We live in a duplex and, together with our upstairs neighbour, decided to get some chickens. Emma and I had thought about it before but thought it would need to wait until we had a place of our own. But, with our upstairs neighbour on board and, together, we have a large accommodating yard for a chicken coop and run the situation seemed good enough. We did the research on what it would take to make it happen and asked the landlord. He was a-ok with it. So we begin!
This post is just about our pre-planing research we had to put in to figure out just where to begin and since this was all happening in January and it is now May (finally some time to write) so I have some power of hindsight.
First we had to figure out if having chickens is even legal in Seattle. Some places it isn't. But in Seattle
The keeping of small animals, farm animals, domestic fowl and bees is
permitted outright in all zones as an accessory use to any principal use
permitted outright or to a permitted conditional use, in each case
subject to the standards of this Section
Where the Seattle law specifically addresses chickens it says
Up to eight domestic fowl may be kept on any lot
The biggest catch is you can't keep a rooster at all. This is sort of the hardest thing to accommodate because it is unknown what sex the chickens are when you buy them as chicks. They try to determine the sex at birth but it is a hard task and they can get it wrong often. You very well may end up with several males which you would either have to "get rid of" on your own or, if you're lucky about the place from where you purchased them, that store might be able to re-home them.
We planned out a few possible locations in the yard. We wanted to maximize the amount of space the chickens would get and minimize the amount of walking/effort needed on our part for maintenance. This means we wanted then to be pretty close to water and possibly electricity. Water because obviously they need water to survive and electricity because we thought they might need to have the coop heated in winter.
We gave up pretty quickly on the electricity idea. It meant modifying the property too much and as a rental that was just going to be too big of a hurdle. Plus we came to the realization that the coop only needs to be heated in extreme cold. Emma's dad's coop isn't heated and he lives in Pennsylvania. It gets decently cold there and certainly colder than here. I think they'll be fine.
The water is close enough. The water only needs to be changed out every 2-3 days so it's not that bad of a walk and the hose is usually out for the garden anyway.
We did need to be careful that the coop was not placed too close to the house or built too large
Structures for urban farm use may not exceed 12 feet in height, including any pitched roof.
Structures housing domestic fowl must be located at least 10 feet away from any structure that includes a dwelling unit on an adjacent lot.
Given out yard this is easily accommodated.
At this point I was really excited. I read lots of websites looking for chicken coop design inspiration, Emma and I picked up a book on raising chickens, and I god busy trying to design something.
From what I was reading there are a few key considerations when designing a space for chickens
- Ventilation is key. If the chickens are locked in their coop in the cold winter and the air is moist they are very susceptible to health issues. Well ventilated but not drafty.
- Exterior egg access. You don't want to be entering the coop and walking right in bird poop/dirt every time you go to collect eggs. An exterior accessible egg hatch seemed important.
- Exterior controlled chicken access door. Same logic as the eggs but for their door (the one which will lock them in at night). If you need to go into their space to lock them up every single day it is going to get annoying for the chickens and annoying for you. The easier and faster chicken chores can be completed the better.
- Good cleaning access. Some coops i saw were very small and it seemed like cleaning them meant being hunched over and either crawling in the chicken litter or getting just too close for comfort. Again, the emphasis in on easy maintenance. The fast you can finish the chicken chores the more likely you are to do them.
- Chickens need space. The general rule of thumb seems to be chickens need 4 ft2 per chicken for interior space and 10 ft2 per chicken of exterior space.
With those basic bench marks in mind I got working on a design. I used Google SketchUp to draft up a design.
I tried to us this as a basis for my budget and construction but this was by no means how it accurately turned out.and my budget was was under estimated. But, that's the way it goes.
Next time I'll talk about breaking ground!