Chicken Coops…really?

Bob Borson —  May 17, 2010 — 63 Comments

Fancy-Pants Chicken

Like Popeye, “I’ve had all I can stand, I can’t stands no more”. This entire fascination with raising and/ or owning urban chickens seems completely absurd to me. Since I don’t really know anything about raising chickens (because I live in a city with grocery stores and I don’t need to raise my own chickens), I decided after seeing the tragillionth post on the latest modern chicken coop to do some quick research and see how someone could come to the conclusion that raising chickens in their backyard was not only a good idea, but necessary.

Since there are dozens of websites and blogs dedicated to the plight of the urban chicken egg hunter, I had a hard time focusing on the facts presented and ended up with a headache from slapping myself in the forehead from reading so many really informative websites. For example, return counts for the following searches yielded:

  • Chicken Coop – 2,440,000 results
  • Modern Chicken Coop – 156,000 results
  • Chicken Coop Plans – 292,000 results
  • raising your own chickens – 635,000 results

Clearly there is something to this that I am missing. Don’t get me wrong, I love chickens: fried, grilled, roasted, bbq’d – literally anyway you can get them. I will also admit that I have seen them running around a yard once or twice before and it was kinda cool seeing them in a different context than how I was used to see them (i.e. meat case at the local Piggly Wiggly). But those chickens cost like $1.99/lb for a fryer chicken, how much do live chickens cost? Couldn’t be that much right? I mean, there’s handling and packaging costs associated with the free range, hormone free ones I get at the local Whole Foods so those have to cost more….let’s take a look:

Species: Silver Dorking

Dorking Chicken (3 units in stock should be 3 stock in unit ha!) – The Dorking is one of the most ancient of all domesticated poultry. Julius Caesar brought them to Britain in the first century BC. The Dorking was also described by the Roman writer Columella in his treatise “Of Husbandry in Twelve Books.” The White, Silver-Gray and Colored varieties were accepted into the American Standard of Perfection in 1874. Although the Red is the oldest variety, it wasn’t admitted until 1995. Before the Civil War, the Dorking was one of America’s most common farm fowl, but now the Dorking is quite rare.

Species: Ameraucana

Ameraucana – South American. May or may not be genetically related to the Araucana. In pre-Columbian Chile, there are several different blue egg-laying chicken breeds, none called Araucana. Standardized & accepted into APA in 1984. Most hatcheries, however, sell Easter Egg chickens with mixed breeding that may lay blue, green (or other colored) eggs, but do not conform to standard.

Species: Light Brahma Cockrel

Brahma Chicken  – The Brahma is an Asiatic breed of chicken. The first Brahmas were brought to the United States in 1846 from China. The earliest male imports to the USA weighed around 14 pounds. They were used as a utility fowl for both their meat and eggs. Today Brahmas are mainly kept for ornamental purposes.

Species: Crevecoeur

Crevecoeur Chicken - The Crevecoeur is an old French breed. They were originally bred as a table bird. The birds of today are surprisingly larger than those from hundreds of years back. This is due in part to the introduction of Dorking blood in the late 1800s.

Okay, so clearly these are more expensive than the ones I have been buying. So there must be some other benefits. Another quick search leads me to a site that conveniently list of benefits but I will summarize here; they include:

  • Local Source of Protein
  • Better Quality
  • Source of fertilizer
  • Natural Pest Control
  • You can be part of the local food movement
  • It’s Fun!

Okay, I understand all of these but the only one that  I consider a true motivator to swing the balance of reasons towards having chickens in my urban backyard is better quality. The rest seems like someone told them to come up with 6 reasons and they ran out of good ideas after two. Is it elitist to have urban chickens? Certainly listing chickens as a source of fertilizer (fertilizer=poop for you hardcore urbanites) doesn’t make you elitist unless you make your lawn crew collect the “fertilizer” for you. Three of the listed benefits have to do with a different by-product of having urban chickens:eggs (or food), but I am going to save my comments on why that facet is particularly nonsensical for a little later. Let’s talk about chicken coops.

Modern Coops

Modern Coops

The Cocorico hen house by Maxime Evrard

The Cocorico hen house by Maxime Evrard

Frederik Roije: Breed Retreat

Frederik Roije: Breed Retreat

Frederik Roije: Breed Retreat

from the designer: to eliminate the estrangement from our origin respecting nature will be necessary.
designing a special place will give nature its space. even in urban society.
‘ – frederik roije

Really?

