do was get the tin roof up there, nail it on, and no more flooded hen house! We also put together a roost and painted that for our girls to hang out on.
Our next project is going to involve a great deal of physical labor, so you can expect to see some crazy muscles on us by the end of this month! We are going to be tearing down an existing shed and rebuilding a new one for the horses that we will soon call our own. The plan is to mill all of our own wood. We already have about 12 pieces of the lumber that we need. The planks that will make up the sides still need to be milled though…all 32 of them… and after they are milled, they will need to be carried down the mountain and back up the other side into the orchard. There are also about 15-20 more pieces we still need for the frame of the roof and support beams. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I am so excited to start. I can’t wait to show you the finished product!
Here is what we are starting from…
Until next time!