|Urban Chicken Keeping is growing and our coops are very popular, for good reason! Your coop is lovingly hand built from premium materials and will look great for years to come. During some parts of the year we get up to six weeks back-ordered. As a company policy we take orders and deliver weekly batches of coops in the order in which they're purchased. We're so grateful for your patience while we build your new coop. Here are some ideas on how to house those stinky chicks while they're growing up. Oh, by the way, adult chickens actually eat less and poop less (stink less) by body weight than chicks...which are just poop machines while they're growing up. Also keep in mind that in most parts of the country you don't want a chick to go outdoors until they are 6 - 8 weeks old and night time temps don't dip much below 70°F. Your new coop is designed for adult birds that are 13 weeks or so or older. Until then, if you put them in the coop, you may need a brick or block of wood for them to jump up on to reach the waterer. Adult fully feathered birds that are 13 weeks or older are ready to go through fall and start to "feather up" for winter. Here are two popular temporary chick pens other than your spare bathtub 🙂 which is bar far the MOST popular...|
Author Archive | Montie Twining
Our coops go from hot to cold in a snap…
Airflow in your coop is your biggest concern whether its summer or winter. But extreme storms can bring too much of a good thing to the outdoor areas of any coop. Snow / Storm Panels are for the run areas of your coop and add temporary extra protection for extreme sideways driven stormy weather in hot or cold seasons, but are especially good at keeping snow out.
They are designed to be attached and detached during inclement conditions in warm or cold seasons, only when needed. Panels are “transparent” so they let critical light in, but in summer, do provide some shade too. As for the physical panels themselves, they are corrugated and made from 100% recycled UV protectant enriched polyethylene plastic sourced here in North America. Each panel is custom cut to fit each product. Panels attach and detach using special made neodymium rare earth magnets which hold them securely in place onto wired panels but allow for them to be easily removed for storage when the weather improves. They literally Click-on and Click-off as needed. [Learn More]
Urban Coop Company Coops Are in Use In All 50 States
Orders Plotted to Center of Zip Code Through March 30, 2016
We get asked all the time in what part of the country our coops get used. Well, here you go. As they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words. Pretty much everywhere! Hot, cold, and everything in between. The other thing this picture probably tells, is the parts of the country that backyard chickens are most popular. Hmmm 🙂
No personally identifiable information is contained in this mapping.
How many eggs can I expect to get from my backyard chickens? You’ll probably be surprised how it adds up. Depending on the breed, age, time of year and nutrition afforded to your backyard flock your egg production will vary. It is common for ordinary laying hens who are between 6 months and 3 years old to reliably lay an egg 60% of days averaged over the year. It is possible for your lay rate to be more like 80%.
The Egg Production Chart table below shows egg production for 2-10 hens weekly, monthly and annually for 60%, 70% and 80% efficiency, averaged and rounded to the nearest 1/2 egg 🙂
60% Lay Rate
70% Lay Rate
80% Lay Rate
We’ve worked hard to understand the needs of our customers all over the United States. This article shares with you our thinking on cold weather backyard chicken ranching.
The design concept of Urban Coop Company coops provides for three basic spaces for your chickens. (1) Roost Area (2) Egg Box Area, and (3) Run Space. Each space has its design goals taking into consideration cold and hot climates.
(1) Roost Areas: The Roost area will be used by your chickens primarily at night to sleep. Exceptions to this will be when your birds feel they need additional shelter because of inclement conditions. They will seek shelter in the roost. Urban Coop Company coops feature enclosed roosts made from thermally neutral cedar (neither transmits cold or hot) and use updraft passive ventilation so that hens in the roost are protected from stagnant air issues. In hot or cold weather, air circulates from low to high and out the tops of the roosts even though they are enclosed and protected, making sure your chickens stay healthy year round. Just the way our coops come, chickens have a good way to deal with inclement weather. Chickens are very temperature hardy, much better at dealing with extreme cold weather than extreme hot. Poultry experts agree that a dry, wind protected adult chicken allowed to feather up prior to the winter season, can do just fine in freezing temperatures… even sub zero temperatures.