Those are some fancy-smancy chicken coops and I have no doubt that the chickens that will roost in them will truly appreciate the clean lines and modern aesthetics. I was actually surprised that I didn’t stumble across a coop that had a Burberry pattern on it (ohh….1,2,3 copyright or errr trademark…whatever, my idea!! Urban chicken ranchers are going to literally eat that up and I’ll be rich and can spend all my time trying to write clever posts instead of ones on chicken coops.)

I have always appreciated the farm or rural aesthetic because of its focus on purpose and its form and aesthetic value were by-products. As a result, there is a definite link between modern architecture and agrarian buildings and modern-day modernist have drawn inspiration from these forms as a basis of their designs. As evidence, all you need to do is go back and look at the work of Marlon Blackwell that I posted from my visit to Arkansas.

Regular functional chicken coop

When you run the numbers it just doesn’t make any practical sense to have an urban chicken coop. Even if you’re Rocky and drinking down a dozen raw eggs every morning, you can never re-“coop” your investment – certainly not if you buy one of these uber-cool modern chicken coops. Let’s just look at the numbers:

Kick-ass modern pre-fab fair trade chicken coop – conservatively $1,000

Your average egg laying chicken can produce 5 eggs per 7 days (some can average 1 a day but if I’m only going to hit you with a $1,000 charge on your chicken coop, you’re going to concede these 2 eggs to me)

Do I go with Rocky Balboa type egg consumption – I think not. We eat our fair share of eggs in my house (3 people) and we buy about a dozen eggs a week at the Piggly Wiggly price of $1.59 per dozen. That comes to $89.50/ year on eggs but that’s also 624 individual eggs. Since my chicken can only produce 260 eggs per year, I’m going to need 3 chickens.

The most cost-effective chicken I found on the internet was around $10 but let’s be serious. You aren’t going to stick a plain-old chicken in your kick-ass modern pre-fab fair trade chicken coop are you? Because that just wouldn’t be cool. So let’s go with the “Dorking” chicken  at $299.49 (that’s the one I would get just for the comedy gold you could mine out it). So that basically $750 for dorking chickens (giggle). **NOTE** I had a hard time finding the cost of chickens – not unsexed chicks or eggs, chickens. If you know or want to send me a comment on what these species can be purchased for, I would greatly appreciate it.

To provide your chicken with food and healthy supplements (to keep it from getting sick, not to triple its egg production), a feeder and a source for water is going to cost you around $120 year.

So that’s $1,870 for year one cost  to get started as compared to $89.50 for buying your eggs at the store – that’s a 21 year return on your investment. Even if I went cheap, your upfront and operational costs are going to run you more than buying free range hormone free fair trade eggs at the local farmers market.  If you’re doing this to get better quality food and be part of a local food movement, buy your eggs from the local farmers market and donate the rest of the money your blowing to a food bank where you can help feed the locals. If you’re doing it because it’s fun – well, that’s a different post altogether.

even better

  • Bob Dole

    Well written, witty, and financially accurate.

    I think it’s clear that you don’t put much stock in the common sense of “people”, yet you trust them with your life when it comes to your urban existence. That is where we differ I think. Civilization is a fragile thing, evidenced by history over and over again.

    I take much pleasure in the comforts and luxuries of our 21st century existence, but surely your smart enough to see that nothing lasts for ever. When the times change and the mighty dollar can no longer be artificially inflated to be so mighty; my family will be eating delicious chicken wings, probably lathered in my wife’s home made hot sauce. Good luck at the piggly wiggly with your blog dollars.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      there’s blog dollars?

  • Frank Chappell

    Did anyone notice that the Cocorico henhouse looks just like an egg-shaped bbq
    smoker? Now that’s cruel, ironic, and incredibly hilarious.

  • Ceci Pipe

    If you really wanted an agricultural pet, get a fainting goat. They mow your lawns and spaz out when you yell which is great stress management. Every time you get annoyed a goat collapses. You can even arrange them like dominoes, although that would be cruel.

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  • Chicken jack

    All those titles and can’t spell.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      … and you didn’t write a complete sentence.

