The Yucatan Chicken Coop Project

Beryl Gorbman, Yucatan Yenta

Beginning this winter, several of us are hoping to start an effort in Yucatecan villages constructing chicken coops. Our goal is to build ecologically sustainable and productive chicken coops in selected Yucatan villages, one at a time. For our first coop, we are looking at the town of San Antonio Tehuitz.

Village rooster

village coop, Teabo Yucatan

San Antonio is small. No one in town raises chickens, or for that matter, pigs or other livestock. Many of the residents work at domestic and labor jobs in Merida. There is a surprisingly high crime rate.

The local store is small and sells a lot of junk food. The store doesn’t carry meat.

When I asked the female head of household of the San Antonio site whether there were other coops in the village, she said no, that eggs are brought in from Merida and sold at the small store for 1.5 pesos each. These eggs are probably at least two weeks old.

Not only are there no chicken coops in this village, there are no pigs, cows, or other local protein sources. Our participant said, “All we grow here is drunk men.”

Our approach is through personal contacts in the villages. Once we establish that there are no other chicken coops there, we make sure the family we hope to work with is as enthusiastic about the project as we are. Fortunately, raising chickens is pretty straightforward and the coop owners can be up and running fairly quickly. We have to provide security as best we can for the chickens as there are many predators in the villages. Chickens can eat scraps of human food and it will be good if they can also get some feed and vitamins.

Three chickens can produce a dozen eggs per day. Aside from providing essential nutrition for the family with the coop, excess eggs can be sold or bartered to neighbors for about one peso apiece.

Feeding chickens

We can buy chickens and material for the coops at the Merida central market. A friend from Seattle who owns a bustling coop in Wallingford is coming down in December to help get this venture off the ground. If anyone wants to volunteer to work, or volunteer to get materials for us to use, please let me know. Thanks.

Please comment with your suggestions.

About BG

Beryl Gorbman is a writer and private investigator who divides her time between Seattle WA and Merida Yucatan Mexico. She has published two works of fiction, 2012: Deadly Awakening, and Madrugada. They are both available on Amazon and other outlets. Also at Amate Books, and Casa Catherwood in Merida. You can read about them in various articles on this site.
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10 Responses to The Yucatan Chicken Coop Project

  1. Leila says:

    Great idea, but I’ve never heard of three chickens producing a dozen eggs a day. How do you get them to do that?

    • BG says:

      Magic chickens? I don’t know – that’s what I was told by an owner. what is the real number?

      • Leila says:

        The first year, maybe one a day, and not all year round. With artificial light, which your villagers probably won’t provide, they can lay mostly year round. Somebody was telling you some wild chicken tales.

        • BG says:

          Chicken tales it is, obviously. Okay, then four chickens int he coop and four eggs a day. Etc. I didn’t know though, that the egg-laying fades out after a year and even more so after two years. One site I was reading suggested that older chickens be “culled.” what a great word.

  2. yucatango says:

    I raised ducks for their eggs but also researched chickens. The number of eggs laid depends on the breed of chicken, the length of the day (fewer eggs during shorter days of winter), and a bunch of other stuff.

    This Seattle site says, “Most of the standard breeds of chickens that have been selected through the years for egg production will lay between 180 – 320 eggs per year for their first year of laying.” Production drops off after that. So 3 egg-breed chickens at their peak would probably produce about 2 eggs per day. That’s about what I got from my ducks in the spring and summer.

    Depending on the needs of the village, you might consider a moveable “chicken tractor” instead of a stationary coop. It’s basically a big cage that you move from place to place in your garden or field so the chickens can scratch and poop and otherwise prepare the soil for planting.

    If you want the chickens to range freely, outside a tractor or coop, you might consider using a breed that isn’t the standard “here I am, predator, come and get me” white. My free-range ducks were mottled brown and white to make them less visible to hawks. Since loose dogs are so prevalent here, though, it would probably be best to keep the chickens protected at all times.

    If you want more ideas about raising livestock on a small scale, I recommend the US magazine Countryside and Small Stock Journal. If I remember correctly, articles dealt with a wide range of climates, and a lot of the ideas could translate to Yucatán. And there must be local Yucatecan organizations or researchers who would have great advice.

  3. George O'Brian says:

    As a chicken owner, I can tell you that my hens lay about an egg a day.

  4. smoking tyger says:

    Hi Beryl,

    We would be very interested in participation in this program. Have you heard of an organization called “Heifer International”? This group works at the village level and provides assorted livestock or poultry to a family along with instruction and support to get them started. The hook is that once the family has reproducing livestock or poultry, they must give breeding stock to another family in the village or vicinity. We’ve been supporting this organization for year. They may be able to provide information on how to successfully start up a chicken coop project. Their website is http://www.heifer.org. Richard and Colleen

    • BG says:

      I am fervently hoping that you volunteer to help us with our project. We are planning to build one little measly coop this winter and see how it goes. Yes, I just looked at Heifer International and they are real pros at this stuff. We have a lot to learn from them. (Or I do, anyway.)

  5. BG says:

    Here is a great site I received from a reader yesterday. Everything you always wanted to know about building chicken coops.

    http://chickencoopplansv.com/chicken-coop-plans/

    Thank you very much for sending this.

  6. BG says:

    Although, my family had chickens when I was a kid, I know nothing about them. I remember my grandmother striding out to the coop ocassionally and returning with a dead chicken with a twisted neck. I always stayed away from there.
    I’m learning that after a year or production of maybe one egg a day, the chickens slow down and by the time they’re two, they’re ready for stew. How sad. And that if we have more than one coop per village, we can rotate a single rooster if we want fertilized eggs and then chicks.
    And most emphatically, I’m learning about protecting the little critters from predators and that they need to go inside of their little houses with the doors closed at night.

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