You've planted the organic garden, the compost is cooking and the native plants that cover your lawn look cool and save water. What's next?
Chickens, of course.
The "urban chicken" trend has been endlessly chronicled in recent months, touting tales of city folks building backyard coops, buying hens and getting fresh eggs daily. The maintenance for these millennial pets is minimal, they say, and it's the next step in the "eat local" effort.
There is plenty of how-to information available online, from sites such as BackYardChickens.com, UrbanChickens.org and Backyard Poultry Magazine. And there are some caveats: raising chickens can be a messy business, and you have to make sure they're legal in your city - many urban areas and cities have ordinances against raising farm animals within the city limits. Your neighbor may not appreciate a rooster's 5 a.m. wake-up call. (Although you don't have to have a rooster to get eggs from hens.)
But if you're legally free to raise a few birds, and you've started shopping for the necessities, why not take that extra step and make your chickens happy with a trendy coop?
One of the more modern designs in the coop trade is by Omlet. Their domelike Eglu comes in five bright colors, including pink. It's insulated and ventilated, has a slide-out tray for cleaning and is comfy for the chickens, they claim. It comes with a run with partial shade, a stylish container for feed and drink, and the rounded Omlet egg boxes for collecting the goods. Nothing's too good for your chickens, eh? The whole kit is $495, and delivery is $170).
Want more birds? The larger Eglu Cube can hold up to 10 chickens, and you can customize the cube to handle fewer chickens, or get a 6-foot or 9-foot run. The Cube minus a run is $775, with a 6-foot run $995, with the largest 9-foot run, $1,250.
Omlet not only has the coop, but they can ship a Gingernut Ranger hen or two to you. If you want to know about more breeds, they've got a detailed list of chicken varieties, such as the fluffy-legged buff male Cochin.
Their website has advice for all kinds of chicken situations (many humorous), such as if your hen goes "broody," and a list of how to say chicken in lots of languages (kukkokeikuu in Finnish). And they have some information about chicken laws in various states and cities (in Houston you can keep up to 30 pet chickens, they say!).
Get a little fancier with some of the coops from Hen Spa, such as the Hen Chalet (this one with a vinyl skirt) for $1,795 or the over the top Gazebo (roof made of any material, and in any color) for $2,895.
Backyard Chickens has loads of coop styles, many submitted by readers, such as this quaint little houselike coop that started as a child's playhouse.
There are lots of varied coop designs available to the do-it-yourselfer, such as those in the book Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock, wooden coops or plans, or even a coop project by a team of architecture students at Washington University in St. Louis. Or, better yet, this website reviews others' chicken coop designs.
Once you've got your coop up and running and eggs are appearing, regale your neighbors with some snappy "Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road" jokes.
Some Resources for Getting Started with a Backyard Chicken Coop
By Melissa Segrest
Greenrightnow.com, June 26, 2009
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