May 27, 2010

Coop Tour Report

Being new to chicken ownership, and having no firsthand experience using or even seeing much actual chicken housing, it was with a sense of great expectation and curiosity that I set out on the trail of the first-ever Chicken Coop Tour in Bend a few weeks ago.

With 26 coops on the tour, spread out over a good chunk of Deschutes County, there was obviously no way to visit them all in the time allotted. As best I could, from the descriptions of each coop, I carefully chose a route that would allow me to see the best-sounding 10-12, with minimal driving. Our town is surrounded by a lot of open space -- desert and forest lands with ranches, farms and small acreages in all directions, so most of the coops were in rural areas.

The tour confirmed what I had already suspected: that chicken coops fall into approximately three categories.

1. Slapped together out of whatever materials happen to be lying around -- cheap and easy and appearance not important. Hey, the chickens don't care, why should we?

2. Neat and tidy, a good-looking structure in the home landscape, safe and secure for the chickens and nice enough to be part of a home and garden but built as economically as possible.

3. Money no object. Coops with more square footage than my house ..... coops designed to resemble the Taj Mahal, a Western cowboy town, Martha Stewart's farm, miniature version of the family mansion, tile roof, wee chandeliers in the ceiling, etc.

I saw all kinds, and realized my ideal coop fell somewhere between 1 and 2 and probably closer to 2. Here are some of my faves.....

This one is built out of hay bales, underneath the deck of the house - how simple! The chickens have only recently moved into this space. If they were mine, I would worry about the big gap between the gate and the fencing. This coop is only 2 blocks from our house, and I'm sure the raccoons and skunks that visit us get over that way. There was also a cold frame built out of hay bales. Very basic and cheap.

This coop was only a half mile further away, and right on the street corner. Basic, not fancy but sturdy and practical construction. According to the owner, she lets the chickens roam the 'hood, and they haven't yet been hit by cars or chased by dogs. Amazing. She had a really nice garden too. At this point I realized a coop tour was actually a kind of stealth garden tour as well.

This one was purchased through craigslist -- the seller included the chickens in the price. Although it is essentially a chicken tractor set in a field, it has 2 small solar lights inset into the roof.

This one has a kids' playhouse on the top floor, chicken playhouse below. It is on the grounds of a small, family-operated nursery.

And I may be new at chicken ranching, but even I know this is not a chicken.

This coop was made from dog kennel fence panels, and the chicken shed from materials leftover from building the fanciest horse barn I have ever seen. The shed is insulated and has electricity inside. These are very spoiled chickens!

We had to go out in back of the barn and admire the new arrival....

This was the last coop we saw, back in town less than a mile from my house, and my absolute favorite. It sported wee little prayer flags on the side, and festive japanese lantern mini lights above the door.

It is set in the pines on a steeply sloping lot that also contained a greenhouse/potting shed I lust after..

In the end, I wished there were more urban-style coops on city lots, since that's my situation exactly. But I clearly see that chickens are adaptable critters, ready and willing to fit into a home garden.

My coop arrives tomorrow. Stay tuned for photos!

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