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Raising Chickens in the Backyard: Our Urban Chicken Coop

Anthony enjoys spending time in the workshop, kitchen, garden, and out fishing. Many of his DIY projects are featured in his yard.

Our Urban Chicken Coop (Phase 1)

Our Urban Chicken Coop (Phase 1)

Build an Urban Chicken Coop for Your Flock of Backyard Chickens

With a little planning, building a small chicken coop for keeping a flock chickens an urban backyard can be a fun and rewarding hobby for the entire family. A small flock of chickens adds sound, color and movement to your landscape - not to mention fresh eggs!

Before picking out your new cute little chicks, take a good look at your yard and your lifestyle: Do you have time every day to go out and feed the chickens? Have about enough space for a coop and a fenced-in run for the birds? Will your neighbors object to the noise?

Chickens are hardy and do not require a lot of care, but they do need proper housing with daily feeding and clean drinking water. You will need time every day to feed and water your flock, and to collect the eggs when production gets into high gear. And you will need to get to your urban chicken coop at all times of the year and in all kinds of weather, so position the coop in an area with easy access.

Here are a few tips when planning for a small chicken coop for keeping chickens in the backyard.

Planning for a Small Urban Chicken Coop

Our Chicken Coop and Enclosed Run

Our Chicken Coop and Enclosed Run

Choose the Right Location

Keeping a flock of chickens in the backyard requires space in your yard with proper housing and A fenced-in area called the 'run'. Our chicken coops are small shed-like structures that provide protection against the rain, cold and predators. The coops are elevated off of the ground, making it easier for us to reach in and collect the eggs, as well as periodically cleaning out the coop.

Locate your urban chicken coop and run in a protected area that is out of the direct sun and blocked from windy drafts. Our coops are behind a large shed that provides a wind break, and under several large trees for protection from the sun and rain. In one section of the enclosed run, the elevated coop offers a shaded area for the chickens.

Select a building site that is also away from neighbors: chickens are noisy, especially early in the morning before feeding time, and even a clean chicken coop has a distinctive aroma.

Consider your ease of access to the chicken coop when planning the site -- you will need to get to the coop at all times of the year and in all kinds of weather for daily care and feeding, and for collecting all of those fresh eggs. Don't forget about electricity, especially if you want to add a light or put out a heated water bowl in the winter.

Our small, elevated Chicken Coop

Our small, elevated Chicken Coop

Provide Safe and Secure Housing

Chickens can comfortably withstand the cold of winter and the heat of summer, but they need protection from the wind, rain and predators.

Housing for keeping chickens in the backyard can be as simple as a plywood box surrounded by sturdy fencing, or an elaborate architectural expression of whimsy. Just make sure the structure is built well enough to withstand an assault from dogs, foxes or the occasional coyote. To give the chickens enough room and prevent overcrowding, plan on a minimum of at least two square feet per bird (larger is always better). Install perches for roosting and nest boxes for egg production. The size of the coop dictates how many chickens can be included in the flock.

Our first urban chicken coop was sized for six grown chickens. The small coop is essentially a plywood box, 4' x 4' square and 4' tall at the front, and made from T-11 exterior grade plywood. The roof slopes down toward the back of the coop to help shed rain and snow. The enclosed run is 6 feet wide by 12 feet long, and is protected on all six sides by fencing (including under the dirt floor of the run).

Our Protected Chicken Run

Our Protected Chicken Run

An Easy-to-Clean Coop Design

Rather than building a coop with a walk-in design, we opted for a raised coop with doorways on the front and back for cleaning and egg collection. The coops is elevated approximately 20" off the ground, providing a sheltered area in the run area and under the coop that is shaded from the sun and protected from the rain. To gather the eggs, we simply open the door and reach into the nest boxes. No dirty shoes!

