Just for Fun


Pickin’ Chicken Breed Selector app for iOS

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Choose the ideal chicken breeds right from your iPhoneNote: The contest we ran with this post ended on April 2, 2011. Winning entries are noted below.

Think keeping backyard chickens is a little too old school? Here’s something that could change your mind.

The Pickin’ Chicken app for iOS lets you research and select breeds from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch (Apple mobile devices only). Developed by Funny Farm Industries and released in partnership with Mother Earth News, it’s a high-tech complement to a distinctly low-tech hobby.

It not only looks really cool (then again, I think everything in iOS looks cool), it’s also got some cool stuff in it. (more…)

Goodbye, winter.

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Dog stands by snow covered chicken coop in Connecticut

It’s spring again! And Karen in Connecticut writes:

We had a horrible winter here in Connecticut, but our chickens did very well. I wrapped the bottom part of the coop with heavy plastic to keep out the wind (suggested by you) and have just taken it off, as it us finally getting warmer. We are planning on adding on the exterior egg boxes this spring.

Thanks to Karen for sharing her photo. Like it? Check out her portrait photography.

Chicken keeping and coop design tip sheet

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Tips for backyard chickens and coopsSometimes you just want the basics, some notes that can help you get from dreaming to doing. I put together this one-page handout for a chicken keeping presentation I gave last year, and I wanted to share it here as well.

It covers many of the most common questions about chickens and coop design like:

  • How much space do hens need?
  • How much food do chickens eat?
  • How loud are backyard hens?
  • How often do you have to change your chickens’ water?
  • How wide does the chickens’ door need to be?

But mainly it gives you a bunch of little tips and reminders to help you get started with backyard chickens and with designing and building your own chicken coop. It’s perfect as a checklist to make sure you’re not forgetting anything important.

So if you’re keeping chickens for the first time, getting ready to build your own chicken coop, giving a presentation on chickens, hosting a coop tour, or trying to educate your neighbors about chickens — download our free sheet of chicken tips (8.5 x 11″, PDF), print it out, refer to it, and share it with others!

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Pictures from the Growing Gardens chicken coop building workshop

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Mobile chicken coop built at Growing Gardens workshop

In September, my son and I led a chicken coop building workshop put on by Growing Gardens of Portland. Twelve or so people came out to Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply to take part, I’m sure setting some kind of record for the most hands working on a chicken coop at once. We had a great day in the sun and put together an awesome coop. Read on for more details and pictures.


Extraordinary Chickens Calendar 2011

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Extraordinary Chickens Calendar 2011Chickens are extraordinary. Even the ordinary ones we keep in our backyard chicken coop and see around town — Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Australorps, Americaunas. . .

But there are chickens, and then there are chickens. The latter you’ll find in this wall calendar, new for 2011.

Note: We don’t profit from links to Powells.com, but if you follow one and make a purchase, Powell’s will share a healthy portion of the sale price with Growing Gardens of Portland.

Still chickenless? 5 ways to shift from stuck to cluck

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Chicken being held in urban backyardYou’ve read the books. You’ve chosen your breeds. You’ve even cleared a spot in the yard for the chicken coop. And yet, something’s still missing.

Something feathery.

It’s okay. Look, you’ve already made it from the idea stage to the planning stage, and that’s quite a big leap. Now you just have to get from planning to doing.

Here are some tips for actually making it happen: (more…)

Compost Cupcake

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

We had to move our “Green Machine” compost bin a few feet to make space for a garden path. When we pulled the black plastic shell away, we were treated to this, well. . . hmmm. The fluffy-white “frosting”  is actually our family’s most plentiful carbonaceous material: shredded junk mail. Dig in!


Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Chicken Propaganda PosterPortland artist Joe Wirtheim’s Victory Garden of Tomorrow poster art project is a contemporary take on mid-century propaganda posters. Homegrown meets the home front.

Chicken Propaganda Poster Art

Here are a couple I like a lot, and yes, because of the chickens. Chickens are funny. And to see them portrayed in such a heroic context is, well, it makes you think about how our grandest ideas these days often concern the small things. . .

Appreciating what you have. Making more of less. Letting chickens be chickens. Letting worms make compost.

The Victory Garden of Tomorrow series dates back to 2005, so there are several other variations on the theme of food gardening. See the whole range of them and order your favorites at Joe’s Etsy shop.

Do you happen to collect these? Which are your favorites?

Finished! Garden Ark for Tour de Coops raffle, benefiting Growing Gardens

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

2010 Tour de Coops Raffle Coop - The Garden ArkIt’s done! The Garden Ark we’re donating to Growing Gardens for the 2010 (Portland, Oregon) Tour de Coops raffle is put together, painted, and ready to go.

I hadn’t built one of these in several months, so I found myself having to relearn a few things as I went. Whenever I’d get stuck on a step, my daughter would gently remind me to “read the plan, Dad.” Now there’s an idea.

I can’t get over how much fun it is to build this coop. Everything happens in clear, logical steps and comes together nice and neat. By the end of building one, I want to move in.

This Garden Ark in particular was a full family effort. My son worked with me through the whole process. I may have more strength to work the tools, but he’s a natural builder. It won’t be long before he’s doing these on his own. He can still fit in tight spaces too, which came in handy a couple times.

My daughter got in on the coop project too, helping to keep me grounded, building the nesting box, and taking a turn with the power driver any chance she could get. And my wife came up with the color scheme and spent a few afternoons painting the henhouse siding and doors.

