Backyard Chickens, Tropical Style

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    Sep 11, 2012
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My husband Chris and I live on the beach in Belize, Central America. Because we live in a very remote place, we keep chickens (and ducks and guinea fowl) so that we can have a constant supply of fresh eggs, and the occasional chicken dinner. Even though we have a home in the tropics, we still enjoy our European gourmet delights – like a golden buttery pile of scrambled eggs.

We started out free ranging the poultry, but with jungle close behind us, we were losing just too many birds. The most stupid ones – and chickens tend not to be over endowed in the brain department - would stroll off “bakkabush” after some juicy tidbits, never to be seen again; there are lots of chicken eating critters out there! Then a friend with a German Short Haired Pointer planned to moved in about half a mile down the beach, and that did it. Those dogs are bird dogs extraordinaire, they live to kill birds. If we wanted to stay friends, the chickens would need to have a coop where they could live unmolested.

So we found a good spot out back, and went out into the jungle to cut pole wood. Pretty soon, our handyman, Rambo, had constructed a large frame, 30 by 10 by 50ft, covered in extra strong chicken wire on all sides and across the roof too, with the wire buried in the sand to deter burrowing animals. We made a nice roosting house inside the coop, with roosting poles and dark nesting boxes. This was also the location for the feeder so that food would stay dry. We added a “mother and baby unit” to separate young chicks from the hurly burly of the main coop, whilst still allowing them to be alongside of the flock and build up their immunities.

Old plastic barrels washed up on the beach were cut in half lengthways, cleaned, and made into drinkers, and the bigger ones became water splashes for the ducks. Living on the beach in Belize has turned us into beachcombers and recyclers extraordinaire! We dragged in lots of branches so the birds had places to fly up to, and daytime roosting poles. Finally my job was to cut dozens of palm fronds to make a nice shady roof, helping keep off the heavy tropical rains and the hot daytime sun.

I really love the coop, which is cool and shady and a great place to visit to watch the chickens, ducks and guineas conducting their daily round. The birds know my visiting times, and crowd along the front to watch me coming. I bring them seaweed from the beach, weeds from the garden, wild food from the jungle, leftovers from the kitchen, all of which supplements their diet and gives them something interesting to scratch in. OK, it's just the food they like, but I can't help thinking that they welcome the conversations that “Nice Lady” has with them. They are safe from predators, clean, and have a reasonably interesting environment. They produce delicious tasty eggs, and earn their keep. We have little or no disease problem – I think keeping a variety of species together does help in this respect.

Although I miss having birds free ranging around the place, I am happy with my large, well appointed chicken coop, which is a good second best. To find out more about how you too can have a tropical home in Belize, check out

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