City Chickens: Watching an Idea Become Reality

Meet Heather and Brian, Lansing residents and hopeful urban farmers. Follow them as they document their new project: raising backyard chickens. You’ll see the construction process, meet their chicks and follow their development over the summer.

Phase 1: The Idea
Last year we started noticing colorful hens pecking around neighborhood yards and became intrigued with the possibility of raising our own backyard flock. I went online and discovered our local ordinance states a certain number of chickens are allowed on residential land. Almost immediately I began thinking of how to incorporate chickens into our upcoming backyard renovation project.

There are many reasons to keep chickens in the city. Apart from the obvious benefit of fresh eggs, chickens create manure for compost, help control insect pests and provide lots of entertainment. They really are beautiful birds! Check out Extraordinary Chickens for a look at the many amazing variations.

We’re a little – shall we say – light on animal husbandry experience, so the first agenda item was research. I read dozens of books on chickens over the course of a year. A Chicken in Every Yard has tons of helpful insight and how-tos from selecting breeds to building coops.

When reading about keeping chickens, make sure you start at the first chapter — don’t be like me and skip to predators right away. It’ll keep you up at night. But not to worry, we will build our coop securely with these guys in mind.

Raccoon tunnelling

Hi there. I'm just a friendly raccoon. Nothing to see here.

If you — like me — freaked yourself out reading about all the things that want to eat your chickens, try something a little humorous like Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance. A funny and charming set of tales and tidbits, it’s a great read for the non-chicken owner too.

While doing research, we also attended a program at CADL on raising chickens. Meeting neighbors who keep chickens sucessfully and hearing their stories made the project seem a little less overwhelming.

A chicken project really has something of interest for everyone. Because Brian is into carpentry, I brought home books on coops, including Backyard Chickens: A Guide to Coops and Tractors.

With a green light from Brian and a lot of chicken facts rattling around my brain (did you know Queen Victoria kept Partridge Cochins?), a year later my chicken plan is finally a go!

Phase II: The Plan
Our next step is planning out the site, which is currently underway. Over the next couple weeks we will be clearing some space in the backyard and picking up coop building supplies.

Backyard grading April 2012 - all photo rights reserved

Grading the backyard - not as much fun as advertised.
April 2012

Our coop will be 60 square feet, which is roomy for five city hens. We are working from our own plans, developed from books and We’ll be posting lots of pictures, so you’ll see the construction process. Stay tuned for bi-weekly posts – and remember, we are first-time poultry keepers, so expect the unexpected as you keep up with our project on this blog!

Next post: Building the Brooder, Ordering Chicks and Supplies. Coop Building Continues.

© hgoupil 2012

4 responses to “City Chickens: Watching an Idea Become Reality

  1. I am very excited to read about your endeavor — happy to see your dream become a reality!

  2. Never in my WILDEST dreams (both now & flashing back to childhood) did I ever think you would be playin’ w/chickens! LOL! I love you guys & can’t wait to read all of your progress in the coming months. (esp. liked the pic. of my girl diggin’ in the dirt! hey – while your at it, wanna make a mud-berry pie like we did when we were kids ??) :) Best of Luck to you both!

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