Cleaning the chicken coop is easy, too. The front and rear doors are 28" wide, making it easy to reach every inside corner of the nest box. The inside of the chicken coop is layered with pine shavings, available from feed stores and garden centers in cubic bales. As the shavings become soiled, we open the rear coop door and park a wheelbarrow underneath. Then, we open the front door and using a plastic snow shovel, we push the dirty shavings into the waiting wheelbarrow, then dump the contents into our compost pile.

Hello Chickens!

Hello Chickens!

Let Them Run!

Attach an outdoor run to the chicken coop. The run is a fenced in and protected area, secured on all sides (including overhead and underneath). The run allows the flock to get outside and scratch around in the dirt, safe from hawks, fox, dogs and other predators. The fencing must be strong and tightly meshed to prevent raccoons and weasels from getting in.

Many backyard chicken farmers also let their flock roam free during the day, allowing the birds to pick through the grass and mulch for seeds and small bugs. Chickens will happily scratch through flowerbeds in search of insects and other bits to eat.

Our outdoor chicken run approximately 6' wide by 12' long and made from 2x4 framing lumber assembled into modular sections that are covered in plastic coated chicken wire. Since the chicken wire comes in 24" wide rolls, each modular frame section is 4' wide by 7' tall.

The Chicken Run

The Chicken Run

Secure the Fencing Around the Run

The base of the run is framed with pressure treated landscape timbers. After cutting and screwing the framing sections together with weather-resistant decking screws, staple the chicken wire to the outside of the frame. Then, stand the finished section upright onto the landscape timber frame, and secure it in place with more weather-resistant screws. The last section includes a doorway, for entering the chicken run and for letting the chickens out to roam in the back yard.

Assemble the next section, and attach it to the first section. The process continues all of the way around the outdoor run, creating a fenced-in and secure area for the chickens to scratch around in the dirt. The top of the outdoor run is covered with more chicken wire. To further protect the chickens from the snow and rain, we added a lightweight plastic roof.

planning-for-a-small-chicken-coop

Plan Ahead for Backyard Chickens

Planning for a small urban chicken coop and site preparation is crucial before purchasing those cute and irresistible baby chicks. Keeping chickens in the backyard is a popular and growing hobby, from just three or four hens to flocks with several dozen birds. There are many interesting breeds of chickens to choose from: some have striking contrasting feather patterns and colorful plumage, some lay white or brown eggs, and a few breeds even lay pastel blue, green and rose colored eggs.

With a little research and a bit of planning, keeping a small flock of backyard chickens can be a very rewarding experience for the entire family. But providing housing, feeding and caring for chickens is not for everyone, and not every town allows homeowners to keep a flock of backyard chickens. Check with the town officials before investing in chicks or building a coop. Chickens are livestock, and are subject to local zoning ordinances.

Our Urban Chicken Coops

Our Backyard Chicken Coop and Run

Our Backyard Chicken Coop and Run

My Small Chicken Coop

Our Urban Chicken Coop

Our Urban Chicken Coop

Chicken Feeders & Waterers

We use hanging Chicken Feeders made from galvanized metal. Simply fill the bucket with chicken feed: the gravity feeder lets the pellets flow into a tray. As the birds eat, more pellets flow down from the bucket, but the tray prevents the feed from spilling out onto the ground.

Hang the feeder so that the bottom of the feeder is about as high as the chicken's back. This lets the birds feed, but elevates the feeder above the reach of rodents.

A galvanized metal waterer is more durable that a plastic jug, and will last for several years. The waterer can either hang or be set right on the ground.

In the winter, we add a heater to keep the water from freezing.

Another View of the Coop and Run

planning-for-a-small-chicken-coop

Ah, it's good to get out of the coop!

planning-for-a-small-chicken-coop

A Short Tour of a Clever Chicken Coop

And Backyard Chickens = Fresh Eggs!

Backyard Chicken Eggs

Backyard Chicken Eggs

More Chicken Pages To Explore:

Caring for Chickens in Cold Weather

Raising Backyard Chickens for Homegrown Eggs

And we have goats too!