  • Brian B.

    Bob, chickens are just like clients… why not gt a chance to sit in the late afternoon and watch them run around like… well, with their heads…

  • MWildes

    HAHAHA at anyone who pays $1000 (or more!) for a fancy chicken coop. Absolutely ridiculous, isn’t it? Not to mention unnecessary. We built our 3-sided movable chicken coop out of scrap aluminum roofing, used lumber, and old gazebo parts. The chickens roost on tree limbs we hung inside the coop, and lay their eggs in laid-over 5 gallon buckets. The feeder and waterer hang on old iron yard decorations. All we had to buy were chicken wire, a feeder (though we could’ve made one), a waterer (could’ve made one of those, too), and chickens (we bought $3 Buff Orpington and Barred Rock chicks). Total cost: about $100 for everything, including the feed needed to get the chickens to point of lay (when they start to produce eggs). We also have a rooster so that we can continue to produce our own chickens for meat and to eventually replace the parent birds as well. The movable shelter helps to encourage the chickens to forage, and we also feed tons of table and garden waste, as well as allowing the birds access to our compost heap, all of which help save on feed costs (I don’t keep chickens so that I can waste money on chicken feed). I also limit their feed to what I think they need to supplement the natural food they are eating so they don’t get too fat to lay well. Of course, our chickens, while treated well, are far from pets, and are destined to wind up in a soup pot or pie once their productivity wanes, to be replaced by their offspring.

  • ritab

    Like your sense of humor, but PLEASE learn the difference between “your” and “you’re” ;)

  • Rdavis45

    When doing a cost analysis you need to compare apples with apples. You’re comparing you’re free range chicken eggs that you create by having your own chickens with non free range eggs that you would buy at the store. Free range organic eggs go for the price of around $3.50 to $4.00. That is quite the change in analysis now. Second of all you also know that you are feeding your chickens on free range instead of just trusting the USDA sign that says its organic. That is another value adding feature that you have bypassed. Another issue I have is your pricing for chickens. The chickens that you are saying to buy are not the same chicken eggs that you would normally consume from the store. You have to compare all of your analysis on actual control basis. You are buying a very expensive breed of chicken and those are not the eggs you will find in a store. Another issue I had was your pricing for the chicken coop. A thousand dollars is a little ridiculous and I created mine for under 200 dollars conservatively. So when your doing a proper cost analysis; make sure that you are pricing everything accurately and that you are comparing it to a proper control subject. When you do an analysis properly you find that the chickens are only $2.50 a piece (which is an accurate price for chickens because I just bought eight chickens a couple months ago for this price), the coop is 200 hundred dollars, and food is free because they are free range chickens. Lets take my experience for example. I have eight chickens which cost me about 20 dollars and a chicken coop for 200 dollars. Are grand total is 220 dollars. If I bought free range organic chicken eggs at the store once a week; that would cost me about four dollars. There are 52 weeks in a year so we are looking at 200 dollars a year for store bought eggs. Lets say each one of my chickens produces five eggs a week, that comes out to 40 eggs a week with all of my chickens. Lets round down and say that they produce 3 dozen eggs a week. 3 dozen eggs comes out to roughly $12.00 a week for store bought eggs. So multiply 12 by 50 weeks (I’m rounding down on a lot of numbers just for conservative reasons) and that is $600 a year in egg production. Lets say that the initial cost of chickens and coop were more expensive then what I stated earlier; maybe it cost us $400, $600, or even $1,600. No matter how you look the initial assessment on costs was done very poorly. When you look at more accurate numbers in more realistic situations; you find that your return on investment is much quicker then you once thought. I would say you will start becoming profitable in a year or less. 21 years for your ROI is a ridiculous exaggeration to the true numbers, and you should think before you post an article with such faulty numbers.

