ISSUE 80  |  Locally Grown

5 Favorites: Backyard Chicken Coops for Small Flocks

July 10, 2013 1:00 PM

BY Janet Hall

“Because I choose not to listen to you.” That is how my 14-year-old daughter explained the fact that we were on the highway the other day, headed to Petaluma to acquire three baby chicks.

Now that my daughter mentioned it, I distinctly remembered saying no to chickens. We live in the heart of urban San Francisco where farming is not a natural activity.

Fast forward a few weeks: we got the chicks, of course. They were adorable, and thrived in their brooder in our garage. But when it came time to move them to larger living quarters, the debate began: DIY versus a purchased coop?

Because this was part of a school project, the DIY coop was the route my daughter took (and she did an amazing job, though we did learn through this experience that we could have spent less and had a higher quality chicken house had we purchased a backyard-friendly coop).  Trust me, I did the research. There are many chicken coops that are space efficient enough to accommodate a small urban yard, while still giving the chickens room to thrive. Here’s a roundup of our favorites. Next time.


Above: A castle of a coop with a small footprint. The two-story Cedar Chicken Coop & Run with Planter has a 5-foot-square base, providing nesting and run space for four chickens.  And best of all, you can harvest not only eggs, but also herbs from the planter that graces one side of the second story.  It’s hand built in Washington State from solid western red cedar and features a galvanized metal roof to keep the interior dry. A mesh floor allows manure to fall through, keeping cleaning to a minimum; $1,499.95 at Williams-Sonoma.


Above: Made by Just Fine Design Build in Oakland, California, The Chick-in-a-Box Chicken Coop is perfect for the backyard. It features a butterfly roof with a water catchment system, roosting bars, and sliding doors to make egg retrieval easy.  Made to order to client specifications; contact Just Fine Design Build for more information (and see below for their instructional book on chicken coop design). 

Above: Named after the neighborhood in Seattle where my brother raises chickens in his backyard, the Ballard Chicken Coop offers more space than it appears. The 8-by-4-foot coop has a roosting level tucked into the arch of the coop. On the bottom level, up to four chickens can move about freely. Crafted in Washington state of western red cedar with a pine frame; $999.95 at Williams-Sonoma. 


Above: Built in Portland, Oregon of reclaimed cedar, the Modern Chicken Coop comes with a fiberglass roof, an exterior water supply for easy refilling, a side door for easy cleaning, a built-in feeder, and roosting box (an attachable chicken run is also available); $889 with free delivery in Portland. Amtrak delivery to other locations is available for a fee. For those motivated to build their own, Modern Chicken Coop Plans are available for $8.

Above: From San Francisco-based architecture firm nottoscale, the Moop Two-Run Chicken Coop is designed with a unique modular system that combines a chicken coop and integrated runs that can be configured in multiple ways. Each run fits underneath cantilevering nesting boxes to maximize space while minimizing the overall footprint (the configuration shown required 4 by 6 feet). It is spacious enough for four hens and can be outfitted with either one or two runs; $800.

Above:  A chicken coop built for two.  The compact 27.5-inch-square Chicube Chicken Coop is made in England by a family company founded by poultry farmers.  Made of durable waterproof plastic that makes cleaning easy, the Chicubes is for small yards where up to two chickens can roam during the day (no run is included). Heavy enough to stay put in windy weather, it is light enough to move around your yard; $399.99 (currently on sale for $319.99) at Williams Sonoma. 

Above: Earlier this year, Kevin McElroy and Matthew Wolpe, the men behind Just Fine Design Build, released Reinventing the Chicken Coop. The book includes 14 complete building plans for chicken coops that  “range from the purely functional to the outrageously fabulous”; $12.69 at Amazon.

Another consideration when introducing chickens to your outdoor garden: Humane Ways to Outwit Varmints.