Having grown up on a farm, the desire to be somewhat self-sufficient is something I have never lost. Living in a city, you’re never going to have enough space to grow all of your food but you can use what space you have creatively. I always wanted to have my own hens so when we moved into an apartment in Amman with a garden it was a perfect opportunity to plant some veggies and build a hen house. Not only do the hens provide us with a regular supply of fresh eggs but they also deal with almost all of our organic waste. Then if you have access to a local recycling outlet for plastic, paper, cans, and bottles you end up having next to no non-recyclable rubbish! We are lucky enough to have Ziadat4recycling in Webdeh and Cozmo 7th circle, both of which have good recycling facilities.
Luckily we have a landlord who is a bit of a hidden-farmer himself, so when we mentioned the idea of having hens in the garden he not only supported the idea, he offered to help out! The house itself needs a few essentials but really there are a million ways to design it (and a quick google search will yield endless numbers of designs). It can take the form of a small wooden house and a run, possibly fenced off with chicken wire. Below is a list of a number of elements/ considerations are important for the space as a whole:
House: Pretty self-explanatory, this is a place for the hens to shelter, lay their eggs, and roost (sit). This ideally provides protection from any predators like cats or foxes.
Run: This is a continuation of the house so they should be linked and it is essentially a little garden for your hens. It’s important as one of hens’ favourite activities is to scratch about in the dirt. We chose to fence it off to protect the hens from cats but if you want to leave them loose in the garden then great too but maybe you can close them in the house at night if you think they might be easy prey!
Roost: The house should have a roost for the chickens to relax on. This can be made easily with a plank of wood on top of two cement or wooden blocks at either end.
Egg laying: You will need some sort of a box in the house that they feel comfortable laying eggs in, lined with some hay or dry grass to make it feel like a nest and ideally within reach of the door for easy egg collecting.
Access: if your space is limited you will probably want two doors in your hen house, one from the side of the house so that you can easily collect the eggs, feed them and clean the house and another one for the hens to get out into the run to walk around.
Cleaning: In an urban setting you will probably want to be able to keep the house pretty clean as space is limited and you won’t want too much of a smell around your garden. If the floor of the house is wooden, like ours, it will be very absorbent (leading to a pretty gross hen house) so some sort of rubber mat lining the floor should suffice so that you can easily clean it every few weeks. Alternatively, if you have a cement floor you won’t have this problem and it will also be easy to clean. If you can find them, you could also put some wood chips down on the floor and they can be cleaned out and replaced every now and then.
Aside from these considerations, you can pretty much build your house however you like. Below are some photos of how we built ours, hope you like it and take some inspiration for your own hen house! Please feel free to comment on anything that you think found useful or anything that you think could be done better!
If you don’t have enough space in your back garden then here are a few places in Amman to get great fresh free range eggs:
Mujeb Organic Farm (they deliver)
Dibeen Eco Farm (they deliver and have stalls around the city, including in Cozmo 7th Circle)