  • Slowfuse1967

    if nothing else, the chickens will keep your yard free of ants, ticks, and all other kinds of insects. assuming you freerangen them

  • Rick

    I was intrigued by your chicken coop post because I just bought a half acre with a mobile home on it.  One of the out buildings on the property was a chicken coop complete with wood shavings, poop, and other amenities.  There were always 4 or 5 chickens roaming around whenever I would stop, but they have since taken up residence at the neighbors property (foster parents?).  They weren’t friendly, never came when I called out to them with a chicken equivalent of, “here kitty, kitty, kitty”, and always flew over the chain-link fence of the neighbors when I would walk towards them.  The realtor’s listing didn’t mention that there were chickens that conveyed with the property, and I never bothered to ask.  The design of the coop was of early redneck trailer architecture, or maybe even redneck modern.  Materials used were a combination of chicken wire, translucent corrugated plastic panels and green corrugated plastic panels mixed with visqueen for the chicken run and 1/2″ OSB sheathing (weathered now) for the individual chicken condos.  The GC (previous owner) must have been trained (or the lack of training) by the mentors at Home Depot because the horizontally-applied green corrugated plastic panels were lapped incorrectly to allow water to enter the structure not keep it out.  I’m convinced this coop was constructed out of materials gathered in a day from the postings on Craig’s List in the free section.  Hence cost = $0.00.  In fact, Bob, that would make another great design contest:  all materials must be free from Craig’s List postings.  By the end of spring or summer, this coop will be demolished to make room for a new shop (the only reason for purchasing the property in the first place – I had outgrown my garage!)  For posterity and for the county historical society, I’ll be sure to document this structure including photos.  I’ll be sure to send you a copy.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I hope that you do!

  • Torie

    Dude, if you like your eggs 3-4 months old, If you like your food to be mistreated, then buy your eggs from a grocery store. Raising a few chickens to have fresh eggs for your family is how folks have done it for years. Yo showed fancy chickens and pretty fancy spendy coops (not nessasary at all). A safe homade job will get it done. This makes it all look extravagent when raising chickens is the simplest thing could do, they make great pets and in return give fresh eggs when taken care of properly. I assume you dont hunt, grow your vegatables or fish. So the grocery store is just right for you.   Thanx for investigating yopur doughts though.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Torie – thanks for commenting and for adding a second comment down below.

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  • jeremy

    wow bob, you got a lot of aflack… er, flack for this post! I understand and agree with you… it’s not in any way an economical solution to a problem that does not exist! I’m a poultry educator, businessman and a member of the Connecticut Poultry Association (www.ctpoultry.com) and I’ll say backyard poultry is in no way a cost savings, in fact, it’s quite the money pit. I raise my own turkeys, broilers, egg layers and sell live birds from the farm and I must say the money is all on the retail side of the equation. It’s the coop builders and the local supply stores that make the money on these glorified pets. Your numbers are high on cost of birds (Yeah, you know that already, but hear me out), but there are birds out there that are grade A breedstock that could bring those prices. Those fancy birds in question tho would only give you about 96 eggs a year on average (and that’s on the high side). Fancy breeds usually quit around fall up here and start when it gets warmer in the late spring. The usual commercial birds that you can get for about $14 to $16 each at 6 months old (AKA: Ready-to-lay pullets) will give you about 300 eggs in 12 months, then halt production and moult (regenerate) and resume laying in 30 to 60 days. Most popular coops in the New England area sell between $800 and $1200 with some of the over-the-top versions (google “Kloter farm’s” or “the barn yard”, both in ellington, ct) can go for over $2,000! I’ve enjoyed your blog, thanks for the post!
    -Jeremy

  • Murfsurf35

    ive heard on the BIRDwire that the clients are very happy with the designs. All the usual construction issues which come Home to Roost were absHENt this time. 

    apparHENtly there was no Squabbling over fees when the Architeggt LAID down his terms for payment. They didnt EGGspect the Architect to give of his time for free and didnt question his place in the design team PECKing order which normally ruffles a few Feathers.

    Even when the Contractor made a COCK up of the program and tried to HATCH a scheme to make the Architeggt appear inCOOPentent, the clients didnt give two CLUCKS.

  • Tdot

    Ameraucanas (the purebreds) go for 40+ a hen. A similar breed but with different colours is called an Easter Egger, they can be purchased from 10-20 dollars depending on time of year (spring is the most expensive time to buy). In fall, ppl sell pullets for 10 dollars. It is not all that expensive. I am an Ameraucana breeder, btw, as well as Marans and Araucanas (all fancy schmancy breeds). For cheapness and egg laying efficiency, go for a production red.

