Keeping the goals of creating bamboo awareness and sustainable building in mind, the first concept for the chicken run only made use of sustainable or recycled building materials. So first the compound was checked for leftover materials that could be used. A lot of bamboo was found, that was leftover from the construction of the resource centre. There was also some scrap wood left, but not enough for the overall construction.
experience in building chicken run, George is the manager of the carpentry workshop and has experience with chicken farming. He told that it is important to have a closed, but ventilated house where the chickens could sleep and an open run where they could walk around. For 20 chickens the house should be around 6m2 and the run should be around 12m2. The house should protect the chickens from rain and wind. The hen house needs a stick for the chickens to roost and separated areas for the chickens where they can breed. This resulted in the design in image 1.
Image 1 - Initial design
In this design the lower part of the house is made of split pieces of bamboo hooked into each other to make the building water, wind and predator proof. The upper part is made of chicken wire covered with papyrus, to keep the house windproof but ventilated. The roof is also made of split pieces of hooked bamboo. The construction of the house and the run is made of wood.
Further research on chicken farming was performed which indicated that there is a difference between chickens that lay eggs and chickens that are used for consumption. There are also chickens that can be used for both. According to George the local breed can be used for both. This would be ideal in this
situation, because it would be optimal if the eggs and chickens can be sold. When you want to sell chicken for consumption, this means that you need a cock to make sure the chickens keep on reproducing. The chicken should be fed small amounts of mash and they should be fed often. You can also feed them scrap foods like vegetable peelings.
The next step was a meeting with Jowi, the chairman of SRI, to discuss the idea. He was enthusiastic about the run, but thought it should be made to hold at least 50 chickens, to make it a profitable investment. Together with him the building location was decided. The run had to be built in-between the house of the compound manager and the house of the guard. Jowi told that it is good for chickens to be around people, and it would also be good for security.
According to the book Poultry Farming 101 (Unknown, 2016), which is written for people that want to start poultry farming in Kenya, 50 chickens is a semi-intensive production system. For this production system a house of at least 17m2 is needed. The lower 50 cm of the walls should be covered and the rest can be made of chicken wire for ventilation. An iron-sheeted roof is an option, but there could be problems with overheating. To prevent this problem trees could be placed around the run, to provide shade. It is good to attach a run to the house so chickens have more space to roam. If there is enough space, the best option would be to make two runs that can be changed every two weeks. This way the vegetation can recover.
The next step in the process was visiting hardware stores to be able to make an estimate of the costs for the necessary materials. Luckily discovered that the prices were higher than expected. So the design needed to be adjusted. The chicken run was now going to hold 50 chickens instead of 20 chickens. This meant that the leftover bamboo was not going to be enough to make the walls and the roof.
Getting new bamboo was not an option, because there are no bamboo farms in the vicinity and the treatment would take too long for the limited time left on the project. decided that the roof needed to be made of a different material. According to the report Review of Sustainable Materials & Design (Rob Fielding, 2012) there are four commonly used roofing materials in Africa; micro-concrete tiles, iron sheeting, improved iron sheeting and thatch. As you can see in the figure, micro-concrete tiles would be the best option if installed correctly, but they did not fit into the budget. Thatch would be the next best affordable material.
In a meeting with Verah, the CEO of SRI, we discussed the thatch roofing. She said that thatch was a cheap and environmentally friendly option, but that maintenance was hard and would cost the organisation a lot of money over the years. She suggested to make the roof from sheet metal. Because there was no time left and the budget was tight, it was decided to do this.
Final design before building
The final design, as seen in image 2, is only slightly different from the first design. As you can see the direction of the roof was changed, because of the location and the direction of the wind. The design was made bigger, so it could hold up to 50 chickens. The flooring of the house is made out of concrete, which is easy to clean and hygienic and will better prevent the chicken from getting ill. Because of the space and budget limit, building two runs was not an option.
Image 2 - Final design
During the construction process of the chicken run, the final report also had to be written, so everything was on a tight schedule. Local workers were hired to help with the construction and they could learn how to work with bamboo at the same time. The construction manager of the resource centre gave the contacts of local workers and also of a local worker who was trained in splitting bamboo.
