Resembling playhouses, tiny cabins or mini-condos, only the chicken wire provides a clue as to their true purpose.
Owners of urban chickens invest thought, money and creativity into their chicken coops, as evidenced by a new upcoming event.
The 2011 Tour de Coop on Saturday, Oct. 8, will showcase six Cedar Rapids chicken coops and serve as a fundraiser to build a coop for the Cedar Rapids Animal Shelter, says Rebecca Mumaw of Cedar Rapids Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens.
Known as CR-CLUC, the group is sponsoring the event with the Indian Creek Nature Center.
“It should be a fun time where families can tour various coops and talk with the owners about their coop designs and their style of raising hens,” says Mumaw, whose southeast Cedar Rapids coop is featured on the tour.
The Cedar Rapids City Council passed an ordinance in 2010 to allow up to six hens per household.
Each jurisdiction has differing requirements for the chickens’ abodes.
In Cedar Rapids, enclosures need at least 4 square feet per bird, and hens must be enclosed or in a fenced area at all times.
Plans for building coops are available on the Internet, but often, chicken owners come up with their own design.
The structures should provide a place to roost at night, ventilation in summer, nesting boxes and protection from predators.
Mumaw and her husband spent about $150 to build a portable coop, known as a chicken tractor, that can be moved around the yard.
They also invested in a more permanent coop: a double-decker structure near their fenced garden with much of the run underneath.
The coop has a timer-operated door and construction that allows for easy cleaning.
Mumaw says the coop for the Animal Shelter will be completely portable, so it can be used at both current and future shelter sites. That coop will be for any stray or abandoned chickens that come to the shelter.
“Over the years, the animal shelter has occasionally found a stray or had to acquire chickens that are not being properly cared for,” Mumaw says, noting that none have been from licensed hen owners.
Currently, stray chickens are held in whatever cages are available. Mumaw said shelter officials expressed a need for a coop — cost is estimated at $400 — that allows chickens to roost and nest.
Prospective chicken owners can take Saturday’s tour to view some of the more elaborate designs and learn what features work best.
Examples include a “21st Century” urban coop in southwest Cedar Rapids that sports a green roof and light sensor-operated automatic door.
A coop in southwest Cedar Rapids, described as a “must see,” includes painted carvings created by the owner.
Another “charming coop” in southwest Cedar Rapids is a converted playhouse, insulated and secured from predators with hardware cloth.
Tom Coyle, whose 4-by-6-foot coop in southeast Cedar Rapids will be on the tour, used new and recycled materials in the design, built by his brother.
Coyle, 47, a production operator at Rockwell Collins, found shingles, paint and flooring at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Cedar Rapids. Total cost of the coop and run was about $600.
Tour participants can gain insight into best practices and even learn from mistakes. Coyle, for example, says he wishes he would have made a taller chicken run, but wanted it to fit in a corner of his backyard.
In Cedar Rapids, structures must be 10 feet from the property line and 25 feet from adjacent homes, churches, schools or businesses.
Overall, raising his pet chickens, Nip, Olive, Gabby, Buffy and Daisy has been simple for Coyle, who sees it as a continuation of his gardening efforts.
“It was a step forward with what I’m already doing,” he says.
Coyle advises prospective chicken owners to do their research and design the coop to keep out drafts during cold Iowa winters. Security is also important.
“You have a lot of things that could get to it,” he says, citing raccoons and opossums as examples. “You have to build your coop like Fort Knox.”
- What: 2011 Tour de Coop; tour six chicken coops in Cedar Rapids
- When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8
- Where: Start tour at any site. Purchase tickets with maps at the Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE.
- Cost: $10 per adult
- Other: Water, snacks and chicken gifts available to buy at coop sites.
- More information: Call (319) 362-0664 or see: indiancreeknaturecenter.org
- Note: The Nature Center also offers required classes for owning chickens in Cedar Rapids. Permits for chickens can be obtained at the zoning division of the Public Works Building, 1201 Sixth St. SW.