    The point of having chickens is not just to save money. I can tell you, it saves you no money whatsoever. Any idiot who buys their own chickens thinking they will SAVE money is just what I said, an idiot. But it is not about that. It is about raising your own food and being in a mutually beneficial relationship with an animal. Think of all the food you waste. Almost all of that can go to the chickens. We dont waste a lick of food anymore. Any scrap goes to the ladies.

    Eggs from the store are cheap. They are from hens raised in terrible inhumane conditions. We should all start giving a shit where our food comes from because what we are doing to our food animals is just haunting.

    Backyard chicken coops can be made yourself for cheap. We turned our big Shed into one easily (we are in the country and have a lot more than 4 chickens). We also build coops for 5-6 hens for around 400 bucks. 1000+ is a lot for a coop. If I paid 1000 for a coop it better wipe my ass too.

    • Anonymous

      What a great comment – so funny! I am glad to hear from people who realize that I am not getting on people for having chickens, it’s those who make it all designer-y and then try and tell me otherwise.

      If it looks like a chicken, walks like a chicken, talks like a chicken…

      I’m still waiting on fresh eggs from someone- where are all these people?

      • Torie

        I live in Alaska, where the eggs in my fridge are fresh, the fish in my freezer is local and much of the meat is too!

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  • Jean

    You could add from Pipsandpeeps.com

    TY!

  • bobborson

    Thanks for writing Hollie, I appreciate it. You might not know it by reading the comments here but I have been getting killed by urban chicken ranchers on this post – understandably. I need to clarify that people who are doing what you are doing are not the folks I am referring to. No, I am wondering who buys a $1,500 hen house and a designer chicken and then tries to tell me that they are doing it for the savings. Hrmph.

    I would dearly love for someone I saw with regularity to be an urban chicken farmer so I could hit them up for fresh eggs (we eat ALOT of eggs in my house). I am actually a little jealous of those who have done what you and Cyra (see below) are doing. If you can, send me a picture of your coop – I really would like to see it.

    Cheers and thanks again for taking the time to comment.
    Bob

    • Torie

      After reading the comments I take back the somewhat harsh response and thank you for all the info!

  • Hollie Holcombe

    Haha, this is great. Not only do I have chickens, but I based my biz on them! We got (6) 5-day-old unsexed chicks last September. We spent 60$. They were ADORABLE. After I was downsized from my kick-(explative deleted) job, I spent a lot of time with the chicks. First we kept them in a cardboard box in the family room. Then in the guest bedroom we started building them a small house out of stuff we had in the basement: a door someone had sawn into two halves, some small pieces of wood siding and other random wood from the pile the sellers left behind. The chickens are all grown now, and they still have that same little house. In November they were big enough to move outside. So we got an ugly metal dog kennel and put the little house inside of it in the backyard. All the chickens lived through the winter, and then it turned out we had 2 roosters. And yes, we live in an urban area. But there are other people with chickens in the borough, so we've been completely fine because we obey the noise ordinances. I only let them out of their little house after 8am. One of my roosters was killed recently, and now there is much less crowing during the day, thank GOODNESS! I have to say I'll never get unsexed chicks again. Recently we got a permit and built a nicer cage out of wood and hardware cloth, and now it looks pretty cool. I'm so glad to be rid of chain link! I'm not sure how much we've spent, but it's not a lot really. With me funemployed, we couldn't afford much.

    That's the story, but you might want reasons… I am a bird lover first and foremost. I don't want a dog at all, and am only mildly interested in getting a house cat someday. So whatever pets we got had to be birds. My husband wanted something useful. I wanted something relatively quiet. No parakeets or cockatiels for me! So my husband, who had really never had any contact with farm animals before, suggested we get chickens when we bought our house. At least I grew up in the midwest and had touched one or two chickens in my life. Anyway, hubby wanted to grow a big garden, and he said chicken poop would be like gold to us. He's a vegan, but I eat eggs, so it works for me. I have a friend I sell half a dozen to every week, and once in a while I give a dozen to my mentor here. The birds eat all kinds of nasty bugs too! Plus, they're cute and fluffy. They know their names and come to me when called. They're great pets. And we could spend hours each night watching them happily scratch and peck. It's like meditating.

    I hope my story has helped some people understand the urban chicken phenomenon! Fun opportunity to share, methinks.

