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Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge MOST/CIRAN


Chicken shed model: using local plants to house and feed chickens.


A small shed is built of live poles (to prevent rotting), about 1.5m above the ground. The local cana brava, a type of cane that grows very tall, is used for the construction. A small number of nails and screws must be bought to assemble the building. The roof is made out of sheets of corrugated iron and plastic. The shed also contains nests, made from wood and cane, for the chickens to lay their eggs in. Food and water are provided through a PVC pipe that has been cut in two; one half is used for water, the other half for food. The optimal number of chickens is usually at least 4 chicks, 4 medium-sized chickens, 4 productive chickens, and 1 rooster (male chicken). 

The shed is designed to shelter the chickens, and to stimulate and control the production of their eggs. The chickens are kept in the shed until about 11 a.m. By then, most of the chickens have laid their eggs, and they are then turned loose to forage outside. The guitite poles are wrapped with a very thorny bark of the pejiballe(Bactris gassipaes), a palm cultivated in the village for its fruit, to prevent other animals and snakes from entering the shed at night. 

Chicken feed is produced from the fodder of the morera plant, a type of mulberry that is planted as a live fence in the home garden. The morera fodder is mixed with whatever fruit, Musa, or pejiballe is available. The mixture of morera fodder and fermenting fruit is pressed in a plastic bag or bucket until most of the air is out. The mixture is then sealed and left to ferment for 15 days. After this, it can be used to feed the chickens. It is a very nutritious chicken feed. If kept sealed, the feed can be stored for up to six months. 


COUNTRY: Costa Rica 
Region: Chirripo 
Neighbourhood/village: Simirinnac 


Project staff made modifications to the shed size, nests, shed position, and chicken management practices. Indigenous aspects included: 

  • the basic model for the shed; 
  • the way the shed was built. 

Economic sustainability is achieved because most of the materials used in construction are local and do not have to be bought. If these rot away it is very easy to subsitute them. Producing the chicken feed is also economically sustainable because it does not depend on external resources. Once the live fences of morera have been introduced, all ingredients are available locally and the chickens do not need to 'compete' for food with humans. The excess eggs can be sold at nearby markets for further economic viability. 

Environmental sustainability is achieved because the shed is constructed largely of plants that are part of the local ecosystem. The chicken feed is also made from floristic species and does not introduce foreign substances into the food chain. The excrement of the chickens is collected under the shed, and is used as a natural fertilizer in the home garden or the fields. We are looking for ways to integrate the animal component with the vegetative component in the agroforestry system. 

Other: Modifications were made to existing management practices. These are different in each setting. In one village, chickens are raised in a disorganized manner: there is no general habit of maintaining a unit, no control over egg production, and no special nests. In another village, a sleeping unit is generally maintained, and the nests are kept in the house or in a shed. The local participants modify the project according to their own wishes, making it very acceptable by local standards. 


  • All family members benefit from the project. The chickens are usually kept by the women, but men also participate and they are usually the ones in charge of the constructing the unit. 
  • Local village members are involved because they want to improve their protein intake. 
  • It generates knowledge that is useful to NGOs seeking ways to alleviate poverty and improve public health. 
For the time being a limited number of beneficiaries and stakeholders are involved: the families in the village of Simirinac, which number between 50 and 60 families. This is still considered a pilot project, which will be later be diffused throughout the region by governmental institutions. 



  • Better management of chickens 
  • Increased production of eggs and more control over egg production 
  • Locally produced chicken feed makes it possible to raise more chickens 

An initial investment is needed to buy the sheets of corrugated iron and plastic. Both materials last a very long time, so once they are bought, maintenance costs are minimal. In practice, the maintenance is reduced to manual labour. 


This project is considered successful because it was the result of a dialectical process, and because it has aroused a great deal of enthusiasm among village members. Very important is the building with very abundant and easy to manage local materials: the cane, the live posts, the bark of the pejiballe. Besides this, local building techniques include the use of very few nails, making the building very easy to maintain and viable even for the poorest of the poor. No special tools are needed: everything can be achieved with just a machete (the local working knife) and a hammer. 


See above 


The practice could be transferred to other places and situations, but it is essential that several conditions be met: 

  • the availability of local materials; 
  • using existing local chicken sheds in a village as a basis, and improving on those models. 
We have another pilot project in another Indian community in Costa Rica. The project is also considered a success in that community. 


There are two booklets published on this subject by CATIE and GTZ: El cuido de mis gallinas - manual. and Como alimentar a mis aves y cerdos?Guia para integrar los productos de mi patio en la alimentacion de los animales. Both are written by Deborah Leal Rodrigues and edited by Rossana Lok. Turrialba, Costa Rica: CATIE, 1999 

The chicken shed project began in January 1998, and there is no end in sight. 


Rossana G.S.L.E. Lok 
Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Enseñanza (CATIE) 
E-mail: rlok@catie.ac.cr
(Address: see below) 


Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Enseñanza (CATIE) 
Area de Agroforesteria 
7170 Turrialba 
Costa Rica 
Telephone: +506-5566438 
Fax: +506-5561891 

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