On June 9th, 2011, a group of poultry enthusiasts headed out for the first ever, self-guided tour of the chicken coops quietly residing in backyards across the city. This tour, now on its 8th year, has come to be known as the “Pittsburgh Chicks-in-the-Hood Urban Chicken Coop Tour." And it’s a hoot! Or a squawk, I guess.
This bike or walk excursion gives city-dwellers a chance to admire the intricate handiwork that comes with raising chickens. It’s not just about gathering eggs to share with your neighbors, after all. There is HOA-friendly housing, ventilation, insulation, chicken poop control (ie: composting), watering systems, free-roam fencing, noise ordinance, predator control, feeding and so much more involved in the pleasure of having farm animals living in your probably postage stamp-sized urban backyard. There is a lot of creative thinking behind those “farm” fresh eggs. More than you can imagine.
What to do with Chicken Poop?
Chickens are fast becoming common pets in rural and urban areas alike. But, they come with their share of… hmm, let’s say challenges. For one, they poop. A lot. Everywhere. I’m sure there are blogs and videos on how to potty-train your hen, but I haven’t had any luck (you should see my patio). And a lot of chicken poop turns into a stinky situation pretty quick. So how do folks living within handshake distance to their neighbors deal with this? Routine cleaning will keep the aroma manageable and some turning and tilling of the coop contents will provide chicken parents with a hefty supply of a nutrient-rich “black gold,” aka composted chicken poop. Lush gardens for the neighborhood.
Run, Chicken... Run!
Also, chickens like to scratch and peck. Which can be detrimental to your ornamental and carefully planned succulent zen garden. Thus, backyard chicken aficionados must come up with creative methods to keep their chickens confined, yet peck-happy. Enclosed chicken runs are the way to go to keep the flock contained and the flowerbeds safe. Some chicken runs are even mobile to give the ladies a different view every so often. Pretty cool.
The coop itself can be a work of art. There are HOAs, building codes, environmental concerns (chickens dislike wet feet as much as you do) and the constant worry of predators who would like to make an easy meal of Henrietta. So, poultry parents have to come up with some very innovative solutions on how to keep their flock cozy and the city happy.
Upcycled children’s playhouses, redesigned sheds, recycled water tanks, garage sale armoires… the list of creative coop concepts are endless.
Join in on the Fun
These are just a handful of the trials and tribulations urbanists deal with when designing their chickens’ municipal manor. But it is well worth it. Chicken people have developed their own kind of club. Everyone is welcome, ideas are readily shared, compliments are happily received and questions are enthusiastically answered.
So, take a walk, or ride, through the wonderland that is urban chicken farming, admire the ingenuity behind the coop designs and maybe become friends with the folks who treat their feathered friends like family. Farm-fresh eggs are the best around, after all. Backyard chickens rock.
How do previous participants feel about this event?
“What a day! We hit 13 locations on the map! This was so much more than a chicken coop tour!"
"Meeting great people and discovering sustainability and homesteading efforts on a smaller scale within the city's neighborhoods, restored my faith in community.”
Want to participate and learn more about what it takes to raise chickens?
Be sure to “like” @ChicksInTheHoodPittsburghUrbanChickenCoopTour and keep a close eye on this year’s tour dates. Maybe bring an empty egg carton or two.