  • bobborson

    Thanks Jean, please let me know if there is anything other modifications or amendments I can make for you.

    Thanks-

  • Jean
  • bobborson

    Jean,

    I am terribly sorry not to provide the proper credit. I hadn't (and still
    haven't) been at this very long and made several crediting mistakes that
    have proven challenging to correct since I don't know where I got some of
    the images. I would be happy to either give you a credit reference or
    remove your picture altogether and find another one. Could you provide me
    with a link to the image on your site that I have used? I will make amends
    immediately.

    Thank you for your efforts on my behalf and for your understanding -

    Bob

  • Jean

    Bob,

    I would appreciate it if you would remove my buff ameraucana picture from your article or add a credit link to me and my site since you did not ask permission to use it.

    Thank you,

    Jean Ribbeck
    Pips & Peeps
    pipsandpeeps.com

  • Hlormc

    Can you please remove the photo you’ve stolen of my Crevecoeur rooster? Thank you!

  • bobborson

    I shudder at the possibilities except if I did it for myself, I would issue myself a grant to cover my design service fee and take the tax deduction. If it sounded fun enough, I would probably do it for a 12 pack of beers and some BBQ.

    I'm nice that way.

  • Chrismoore

    How about a cost analysis of designing and making a coop yourself, based on your hourly charge out?

  • cyraduquella

    Actually I have a 50 x 100 ft lot w/ a lumbering Portland Bungalow ….so every inch is used. I get poop in my raised beds by having a tractor-like enclosure that fits over them. There is always poop in the coop!

  • bobborson

    see that – that is the way to do it if our going to do it at all. I would also bet your lot isn't 50' x 150' either is it? Time and place is really at the heart of this matter. The people that I am talking about haven't shown their faces here…

    I had truly fresh and all organic free range chicken eggs on my last trip to Ireland and it was without doubt the best egg I had ever eaten – the yolk was orange!

    One question for you, how do you get the poop where you want it? Don't the chickens just poop whenever and wherever they want?

  • cyraduquella

    Raising chickens really does make sense. If you eat organic eggs – which you should – or at least free range eggs – the yearly price goes up. And if you eat 2 whites a day x 2 (the size of my household, that is over 2 dozen a week. If you have a lawn, yes, the fertilizer component does not play much. I have no lawn and grow lots of organic food so chicken poop is gold to me. I am not doing it to be trendy. I don't have a fancy coop nor do I have a fancy type of bird. Just fat hens that plop out healthy eggs!

  • bobborson

    Andrew,

    I have received quite the education on the real cost of the chickens I listed in my post. Turns out that the line forms to the left if you are willing to pay those prices.

  • http://blog.buildllc.com Andrew

    At last! -someone to give a voice to us non-chicken coopers. I thoroughly enjoyed this article and was fascinated at the cost of some of these chickens, yikes.

  • http://www.casadecrepit.com Ayse

    Well, it'd certainly pay better than architecture at this point. :)

    That site is not a legitimate online seller. The prices should be the first clue (all 100x what any other seller lists them for, not just for chickens but prefab coops as well, including one $40,000 model). They're up to something, but selling chickens is not what they are making money off of. (Most people looking to buy chickens wouldn't even find them by searching for “chickens for sale.”)

  • http://www.kitchendesignnotes.com/ Laurie

    The only chicken I want to see in my backyard is the one on my Weber Grill. That goes for my neighbor's back yard too. Cluck, cluck cluck, cluck. Buy chickens from local growers if you wish, but I certainly do not want to be subjected to the sounds and smells from a neighbor's backyard experimental Farmer John chicken coop.

  • bobborson

    There are obviously some serious egg eaters out there. I have continued my research at the demands, I mean suggestions, of others. I am learning that even if you don't have chickens for the purposes of high quality locally sourced proteins, they have other beneficial purposes – not the least of which is removing all forms of vermin from your yard. If that includes fire ants, I'm getting me a chicken!

  • bobborson

    Ayse,

    You aren't the first one to point out the prices I've listed for the chickens here are crazy. Since I am not in the business of buying (or selling for that matter) chickens, I pulled my information from a site selling chickens. The site I went to for my chicken pricing is:
    http://bit.ly/9rY043
    Maybe selling chickens is the way to go – I'll let you know how many people come through wanting to sell me discounted chickens and you and I can set up a side business!
    Thanks for commenting.