Meet Our Pygmy Goats


© 2011 Anthony Altorenna

Tell Us About Your Chicken Coop

MissKrisCayllie from Jersey Shore on June 03, 2016:

Great article! Was thinking about raising chickens ourselves. This was really informative for our research.

Richard Lindsay from California on April 24, 2016:

I use to have a lot of chickens, but now just a few. They are great to have around to keep the bugs down. Great post

Richard Lindsay from California on March 31, 2016:

Great post, we free range the few chickens that we have. But at night we still make sure that they are locked down to keep them safe.

Wednesday-Elf from Savannah, Georgia on April 15, 2014:

Enjoyed your story. No room for a chicken coop for me (I live in an apt), but wish you lived near me -- I'd love to be able to get fresh eggs. :-)

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on April 15, 2014:

This is pretty awesome! I remember the chicken coops my family members had on their farms when I was a child. It all seemed so natural. I never really considered the work, the coop design, or the care required for raising chickens.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 14, 2013:

I wish I have one especially these days when we just don't eat chicken for fear of bird flu.

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on September 15, 2012:

Hi I enjoyed reading about your small coop. I have three chicken, they are my pets.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on September 04, 2012:

Excellent planning tips. Very helpful. I plan to build a coop and start with a small flock of chickens in the near future. I really like the thoughtful tips about the elements that make it easy to clean things without having to walk in chicken p_ _ p. :-) You've thought of everything.

Rose Jones on August 24, 2012:

Really nice, I appreciate your efforts on keeping these beasts in a humane manner too.

anonymous on July 15, 2012:

I keep hearing about more people raising their own chickens to guarantee they are raised naturally with no hormones, antibiotics, etc. Fresh eggs cannot be beat either!

microfarmproject on June 28, 2012:

Good info about coops. I love the coop in your photos. Chickens are so fun and easy to keep, and nothing beats fresh eggs.

Jeanette from Australia on June 06, 2012:

Your chicken coops are in such a pretty situation! I think I would like to get chickens one day....

miaponzo on March 23, 2012:

Great information here on making chicken coops.. I am thinking about doing one.. but what is the smallest possible.. because I don't really have much room. :) (Contact me directly for the answer).. and here's some Angel Blessings, just for you!

anonymous on March 19, 2012:

My wish list is putting up a small chicken coop in our backyard and having 3 or 4 chickens roaming the land.

ohcaroline on March 19, 2012:

Very interesting article. Your coops are nice.

Shorebirdie from San Diego, CA on February 19, 2012:

Pretty cool coops.

anonymous on February 13, 2012:

There is nothing like fresh chicken eggs for breakfast and baking. The chickens are good too...I love chicken.

anonymous on February 10, 2012:

Great lens with good info

hysongdesigns on January 01, 2012:

Some good info on building a chicken coop for beginners!

TeamZuhl on October 21, 2011:

I'm getting ready to build my first coop - your lens was a great resource! Thanks for the inspiration!

HubLens Admin on October 14, 2011:

This is a great and comprehensive guide for building chicken coops. Awesome pictures and step by step tips are all well-written and well-presented! Thumbs up -

DebMartin on September 06, 2011:

I love your easy method of cleaning the waste from the coop. I let my chickens run around the yard during the day but my coop is way to big (an old shed) so I have chicken poop on my shoes all the time. Thanks for the tips.

pawpaw911 on July 25, 2011:

The old lady (I mean my beautiful wife) has been after me to build one, so may have to put this lens to good use.

anonymous on July 22, 2011:

The chicks sure are irresistibly cute but best to follow your advice to have their coop and do the site preparation and not put the chicken before the coop. Very well written!

knit1tat2 on June 26, 2011:

would like to see a close up of your little chicken yard! Great idea, just want more, more!

anonymous on June 22, 2011:

Nice lens and thanks for sharing the idea for a small chicken coop. :)

smithlights on May 22, 2011:

Great lens! I can't wait to read more!

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