Oddly, overheating of your chickens and frostbite issues have a common root cause…poor ventilation. Frostbite is driven by sub freezing temperatures and overly humid coops that are too enclosed. In the worst coop designs, humid sub freezing temperatures exacerbated by the chickens poop moisture (common with poop trays) and respiration can cause frostbite on exposed combs and leg skin even on a dry chicken. Heaters and light bulbs must be used with great care as they introduce the risk of electrical fires and can actually cause fowl to not “feather-up” the way they otherwise would, and in a power outage, it potentially leaves them without their full natural feathering to keep them warm.
(2) Egg Box Areas: For a different reason, egg box areas are enclosed too. Darkness. Chickens will naturally want to lay their eggs in the darkest most cozy areas of the coops. Our egg boxes, for the same reasons as our roost, afford your chickens refuge from poor weather conditions while they are laying yet keep critical fresh air circulating around them.
(3) Runs: Runs are just that…run areas for your chickens…a place for them to get outside and forage around. Our run areas have roof areas over them to provide some shade and some protection from normal rain and snow accumulation. At the same time, our runs allow sunlight to shine in too. Sunlight drys up your coop areas, the ultraviolet light disinfects your coop and helps control odors, and in fact as with most animals, chickens need sunlight. So they are necessarily more open than roosts and egg box areas. In extreme stormy conditions (wind driven snow and rain) your chickens even though it is daytime, will seek shelter in their roosts. They’re now out of the storm, but confined to a smaller space. So that the run areas can have both the openness that’s appropriate the vast majority of the time, but to extend use of the run in seriously stormy weather, we’ve introduced optional Fowl Weather Storm Panels™ that will add temporary additional inclement weather protection to run areas. You don’t have to have them, they just give more sheltered space to your flock when its stormy outside. read more about Snow / Storm Panels™
Snow / Storm Panels™
- For many of us, chickens have become pets. Leaving fido out in inclement weather is just not usually an option 🙂 With that said, pets or not, chickens are still livestock. An adult chicken given good choices for different shelter areas (roost, egg box, run) can figure out what areas they need to be in to deal with the weather. Depending on your world view, they’ve been doing it for somewhere between 10,000 and 10 bizillion years. We’ve only had electricity for a little more than 100 years and chickens have certainly done well for much longer than that all over the world.
- The fact is that cold isn’t as big a problem with chickens as heat. They can withstand very cold temperatures (even subzero) as long as they are fully feathered adults. Generally a chicken is fully feathered out by the age of 12 weeks, but does sometimes depend on the breed. If your chicken has full wing feathers and feathers over it’s neck and middle, it’s safe to consider them fully feathered. If you have a Round-Top Backyard Chicken Coop™ make sure to place your roost door away from the prevailing or coldest North winds just to give them a bit of extra protection, or you could get a Snow / Storm Panel kit which includes a cover for that door. Lower your roost wings on your Mobile Coop and the roost area becomes a great place to get out of the weather. Likewise, the Walk-In Coop has a giant enclosed roost area where your chickens can seek refuge if they think they need it.
- The problem with cold and chickens actually comes from moist cold air. Moist cold air causes respiratory problems and can cause frostbitten combs and wattles in very cold temperatures. The roost-over run design of the Round-Top Backyard Chicken Coops™ takes this into account and provides ventilation through the roost floor and allows the cold moist air to dissipate out the top round vents. The roost bars are positioned to allow the chickens to roost near the top where the air is warmest, but out of direct wind.
- Keep water from freezing by using some sort of a submersible heater or heated chicken waterer. If you have the Easy Fill Waterer, we have designed it for a particular heater and all that is needed is the slotted cap.