Day 1: Saturday
The purchased goods were delivered on Saturday morning. The goals for this day were:
- Making sure that every item bought was delivered.
- Removing the water basin, used for treating bamboo, to make space for the chicken run.
- Digging the holes for the foundation and anchoring the main construction poles in the ground with cement.
The goods were delivered at noon, a bit later than expected, but luckily everything was there. After sorting all the items, the digging of the holes started. The ground was very hard so it was really difficult to dig holes that were deep enough. After a few hours the holes were finished and the cedar poles could be put in position.. To Wooden bars cut into the size of the requireddistance had to be nailed onto the poles. This was harder than expected and a lot of reinforcements had to be made. At around 5 o’clock the mixing of the concrete began. Unfortunately, the mixer was broken, so we had to fix that first, but at 7 o’clock the foundations were finished.
Day 2: Monday
The foundation dried well and was very solid. Unfortunately, the recommended cedar poles weren’t really strong.
- Making the roof structure
- Putting the structure onto the cedar poles
In the original planning the construction of the roof structure would take at least one and a half days, but in the end it only took one day. First the most perfect round poles and then all the equipment needed was collected. Since already with the carpentry workshop, they were willing to provide all the tools needed and give advice. While constructing the first triangle John came to help and showed some Kenyan ways of building. In the Netherlands electric tools , but John showed some good tricks without tools that resulted in a faster building process. When the three wooden triangles were finished, workers and volunteers came together to put them in place. Because of all the help this was an easy job and the roof structure was put in place at around six o’clock. Finally our bamboo slicer was done with cutting all the bamboo, so the next day he could help with the mounting of the iron sheets.
Day 3: Tuesday
Today the cook was also hired as a worker. He just built his own house and knows how to build with local materials.
- Finishing the roof
- Digging the holes for the poles of the chicken run
The day started later than expected, because all the workers were late. Coming late for an appointment is a common thing in the Okana district, but not expected to happen when work was provided. The materials needed were already at the site, so the finishing of the roof could start right away. It was quite easy to put the sheets in place and also the mounting went fast, but it was a truly exhausting job, because a lot of nails were needed and to put the nails in, it was necessary to overstretch yourself. There were not enough iron sheets so new ones had to be purchased. Luckily there was a shop across the road that sold the right kind of sheets, so it didn’t take long. The holes for the chicken run were made quite fast, but then the worker went home for more than two hours. When he came back an apology was expected, but he didn’t know what he did wrong, because it is normal to go home for a short period of time when you feel like it. By the end of the day all the holes were made and the roof was finished.
Day 4: Wednesday
Everything was going really smooth and faster than planned, but the strength of the construction needed to be improved, because the cedar poles weren’t strong enough.
- Making the structure more stable
- Placing the bamboo walls in position
This time a lot of difficulties . Since the structure really needed to be reinforced, less wood could be used for other things, because there was no time and money to buy more wood. To save wood, the thicker poles were split in half. Unfortunately one pole turned out really crooked. It was mounted anyway andpossibilities of making it straighter were explored. The added poles for stability really worked and the structure was now solid enough. However, it turned out that there were not enough short bamboo poles, so we needed to adjust the design a bit, because making all the long bamboo poles short would take too long.
Day 5: Thursday
Today another worker came to help and people passing by gave a lot of positive reactions to the run. Key activities:
- Completing all the walls
- Removing grass inside the chicken house and putting in a layer of soil that is suitable for a concrete floor
- Making a door for the chicken house
- Putting in the poles for the chicken run
Since the idea was to use recycled materials as much as possible, longer bamboo poles were used for the walls of the two remaining sides. Unfortunately there were not enough nails left so they had to be bought in Rabuor, a town next to Okana. The workers were given proper instructions so they could continue their work while the nails were bought. It turned out that they did not follow up the instructions and the work that they had done was wrong. So everything had to be stripped and done over again. New instructions were given and together the walls were constructed. After two hours the walls were almost done. The door was already made and it could be placed in the right position while the worker was splitting more bamboo.