  • http://www.casadecrepit.com Ayse

    The thing is, $10 is about as much as you *can* pay for a chicken. I have no idea where you got those prices, but I have never seen a chicken for sale for that much money (hundred-lots of sexed female chicks, sure). It'd take some serious searching to find a chicken that expensive, and by then you would have found the usual places where they cost $2-5 each. The equivalent, in architecture terms, is the solid gold toilet.

    I don't dispute that it's possible to pay a lot of money for a chicken coop if you have more money than sense. I simply dispute that it's easy or normal to spend hundreds of dollars for chickens to live in it. But if anybody wants to buy a discount Ameraucana, only $300, I have a couple to sell.

  • Laurie

    Oh, good grief! Chickens ~ everywhere. In my mailbox, a subscription to Organic Gardening and on the cover-How to Have Stylish Coops. Chickens in my email from PR People trying to get me to talk about Raising Chickens in my blog. Chicken Topics in my Blog Roll. Channel Surfing and I stop to see Tori and Dean, sweet & sappy Hollywood Couple raising, what else…Chickens. It's madness I tell you. The idea of the urban chicken is madness!

  • bobborson

    That's the one I used for my approx. $1,000 math study. I too think it's kinda cool. You can find it here;
    http://moderncoops.weebly.com/index.html

  • http://jeromymurphy.wordpress.org Jeromy

    Personally, I think the trailer shaped coop is cool. It's like a trailer park folly.

  • bobborson

    Jeromy,
    Look at my response to Ayse for a clarification I seemed to have missed when writing this post. The last chicken coop image is what I think is a great “modern” chicken coop. Classic shape, functional design, lack of unnecessary ornamentation, express the machine aesthetic, etc.

    FYI – roosters are illegal to have in the Dallas city limits.

  • bobborson

    Ayse,

    You make some valid points but you are misunderstanding the point of this article. Raising $10 chickens for their eggs is great and my research shows me that you can get into urban chicken farming for around $180 for year one. The point I was trying to make is that the line between farming chickens and having glorified chickens as pets and trying to convince me that your doing it for better quality proteins and to support the local food movement is ridiculous. I would bet that you don't have your $10 chickens in a $2,500 modern style chicken coop because we would be having a different conversation. I woud also venture to say that anyone who has a $2,500 modern style chicken coop doesn't have $10 chickens.

    As for my math, it's spot on when trying to describe the high-end version of chicken farming (remember – that's part of the focus of the post here not how cost effective you can be). I am glad that we have both ends of the spectrum but the idea of them coming together and the arguements remaining the same…I don't think you're going to be able to change my mind (but I don't think we are really disagreeing with one another either).

    ps – I did stop by the store last night to check the price of all natural super organic eggs and they were $4.49/dz. so I was off on that one.

    • http://www.nwedible.com/ Erica / Northwest Edible Life

      Actually, I have a $2000 chicken coop and $3 chickens. The coop is part of my landscaping and I have to look at it for the next 25 years. I wanted it purdy and sturdy. The chickens are egg-laying, compost-making working birds, not show birds, and $3 chickens lay eggs just as well as whatever tarted up fancy bird you linked out to. Probably better, actually. I don’t find these two things at all incongruent, but I do understand your point. Just out of curiosity, would you feel so strongly about someone who spent $2,500 on a garden shed that held a lawnmower and some grass seed? Would you slam someone for spending $2,500 on a kayak or golf clubs or any of the other countless things people throw money at in support of a hobby? I don’t see much of a difference with chicken coops.

      • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

        Hi Erica,

        I learned a lot after writing this post – I’ve left it up because it seems to give some people some satisfaction in yelling at how stupid I am (fair enough). The original point to the post was supposed to be about the reasons behind raising chickens. If someone wanted to have chickens as a pet or as a hobby and spend $2,500 dollars on it – good for them. If someone wants to raise chickens to get healthy, fresh eggs and have a pallet and chicken wire coop for $50 – good for them. It’s when these two things get scrambled (nice pun there) together things get a little weird. 