In addition to the slotted cap that we include with the 4" Backyard Coop EZ-Fill waterers, you need a heater and we recommend a cord cover. We don't sell them as they're available online in many places Water Heater: A birdbath style water heater bought at Amazon (or elsewhere) or a submersible fish tank style heater can also work. HEATERS MUST HAVE A THERMOSTAT AND BE DESIGNED TO BE FULLY SUBMERSIBLE. Immersion style coffee and soup heaters will not work. Wattage required will depend on how cold it gets where you live. If you have questions, just contact us and we will share with you what we've learned from 100's of customers.Please Note: Keeping the water from freezing is half of the battle. The nipple can freeze too if exposed to direct wind chill. Reports are actually best for the submersible fish tank style heater listed above. Presumably, it keeps the body of water in the tank warmer. If you have freezing problems, call us. We can probably help.
- Extra shavings in a sloppy coop run bottom can absorb water and help keep your girls feet dry. Do not use straw or hay as it holds moisture and turns into a mildewy matted mess.
- On really cold sub-zero days, you can use a bit of Vaseline to coat combs , waddles and exposed leg skin to protect from frostbite.
- Cold birds will huddle up together to keep warm and in the heat, the opposite is true.
- Be careful if you decide to use a light-bulb or a heater. The electricity presents an electrocution and fire hazard and you may in fact be doing harm. IF you provide too much supplemental heat, birds natural reaction is to not feather up as much. IF you were to loose electricity in a cold spell, your birds would be without some part of their best natural defense against cold…their feathers.
- Keep unfrozen fresh water available to your hens. Hydrated birds deal with cold better.
Dry, fully feathered chickens who can get out of the wind are very, very cold hardy. They will be fine in freezing temperatures (even sub zero temperatures) so long as they have access to fresh water and stay dry. Some particulars may vary breed-to-breed, for instance Silkies and frizzle-feathered chickens are less cold hardy. The above points will certainly give you a safe place to work from.
Contact us if you have winter chicken keeping questions. While we live in Central Texas and only have 30 or so freezing days each year, we have 100’s of customers in places like Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Colorado and many other very cold places. We literally get NO reports of cold weather related chicken deaths with our coops. We’re happy to share with you what we know.
We realize that there is a group of folks out there who love building as much as we do and want to build their own coop and not buy one from someone else. If you’re that person who wants to tackle your own Chicken Coop DIY Design and Construction project we still want to help. Keep these things in mind and consider these points before you begin your project. Whether you’re going to be a Urban Coop Company customer or not, we want to share what we’ve learned building 100’s of coops that are in service all over the country.
Coop Parameters: We suggest starting out with the end in mind and let that guide your decisions…
- How many chickens do you want?
- Is easy maintenance important?
- How much space do you have?
- How long do you want your coop to last?
- Whats your budget?
- Do you have particular predators to worry about?
- Will you realistically move your coop around often?
- What kind of climate do you live in?
These are most of the questions you’ll want to ask yourself to create parameters for choosing a design. There are certainly others, but this will knock out a big chunk of what is important. Of course, you have to like what it looks like, but that’s your deal 🙂
How many chickens do you want?
If your intention is to keep your chickens in your coop full time (no free ranging) you will want at a minimum 3-4 ft2 per bird of run space on the ground. Some people will tell you much more, and commercial egg farms allow for more like 1 ft2 per bird. In our consultation with the Texas A&M poultry department and in our own practical experience, you will be fine in that 3-4 ft2 per hen range. Much more important than space, is ventilation. Its stagnant air that causes the problem more than anything else.
As for an egg box, a one hen egg box will support 4-6 hens laying each day as they are happy to take their turns in the box. We have a box that will easily hold two hens and they seldom go in pairs. Laying must be a private thing 🙂
If eggs are your goal (for some it is not) a conservative number is 65% of days, a hen will lay an egg. Time of year, age of your hen and nutrition are some of the factors that control production, but on average, you’ll get 4-5 eggs per week per hen.