If you’re thinking of trying your luck in the raffle, here are a few details about this Garden Ark: It measures about 3′ wide by 6′ long by 4.5′ tall. It’s sized for three or four hens. It comes with a nesting box and perches, inside and out. It’s enclosed on the top and sides with 1/2″ galvanized hardware cloth. The lumber is treated with a non-toxic, eco-friendly wood preservative, and it’s got three coats of really nice exterior paint on the siding. The white polycarbonate roof panels are virtually indestructible and let through a beautiful glowing light. Pause for air. . .

The egg door and the double doors are barrel-bolted and lockable. There’s a sliding door for the henhouse access opening if you want to seal your hens in the henhouse at night. If you’re starting with chicks, you can use the henhouse as a brooder (the roof can be removed to make way for the heat lamp). There’s a pair of 6″ wheels on the back, so you can tilt and roll it fairly easily. And last but not least, it fits in the bed of a small pickup.

You can see this Garden Ark — and buy as many raffle tickets as you can afford to try to win it — July 17-24, at the Urban Farm Store (2100 SE Belmont, Portland). With every ticket, you help Growing Gardens as they try to raise even more $$$ than last year. In the meantime, save the date of the tour (Saturday, July 24, 2010) and tell your friends to do the same. And if you just can’t wait to have a Garden Ark all your own, you can always build one yourself!

5 Innovative Portland Chicken Coops – Neighborhood Notes Article

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Modern Chicken Coop Designs - Portland, OregonChicken coop design is the focus of today’s feature story over at Neighborhood Notes, a cool website focusing on hyper-local news in Portland. The Garden Coop is featured along with four other local designs. There’s a nice slideshow at the end with more pictures and ideas.

There’s a lot happening in Portland, for sure, and it’s nice to be included in such good company.

Look deep into my eyes

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Chicken Eyes Better Than Human Eyes?My kids will sit by the chicken coop for long stretches, watching in amazement as our chickens spy insects in the soil and snatch them perfectly with their beaks. Mysterious are the powers of the hen.

Such as this one: their ability to detect my slightest movements in the morning from the far corners of their chicken coop, clear across the yard, and through the double-paned glare of our sliding door. I know they see me, because they start that eager marching and chattering they always do when they sense food is imminent. It’s as though they have some superhuman motion-detection hardware installed in their head.

Well, as it turns out, they do. 

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studying the eyes of chickens have discovered  “a masterpiece of biological design.” You can read about the research here.

Chickens’ superior color vision has something to do with never having spent any evolutionary time in the dark, whereas mammals were nocturnal for millions of years. 

Night-vision relies on receptors called rods, which flourished in the mammalian eye during the time of the dinosaurs. Daytime vision relies on different receptors, known as cones, that are less advantageous when an organism is most active at night. Birds, now widely believed to be descendants of dinosaurs, never spent a similar period living mostly in darkness. As a result, birds have more types of cones than mammals.

It’s pretty interesting stuff. It might even explain the apparently hypnotic hold these birds have on my kids.

High time for chicken haiku

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Sketch of mother hen and chicksYou’ve got to love haiku. They’re simple, elegant, and with a little direction, anyone can do them—kinda like our coops! 

I’ve started a thread on our Facebook page (you don’t need an account to view it) where you can read and try your hand at chicken haiku poetry. (more…)

Get tickets to The Martha Stewart Show on urban farming and chicken keeping

Friday, February 5th, 2010

UPDATE: The Martha Stewart Show episode dedicated entirely to keeping backyard chickens has aired. You can see clips from the show including a look at Martha Stewart’s chicken coops at the link below.

Before you click over, remember to come back and check out our backyard chicken coop plans. With them, you can build a stunning walk-in chicken coop or mobile chicken tractor for (I can only imagine) a lot less than what Martha spent on hers.

Here’s the link to Martha’s chicken show (coop segment). It’s a great episode and well worth the watch, especially if you’re new to keeping chickens. Here’s the segment with Traci from MyPetChicken.com. Links to the remaining segments should be easy to find from there. Enjoy!

ORIGINAL POST: The Martha Stewart Show will be taping an episode on urban farming and chicken keeping in March 2010, and they’re looking for audience members. Here’s a bit of the email they sent me:

We’re filling our studio audience with individuals who raise livestock in urban environments as we celebrate the backyard farming movement. If you’re interested in attending this show, please be sure to tell us about yourself and your backyard farm, as well as why you’d like to be part of this special audience. Please feel free to spread the word and request tickets as soon as you can if you’re interested!

You can request tickets to The Martha Stewart Show here. The studio is in New York City, and there are FAQs about being an audience member here. It could be a good thing.

Why did the chicken cross the pond?

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Fresh Eggs From London GardenI came across this feature on keeping chickens in the city — it’s a 5-minute interview with an urban chicken keeper in England. I like watching pieces like this that give an honest glimpse into people’s food and lifestyle choices. This guy (er, bloke) may be on the other side of the planet, but it’s a small planet. His family, mine, and many others are keeping chickens for much the same reasons. 

You’ll notice that his coop is one of those prefab Eglus. I like the modern style of those coops, and he’s integrated his well into his garden. (The cost of an Eglu is a different issue, and he talks about that in the video.)

Notice that he ended up building out his own covered run to increase his chooks’ space for ranging. It’s a good reminder that, even if you start off with an out-of-the-box chicken coop, some DIY skills will come in handy as you modify your coop to suit the needs of your flock and your space.

An eater’s guide to good food

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Came across this nice article on how to eat well while avoiding food from factory farms. It’s comprehensive (okay, long), but worth at least skimming then filing for later reference. And, yes, raising your own backyard eggs is one of the author’s many suggestions!