        I actually think having a chicken as a pet would be kind of cool and the fringe benefits seem pretty awesome … but I don’t think I would fall into the $2,500 chicken coop camp.

        Cheers

  • http://jeromymurphy.wordpress.org Jeromy

    Great post. But you got it all wrong on the cost. I'd say $50 tops to get started. You can always build a coop out of recycled parts and you don't want to buy any of those fancy chickens. Often you can get free chickens.
    The modern coups are beautiful, but completely useless while the Marlon Blackwell is perfect in its simplicity. And it is a chicken tractor, you can tell by the small size and the wheels. No need to pick up “fertilizer”, just move the tractor from planting bed to planting bed. The chickens eat up all of the weeds and bugs and leave fertilizer and eggs behind. When you are ready to plant, move the tractor to the next planting bed.
    The most important things about urban chicken farming is to steer clear of roosters. If you get a rooster, your neighbors will hate you and probably report you.

  • http://www.casadecrepit.com Ayse

    Where on earth did you get those chicken prices? My hens cost under $3 each. I've never seen a chicken seller charging anything like hundreds of dollars. We get a couple of hens every year and even when I went all out and had some shipped, we paid under $10/bird. If you want a bird for meat, you can get cockerels and pay half as much. And I spent a lot less than $1000 making a chicken coop, though of course if you want to get super fancy you can pay more.

    I keep track of my per-egg cost for owning chickens, and I spend less than $3 per dozen eggs so far, and falling as we amortize the cost of the coop. Since pastured organic eggs (what we bought Before Chickens) are $8 per dozen here, I'm coming out ahead. In places where feed is cheaper or good eggs are cheaper, ymmv, but there are other benefits to having chickens (I no longer have to pay for fertilizer for my roses, and they clear out slugs and snails in the garden which saves me a lot of work).

    Don't keep chickens if you don't want to, but your argument here is based on some really weird accounting.

  • paulanater

    The arms, eyes and ears of the urban chicken revivalists are everywhere and their vengeance is swift. En garde!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Paul,
      I welcome the conversation and I hope I can get some level of clarification from actual urban chicken ranchers so that I can understand the difference between someone doing this for the quality and savings versus someone doing this because they see chickens as a sort of “pet with benefits” (and I’m talking about gathering eggs and not the Dorking Chickens). I have tried to draw a line between the two in my post because I can see value from both sides but not when the line becomes blurred and someone is telling me that they want to save money and get better quality eggs and they put their chicken in a $2,500 chicken coop. I think I’m ready!

  • http://www.concretedetail.com Rich Holschuh

    Is it just me, but doesn't that Cocorico poultry penthouse look like a live-in barbecue grill? That's just plain macabre (is there such a thing as plain macabre?). Maybe it's average abattoir ambience. Hard to tell; it's a fine line between tasteful and tasty.

  • modernsauce

    No matter how funny those Dorking chickens are somehow I have a hard time imagining you giggling at anything. I, however, have been giggling all afternoon at Adrienne P.'s comment. *giggle*

  • Adrienne P.

    Sorry Bob, I beat you to it.

    I have designed a limited edition run of suburban chicken coops which are a modern, sustainable, architecturally inspired homage to Frank Gehry.

    Starting price on one of these is $20,000, with free shipping and installation world wide.

    http://www.adriennepalmer.com/modern_chicken_co

    Also note that as these are custom designed, no two are alike. Installed coops may contain lettering such as “fragile” and “this end up”, which only adds to the character and individuality of “the piece”.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Adrienne – that is genius! I can really see the Gehry influence – the material use is what really makes it so good.

  • http://www.kitchenclarity.com Sarah

    What's so funny about Dorking – a perfectly lovely town? I agree with modern sauce – people need custom chicken coops designed for the particular aesthetic of their yard. There's a rich future here

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I am still immature enough to think that everytime you say or write “dorking chickens” it’s comedy gold!

  • modernsauce

    those birds are almost too pretty to eat! almost…

    I think you should start designing modern chicken coops for all the people raising these fancy pants birds. your business would explode.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Madame,
      Since I hit the publish button instead of the save button, you did not get to see/ read the finished product. That having been said, I might “migrate” my affinity for playhouses into a custom chicken coop design business. Oh, better yet, playhouses for chickens!!! Genius! (wiping my hands together) my work here is done!