You don’t have to have a roost I suppose, although it is the natural way that the chickens like to sleep. You need 7-10 inches of roost space per hen and it is somewhat dependent on their size and weather conditions. Certainly on cold nights hens will cuddle together on the roost to stay warmer and conversely when it is hot, they will spread out more. But again, roost area ventilation is key. Even a small number of birds crammed into a poorly ventilated large space is a bad idea.
So with those thoughts in mind, ask yourself if the design you’re considering makes sense for the number of hens you want. Back to Top
Is easy maintenance important?
Who doesn’t like the idea of a full height walk-in chicken coop. You could avoid getting on your hands and knees to do watering and feed. Chickens are pretty short. You could collect eggs standing up. But not many folks have the room or the budget (or want the eye sore) needed to buy a shed sized building for their backyard chickens. Its also another building to take care of on your property. Just think through your tasks of watering, feeding and cleaning out the coop and make sure the ergonomics of it all make sense for the design you’re considering. I’m getting older and being on my hands and knees doesn’t sound so good. We took the path of a Roost-over-Run™ design to our Round-Top Backyard Chicken Coop™ in part because it allowed an owner to perform almost every task, egg collection, feeding, watering, raking out run and cleaning roost from a standing position. Just make sure you consider how the design you’re looking at will work for the hen keeping tasks that will be required. Back to Top
How much space do you have?
Some neighborhoods have height restrictions on coops, usually asking that they don’t stick up above a fence. Many normal fences are 6′ so stay under that. Keep in mind that many photos you see of coops are taken from a low angle trying to make them look much taller than they really are. Six feet is 72″ so just look at the specifications as your actual way of judging height. Keep in mind that if a coop is only really short, you’ll be getting down on the ground some.
To a large extent, the number of birds you want to keep will determine the foot print of the coop because of the run space we mentioned above. You get the ft2 of the coop by multiplying the width in inches by the length in inches, divided by 144. So for instance, a 36″ wide by 48″ long coop run is 36×48=1728 in2 /144 is 12ft2. Twelve square feet is good for 3-4 hens. Also make sure the area you plan to place the coop leave you enough room, maybe 2-3 feet, around the coop to maintain things from time-to-time. Back to Top
How long do you want your coop to last?
I’m not being flippant about this question. For instance, I don’t want my computer or cell phone to last 10 years, so I really wouldn’t be persuaded to buy one that would. I want a new one every two years or so. I don’t want my kitchen remodel to last 30 years either. But I’d like my wedding ring to last a lifetime, so the material I choose for it matters. Determining life expectancy goals will dictate material choices and joinery methods. More advanced methods and higher quality materials… well, cost more, but last longer.
The majority of the coops you find on the internet are made in China from fir. Chinese fir is not so different from our N. American Douglas Fir. The wood HAS to be treated or painted to last more than about 6 months out in the weather without irreversible damage, and even treated, will require re-treatment every year or two. Fir is a soft wood and does not hold a screw well without special fasteners. We seldom hear stories of fir coops being in service for more than a couple of years.
Woods that have to be treated or painted (firs and pines) can be used, just keep the maintenance in mind. As far as woods that can be used un-treated, in N. America, that is a short list of three woods… Cypress, Redwood and Cedar. Of course, you can get treated pine such as “YellaWood” or similar brands if you like the look and are not concerned with the chemicals used in treatment. Yes, Teak and Ipe would make excellent coops, but we do not have it in N. America. Actually, Bamboo is an interesting idea for coops and we are always thinking about Bamboo. Agriwood which is corn silage held together by glues are something else we look into. But practically speaking, Cypress, Redwood and Cedar your only choices for woods that do not require treatment and Cedar is certainly the most available. Any plywood used treated or not should be painted. If you want to paint your coop, you could still use Cedar, but it does cost quite a bit more than pine, fir or plywood… about double.
As for metal parts, they have to be galvanized or outdoor ceramic coated. Even galvanized metal parts are corroded by chicken poop over time. I guess what makes it so good for fertilizer, makes it tough on metal. Any glues or paint that are used must be exterior rated too.