Day 6: Friday
It was important to make sure the floor could be made on Saturday, so the work could proceed on Monday, since the floor needed a day to dry out. Key activities:
- Tamping the soil in the chicken house
- Finishing the walls
- Placing the chicken wire
With the weekend in sight everyone was really tired. It wasn’t a really exciting day, but in the end everything was finished as planned. There were still a lot of small holes that needed to be fixed with chicken wire, but that wouldn’t interfere with making the floor on Saturday. Since no one had any experience with the making of a concrete floor, the construction manager of the pavilions was called for help.
Day 7: Saturday
Since the chairman and the CEO of the NGO were about to arrive in Okana this weekend, a meeting was set up to discuss the process of the chicken run.
- Meeting with Jowi and Verah
- Making the concrete floor
- Fixing the holes with chicken wire
- Placing chicken wire for the chicken run
The workers arrived late again and they couldn’t start before eleven with mixing the concrete due to a power cut. During the meeting a few problems were discussed, especially with regards to the chicken run being waterproof. The bamboo walls have a lot of interstices, because the poles were more tortuous than expected.
Jowi and Verah advised us to add sheet metal onto the design, to make sure the chicken run could be used. They were dismantling a house in Eldoret (they have a second house there) and offered to take the sheet metal from there to Okana so it could be recycled into the chicken run.
Unfortunately, this could not be done until the day before our departure to Europe, so the delivery of the chicken had to be postponed until that very day. The floor was made quite fast, but the smoother top floor couldn’t be finished today, so that was left for Monday.
Day 8: Monday
- Buying Chicken
- Finishing the floor
- Making paving slabs around the house
- Finishing the chicken wire in the chicken run
- Making breeding places for the chicken
Because Internet to finish the report, it was not possible to stay in Okana longer than Wednesday, so everything had to be finished quickly, which resulted in some stress. Luckily everything went quite smooth and especially the floor looked really nice. The breeding places were a bit harder to make, because the scrap wood wasn’t completely straight, but in the end everything was finished. The chickens were ordered from a farm in Rabuor to be delivered on Saturday.
Type of chicken
There were a number of chicken breeds available that were suitable for the chicken run. The local breed was the most common breed in the area, but it was not the strongest breed around. The improved Kenyan breed is better protected against illness and it grows really fast, but they only lay eggs and don’t breed. Together with a local chicken farm and a local chicken retailer the plan was made to use both the local and the improved breed, so that the local chicken can breed the eggs of the improved breed, because expansion is one of the goals of the chicken run.
Just in time before departure, a chicken run is now part of the SRI compound. At the moment with only 10 chicken and a cock, but hopefully soon there will be some 50 chickens. This will be one of the first self-sustaining activities that will contribute to the maintenance of the resource centre.
But even though the chicken runhas been realized; it did not turn out exactly as planned. The bamboo did not function as hoped, because the bamboo was recycled and not selected, so a lot of the poles were crooked and that resulted in gaps in the wall. For chicken it is important that it is rain, wind and predator proof, so it was necessary to add (recycled) iron sheet metal to the structure. This shows that bamboo is a good material to work with, but only when the poles are selected carefully for its purpose.
The iron sheets for the roof were bought, which doesn’t fit into the sustainable image, but it was unavoidable. You cannot force an organization to maintain a thatch roof if they cannot afford it. They would probably have removed the thatch and put on iron sheets them selves. So it is important to be flexible when building in an environment you do not know well.
The chicken run will be a good addition to SRI, to generate income for the resource centre throughout the year and independent of the weather conditions. The chickens and eggs will probably be too expensive for the villagers of Okana, so it is important that SRI finds a distribution opportunity in Kisumu. There are a lot of restaurants in the Kisumu area that are interested in quality poultry products. These partnerships can only be accomplished after the chicken run has proven to function according to plan.
Rob Fielding, R.B. (2012). Review of Sustainable Materials & Design. London: RIBA
Unknown. (2016). Poultry Farming 101. Farm Africa Solutions.