Gardening in Portugal- Chicken Coop Capers


Lady Henrietta looks on

Lady Henrietta looks on

It’s been an interesting week in our garden, mostly punctuated by engineering and logistical problems relating to the law of physics. It’s also been a week where our marriage of 33 years has been seriously tested, along with the realisation that we are approaching 60 and we have our limits. The fact is, we had to move a new chicken coop from the garage to the bottom of the garden. And the chicken shed was very heavy, heavier than we could possibly carry, even though we are both still quite strong.

Señor Faztudo built me the chicken shed in the garage for my birthday.  It’s hard to find a suitable building here. Chickens usually sleep in barns or old paint buckets, but I wanted a state of the art des-res. My marido was down there for days, banging and swearing and his CSE  woodwork skills (Grade 1 mind you) were all coming into play. It was a very romantic birthday present and much better than a bunch of flowers or a bottle of perfume, to my mind. When the chickens first came, he made a chicken coop that was really only meant to house the cockerel, who came first. We had to build in a hurry and the old coop is groaning at the seams now as we have five hens in addition to our very fine and now very large, gallo. The new coop is a beautiful feat of engineering,  with perches and egg boxes and all sort, but it had one design fault. It was built on legs, with no wheels and had to travel  150 metres across the garage, down a very steep slope and across rough terrain before it was installed in its final position. Muitas Problemas. Muitas rubbing of chins.

The new Chicken coop on its journey

The new Chicken coop on its journey

But we like a challenge. It was like the great egg race. I kept thinking of the line in the song “Just what makes that silly old ant, think he can do just what he can’t, anyone knows an ant can’t, move a big rubber plant, but he’s got higghhhhhh hopes” Well we did have high hopes. To begin with anyway. Until we got stuck.

It started out well enough. We couldn’t lift the thing, so we put an aluminium ladder underneath it, put one end on a sack trolley that we bought a while ago and put some wheels onto a makeshift axle and duck taped it to the ladder. It wheeled out of the garage like a dream. Great!  But that was going straight on a flat surface, now we needed to turn it around the corner on a sloping path and then somehow get it down the drive, which is very steep and bumpy.  With much heaving and shoving we got it around the corner facing downhill, then I had the brain wave to use the car. I don’t recommend you do this at home, gentle reader. It’s very hairy. But we took the ladder, opened the back doors of our little red van and used the sack trolley on the back. Because of the incline it worked and before we knew it we were at the bottom of the hill, near the car tuning circle.  Elated (we are nearly 60 you know) and clapping each other on the back, we retired for a celebratory glass of Alentejo red.


On its way out of the garage

On its way out of the garage




Off down the drive with the help of the car


We celebrated too soon. The next day we struggled again with a Heath Robinson idea of sliding the coop along a ladder, propped up on paving stones, but we had to keep heaving the paving stones about and in the hot sun this was exhausting us. We had a big row, Señor Faztudo said he might as well do it himself, I slammed down a paving stone and broke it and we didn’t  talk to each other for several hours. Come to think of it, we were both too tired to talk anyway.  We got too big for our boots and nearly injured ourselves (I still can’t walk straight) . I think we were both chastened by how close we came to permanent damage, so we decided we had to ask for help, something neither of us are very good at.

I was doubtful anyone could carry the heavy weight, so emailed a neighbour with a tractor (my brother has a tractor and offered to pop round,  but he lives in Wales unfortunately.) However, I was sure you would need a poky thing like you have on a stacker truck and I wasnt sure our neighbour had one.

We also have a younger friend (most of our friends are as old as us and many, although willing to help have back and knee problems) and he was kind enough to come round after a hard day’s work. I was doubtful two men could lift the coop, but using the ladder underneath it, Señor Faztudo and our young Tarzan made light of it, with me steadying it on the ladder. As we set it on the hippy shed base ready for it to go into its final spot our neighbour arrived with the tractor. We felt very blessed to have people we can call on for help after a year and a half of life in the village. The chickens are very curious about their new lodgings and eyed it supiciously making those lovely Oooerrr noises to each other that signify curiousity. Being creatures of habit, it will be a while before I can get them all settled in, but I am very happy with their beautiful new edifice and hope they will enjoy it for many years to come. I have dubbed the new building “Cluckingham Palace”  Long may King Nando and his wives reign in it.



9 thoughts on “Gardening in Portugal- Chicken Coop Capers

  1. Goodness the things you do. It is a very grand hen coop, what a lovely present. I hope your hens appreciate it. And I hope you are pleased with the position and don’ t feel the need to move it again.


  2. I applaud all your hard work. The hens will love you for it.

    Make the most of your strength in your 60s (as did we) because one day later it all seems to change. We suddenly found it took us twice as long to do things and we were twice as tired. We now have a Spanish gardener once a fortnight to do heavy work. More and more we try and include drought-resistant plants.


  3. Well, I’ve got more to comment about but it’s too late and my brain went to sleep. Tomorrow I SHALL RETURN! Why? I want chickens too!!!! They eat the awful ticks we have here…. ugh ugh ugh


  4. Lovely to hear from you again! I enjoyed discovering your blog and am reading throught the posts with interest. I am acutely aware that we will run out of energy. It was quite alarming watching us staggering about after moving the chicken house and I do feel we are racing against time and I am trying to make the garden as easy to manage as possible before it comes to that. Drought resistant plants and mulch are the answer, I feel, but we cant do anything about the steep hill we are on. I hope we will be able to get up it still as the time goes on, we may need to install a skilift lol.


  5. Lovely to hear from you again. Yes, they eat ticks, lizards, mice the cats leave around and anything else moving. And turn them into eggs. The ants have learned to come out only at night. Brilliant recycling machines! They also eat flowers, seedlings, scratch up new plants and poo on the patio. But on balance , they’re worth it.


  6. Hi Chloris, I know! It was a bit like geriatric extreme sports. Actually if the chickens don’t like it, it’s tough. I am not even sure how we are going to move it from the hippy-shed-to-be’s base onto the hard standing we are about to create for it. I am looking forward to the day, where I can drink tea all the way from China, in my Moroccan bedecked abode with the chickens crooning gently about my feet. But whatever happens, the hippy house will not be made in the garage!


  7. Pingback: What’s giving in the garden? | MontedasOliveiras-Gardening in Portugal

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