We finally got chickens last year from my son's school, as each year they hatch chicks from eggs and then seek homes for the young chicks in the community. We started with a wood wine case and heat lamp as their first home and then migrated to a used bookcase on its side, with chicken wire along the top. Finally, I realized it was time to build a formal house or coop for them.
Irwin set about building a coop from scratch:
The coop is roughly 2' x 4' x 4', so it's based on a standard wood size and easy to buy the materials with little or no waste. The main frame was new and repurposed wood framing from around the house and my woodshop. For the façade, I got a lot of the wood from our neighbor, who has an old house in Beverly Glen as well, so it all has a nice naturally patina'd finish. The design fits in well with our existing house and guesthouse, which date from 1927 and was originally a hunting lodge before the area was developed. I added some bright accent colors on the windows and openings in a lime green and persimmon red color.
In the mornings we open up the coop door and the chickens come out and essentially walk around the backyard all day. They usually sit in front of our glass-window kitchen door and watch us have coffee and wake up. At night they all end up in their individual beds and we lock them up to keep the local raccoons out.
We asked Irwin a few questions about his project and the prospect of keeping chickens in an urban backyard.
What do your kids think of the chickens? Do they help with the maintenance, or are they simply pets for the boys?
The boys love the chickens — they go out each day looking for eggs, and now that the weather is warming up in LA they are laying pretty regularly. Since we do a lot of cooking together, it's satisfying that they know the pancakes and other foods we make are from our own eggs.
We go to the Red Barn feed store to get supplies in the valley, and they have been very helpful at advising us on feed and other needs. The owner is a WWII vet who is always willing to work with customers at finding homes for chickens as well.
Have you encountered any difficulties having chickens in an urban area like L.A. (complaints from neighbors, difficulty finding supplies or vet care)?
I think every 1 out of 10 people we would speak to about our chickens would ask if it was 'legal' to have them in LA. As it turns out, it is indeed legal to raise chickens on your own property. Our first chickens were from the boys' kindergarten class (they hatch chicks from eggs at LAUSD in our area). As the chicks grew into chickens, we realized one of them was a rooster. At first we kept him, but when he started crowing every hour during daylight and attacking the other hen, we gave him to the Red Barn and they placed him on a farm.
You have three chickens. How many eggs are you getting a week? Any plans to add more?
We now have 3 chickens - a Delaware, Silkie and a Cochin. What is interesting about chickens is they are actually pretty smart and have funny characters that are each unique. The Cochin is our favorite; that breed is short and fat and she appears to be wearing clown pants. The Delaware was our first chicken, Peggy, and if there is a house or guesthouse door open, she is the first to come inside and act like she belongs there. The Silky is not too smart and always does her own thing but she has a great hairstyle.
The chickens lay an egg every day; basically it's a 22 hour cycle or so. The funny thing is each chicken lays their own uniquely shaped egg, so you know whose egg it is by the shape and color.
Thanks for the insight, Irwin!
Read and see more: Irwinopolis
MORE CHICKEN COOPS ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
• Now This is a Chicken Coop!
• How To Build a Backyard Chicken Coop
• The Hen's Dream: A Stylish Chicken Coop by ModoVerde
(Images: Irwin Miller)