And of course, the heavier gauge your materials are, the longer they will last. Thicker wire, heavier roof metal, bigger screws and bolts and beefier boards will all contribute to your coop lasting longer. We targeted a 10 year lifespan for our coop and depending on the care it gets from its owner and the climate that it lives in, it could easily last 15-20 years with a little love.
Note: The cedar used in coops is NOT the aromatic cedar. that for instance, are used in coat closets to repel moths. The western red cedar used in coops is not toxic to moths 😉 or chickens. And few would pay for a coop made from aromatic cedar as it is quite expensive. In our country, almost all aromatic cedar is indigenous to the East Coast and isn’t even suited for outdoor use. For those wood experts out there, Eastern White Cedar would be fine for outdoor construction, but its rare. Back to Top
please email your thoughts on wood to:
coop wood comment @ uccomail
Whats your budget?
Backyard chickens are a lifestyle educational hobby. You are likely NOT going to save money over buying eggs at the store unless you are among the most frugal of chicken keepers. It is possible, especially if you’re comparing free range organic eggs which is what you’d compare to the quality of a home raised backyard chicken eggs. Unless you want poop all over the place and live in the country, you will HAVE to have a coop of some kind to have chickens. A cheaply made coop will pretty much be a throw away after a couple of years.
Keep in mind what you’re trying to do (educate your kids, fresh eggs, the pure fun of it, all of the above) and spend an amount of money on materials that makes sense. The fact is that some of the “profit” we make building coops comes from buying materials in bulk. You buying materials one coop at a time will cost more than a company who buys in bulk. Back to Top
Do you have particular predators to worry about?
Dogs are by far the most common predator for chickens followed by raccoons, possums, foxes, coyotes and the like. Some are diggers trying to go under and some are strong enough just to lift the coop off the ground or break into weak door openings. Plan to try to foil all but the most persistent of predators and save yourself the grief of finding your girls gone. Your coop must be heavy and strong. Hinges and latches must be strong. Throw away the rinky-dink screws that come with most hinges and put in some beefy good screws. Burying wire around the perimeter or rocks around your coop can foil diggers. Weight. If a Chihuahua comes after your girls, a 50lb coop with hardware cloth wire might do the trick. If its a 75lb dog… ummm, not so much. Use strong wire and weight does matter.
Chickens have some sort of death wish and if there is an opening large enough for a raccoon to reach through ( maybe like 2×2 or larger) we’ve seen birds seemingly go over and put themselves into the clutches of a coon when they could have easily stood back. So make sure that the largest opening or slot is small enough to keep varmints out. Back to Top
Will you realistically move your coop around often?
“Chicken Tractor” is the term adopted to describe a coop that could be moved around your backyard that has wheels. Just keep in mind that in about a week, the nice green carpet known as your backyard will begin to be trampled by the birds in your coop. And you want the birds to be on the ground so that the microbes in the soil can do their thing with the poop, and your hens can do their thing pecking away at little bugs and the such that live near your coop.
We’ve owned tractors before and have decided that we wanted to limit the area of yard damage to one particular spot and never really moved the coop around. Even though our coop is not a tractor, several strong people can relocate it assembled, and if broken down to its two major sub-assemblies or completely disassembled, could be moved even more easily, even relocated or sold to someone else altogether. Just because the coop you choose is not on wheels, does not mean it cannot be moved. Some designs use skids which could be a good idea for you if you want to move your coop around.
So if you think you’ll want to move your coop, make sure that one way or another, you could. Wheels are for someone who would want to move it very, very frequently. Back to Top
What kind of climate do you live in?
Chickens are much more robust than people give them credit for. A bird that is allowed to fully feather over a month or two for cold weather, is good for sub zero temperatures if it keeps dry and can get out of direct wind. Conversely, chickens are good for the 100’s if plenty of water and modest shade is provided during the hottest parts of the day.
