Building an urban chicken coop is both easy and inexpensive. Before you bring home your chicks or hens, you’ll want to have a home prepared for them. It is easy to get excited about raising chickens, but in the city it is important to be prepared. On a farm you can always find somewhere to house a few hens while you prepare a proper chicken coop, but in a residential area sticking them in the shed or garage for a few days usually doesn’t work out very well (cue hens escaping into the neighbors strawberry patch, or messing up the paint on your spouse’s company car). It’s best to prepare urban coops ahead of time.
Features of an Urban Chicken Coop
Most city hens will spend most of their time in their coop, so the design must meet all their needs. Every urban chicken coop should have these physical features:
- Weatherproof – Chickens are tough birds. They can tolerate sub-freezing temperatures and extreme heat as long as they are dry and have access to shade. Limit drafts in chicken coops but keep them well-ventilated to lower the risk of disease.
- Perches – Believe it or not, your earthbound hens descended from a forest bird called the red junglefowl. They retain the instinct to roost in a tree. Your hens will be happiest (ie. they’ll lay more eggs) if you build perches high up in the coop.
- Nest Boxes – Give your girls a nice, cozy place to lay their eggs. Allow one box for every three hens.
In addition to providing shelter from wind, rain and snow, every chicken coop should have space for three additional items:
- Water. Chickens are notoriously messy drinkers. They’ll spill their water. They’ll poop in it. They’ll drop food in it. Consider purchasing or building a special chicken waterer to minimize these issues.
- Feed. You’ll want to keep this area far from the water. Chickens love food diversions, so you may want to place a hook in the ceiling so you can hang heads of cabbage for them to peck.
- Grit. Chickens don’t have teeth. Instead they ingest small stones which sit in their gizzard and grind up their food. Make sure your hens have access to grit at all times.
Building an Urban Chicken Coop without Breaking the Bank
You can give your hens a nice home without spending much money if you’re willing to follow these guidelines:
DIY: Build Your Own Urban Chicken Coop
Making your own coop is much cheaper than purchasing one. Get out your overalls, find the hammer and apologize to your spouse in advance for any swearing that may come from the backyard.
Use Recycled Materials
You can build a chicken coop out of nearly anything: scrap lumber, 55 gallon drums, chicken wire and PVC piping. You could even convert a shopping cart into a nice coop. Old baskets or milk crates make great nest boxes. A fallen branch is the perfect perch.
Look for Free Urban Chicken Coop Plans
If you are looking for inspiration or step-by-step instructions you can get them for free. The web is full of great sites like this one with free chicken coop plans.
Guide to Backyard Chickens & How to Raise Chickens
Tyler Johnson teaches us to build an urban chicken coop for only $25.