Our First Chicken Coop Project by Karen

In March we were super blessed to have a group of short-term missionaries visit us from Iowa.  During their stay, we worked together with the other FMC missionary families to help Eusebia, a 60-year-old Nicaraguan widow who lives in our town.   

Ever since Eusebia's husband died, sixteen years ago, she's been doing odd jobs around town to earn the money she's needed to survive.  She doesn't live luxuriously, by anyone's standards, but she raves about how blessed she is to live such a peaceful life here in Costa Rica.  Eusebia and her husband fled Nicaragua in the late 1970s, along with an estimated 280,000 others, to escape the horror that ensued as the Sandinista regime fought hard to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. 

Over the course of several days, we cleaned up her backyard, renovated her chicken coops, and solved the problem of everything flooding each time a storm passed through.  

Following are some "before" shots of Eusebia's backyard:

One of the first tasks was to make room for the expanded chicken coop.  We had to cut down the banana trees that were no longer producing fruit and clear away all the unwanted vegetation.  Thankfully, Eusebia knows about every single plant that grows in her yard, so she could guide us as to what to chop down, what to dig up, and what to leave alone.  She uses the plants to cook with and make medicine out of, but she also uses them for various household purposes like cleaning and home repair. 

Another job was to move all the stuff that had accumulated along the back wall of the house.  We sorted the wood according to its potential use.   Pieces that could be used to build something someday were further separated into two piles - one for posts and the other for planks. 

The wood that isn't good for building anything was set aside for firewood. 

Pieces that were small enough to fit in the wood-burning stove in her kitchen were put in one pile and cooking wood that needs to be cut down into smaller pieces was put in another.

Eusebia is incredibly resourceful and has made several small chicken coops with scrap materials that she has found around town.  Before we could begin expanding the largest coop, we had to move the smaller ones to the side of the yard. 

Once the smaller coops were in place, groups of people worked together to figure out how to make them stronger and more secure, so that predatory animals couldn't get in and the chickens couldn't get out.  

After the small coops were refurbished, the kids painted them.

As the kids worked on the small chicken coops, the adults worked together to repair/ reinforce the existing coop that Eusebia and her late husband built 25 years ago, as well as build an addition which would allow them to have enough chickens for her own family to eat, as well as some to sell.  Following are some shots of the main "gallinero" which means "chicken coop" in Spanish.

Before missions, when Chris and I started a project, one of the first steps was going to the hardware store to buy the materials that we anticipated needing.  Poor people don't have that luxury.  They need to use whatever scrap materials they have laying around or can find in their neighborhood.  When we set to the task of making a new door for the chicken coop I was tempted to sneak away to the hardware store to buy some hinges, but I didn't.  Instead, we searched the yard for scap materials, just like Eusebia does, and found some old electrical wire that we ended up wrapping around the support pole to hold the door in place and allow it to pivot open and closed...genius!  Necessity truly is the mother of invention!

Another big project was building Eusebia a walkway along the back of her house so that she doesn't slip and fall when it rains.  The ground is largely clay, so when it gets wet it is dangerously slick. The first part of this task was finding boards in the yard that could act as supports beneath the walkway.  Then they found planks that could serve as the boardwalk, and nailed it all together. 

The walkway is wonderful! 

When it rains the water runs toward the house, as it's always done, but then it goes into the trench that was dug beneath the boardwalk so that it can then make its way to the road.  

Chris and I visited Eusebia, while it was raining, and got to see it in action.  She was really happy and said that this walkway totally changed their backyard.  Before, it was dangerous and she felt nervous to walk back there when it was wet, but now she feels perfectly safe.  

Here in Costa Rica, the official rainy season is from May to December.  During this time it rains pretty much every day, but not necessarily for the entire day.  From September to November, the ground hardly has the chance to dry between showers.  Eusebia said that she'll be really, really blessed to have this walkway come September. 

In addition to the chicken coops and walkway, we had another big project - putting a gutter on the back of the house to divert the water that runs off the roof.  Thankfully, Eusebia had a gutter laying amidst the overgrown banana trees when we arrived.  We carefully took it out and set it aside during the initial task of cleaning up the space.  Then, various members of our construction crew worked together to get it up and to shim it to ensure functionality. When Chris and I visited during a storm we made a couple minor adjustments to make sure that the water flowed well into the barrel that we placed at the end.  I assumed that they would use this water for cleaning the house, washing their clothes and dishes, but Eusebia said that it's good drinkable water.  She just has to put a couple tablets in it that will kill all the bad stuff.


Here's a picture of the short-term missionaries from Iowa with whom we were so blessed to spend the week.  I thank God for bringing them here and placing within their hearts the desire to use their free time serving the poor in Jesus' name. 

A few days after the folks from Iowa left we were able to buy Eusebia a bunch of baby chicks.  Before she was only able to house one rooster, about five hens, and ten chicks.  Now, she has space enough for two roosters, about fifteen hens, and over twenty chicks. 


In addition to the chicks that we bought her, she also received two hens from a neighbor as a gift and a rooster from her son.  When we visited, she was excited to show us the homemade feeding systems that she made for all the new members of her brood.  There were also several homemade contraptions inside the chicken coops that she was proud to show me.  She's really been working hard to take care of the precious gift that she was given: a sustainable food source.

Eusebia is absolutely delighted by all that has been done to improve her situation.  Each time that we've seen her these last couple of weeks she's raved about God's goodness and offered prayers of thanksgiving that He always provides her with what she needs through the loving generosity of others.  

I've tried to explain that this work project helped the short-term missionaries too, but she didn't really understand how.  I talked about how beautiful it was for them to see the joy that shines forth from her day and night, despite the hardships that she faces on a daily basis.  She still didn't understand.  She said that her life is absolutely wonderful.  She has known real hardship in the past and yes, it can be difficult to be joyful when one's circumstances are terrible, but now she has a beautiful little house that is filled with the Lord's love.  "Why wouldn't I be joyful?" she asked. 

Our time together with Eusebia and her family was transformational.  I pray that, as a result of this shared experience, we'll all be better equipped to do our respective parts to help build the glorious kingdom of God; that we would be mutually encouraged by one another's faith, as St. Paul describes in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans. 

Following are some after shots of Eusebia's backyard:

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