Keep in mind the North wind for colder climates and Southern breezes for hotter climates. Some materials transfer heat and cold much worse that others. For instance, Cedar neither transfers heat or cold in a bad way compared to steel which does both. The Galvalume™ coating on our metal roof transfers up to 50% less radiant heat than plain galvanized roofing. Composite shingle roofs have their pros and cons as do most other roof choices. Just think through the exposed parts of the design and how that will play out with the climates where you live.
The key to chicken coops is ventilation. Whatever coop you build it must have the ability to keep air moving around the birds to keep the moist air to a minimum. Dryer air serves to protect your girls both in hot or cold climates from disease and respiratory problems. Back to Top
Feel free to email us at:
coop building questions @ uccomail
and we’re happy to answer your DIY questions regarding your coop project.
Why we use Cedar in your Round-Top Chicken Coop™
Its certainly not the cheapest wood coop builders could use, in fact, its one of the most expensive. But just like a fine chef, its impossible for a coop builder to end up with a great product if the ingredients aren’t the best.
Cedar (more accurately what we use is called appearance grade rough cut Western Red cedar) is one of three woods commonly found in North America that without chemical treatments are suitable for exterior use. The other two are redwood and cypress. Here are some of the reasons cedar is desirable for chicken coops…
• Cedar is lightweight and dimensionally stable. It lies flat and stays pretty much straight, which means it resists the natural tendency to crack and bow as you might find in many other wood species if used outdoors. Its special cell structure fights moisture rot by allowing it to dry out faster than almost any other wood, time and time again.
• Western Red cedar is incredibly thermally efficient, meaning even on hot days it is cool to the touch and does not transmit heat to areas inside the roost, or for that matter, cold either. Its warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
• Cedar is naturally bacterial and fungal resistant. Cedar is 80% the strength of oak which one of the strongest hardwoods. These facts coupled with its rot resistance make it the most desirable wood to build outdoor structures from… like coops!
• Western Red cedar fibers contain oils that act as natural preservatives to help the wood resist rot and decay making it excellent even in humid climates. Even without special treatment, cedar will easily last outdoors 10-15 years and in some circumstances, much longer.
• Naturally occurring organic compounds called (thujaplicins) give off that distinct cedar aroma that is pleasant to humans but a deterrent to insects, moths and other wood pests. These oils are locked into the boards and are what makes the wood so resistant to bugs and also rot. Don’t confuse western red cedar lumber with eastern white cedar (aromatic cedar) shavings. Western Red Cedar Lumber is absolutely, 100%, NOT DANGEROUS TO CHICKS or FULL GROWN HENS.
Advantages of Using Cedar
Unlike Chinese fir, plastic or painted pine coops, Western Red cedar will not bow or sag over time and will stay looking great. Your cedar chicken coop will hold its handsome appearance year after year with very little maintenance. Cedar products are an all around safer, healthier, natural material for coops and better than almost any other wood in the world. CEDAR PRODUCTS ARE A GREAT NATURAL ALTERNATIVE TO CHEMICALLY TREATED WOODS. The only other woods that are even close to cedar in its suitability for use as a chicken coop, are redwood and cypress. However, since cedar is more commercially available it is the most cost effective of the three.
Want to paint it? Great… cedar holds paint better than almost any wood you can find and better than any other outdoor rated wood. Just pick any Big Box available semitransparent, transparent, or solid wood stain of any color you like, and it will last 8-10 years or more before you have to even think about repainting it. Buy the lowest VOC rated stain you can find. We do not recommend products like Thompson’s Water Seal around chickens.
Don’t want to paint it? Great… no domestic wood outperforms cedar outdoors, even outdoor ground contact conditions. Left unsealed and unpainted, cedar will patina to that natural grey/silver look that people are familiar with over time and last up to 10-15 years or more depending on your locale.
Want to seal it? Great… If you like the fresh Golden look of unweathered cedar, put a transparent non-colored wood stain on and slop it into the wood. Repeat every 6-8 years or when you see it fading. Wash up your coop before resealing, and it will come very, very close to looking brand new again, like the day it arrived.