Chickens. Not to eat. I don't like to eat chickens at all, though I will eat unfertilized eggs. And to raise chickens... the concept has become somewhat of a small obsession ever since we visited the Farm and Home store (Orscheln) on Sunday afternoon. They had adorable little baby chicks for sale. They were Cornish hens which cost something like $1.58 each, I don't remember the actual cost but I was certainly tempted. Adi was so gentle with them and I have no doubt that she would also adore some family raised chickens.
With a new Iowa City ordinance allowing up to 5 chickens per household (update: I later learned that the ordinance had not yet passed but we're working on it), the idea is gaining more and more attention in my brain. So I've been doing a little research online, and it seems there are plenty of urban folks raising chickens and they are more than happy to share their experience with others.
This one is cool but probably too tall for our sloped back yard. I'd be concerned that it might tip over. I've been searching all over the web for the best designs and I've grown really fond of the portable ark designs.
The Eglu is super cool but also pretty expensive coming in at $495 plus $170 for shipping. That's a hefty price and would take years to recoup the cost. Besides, with a handy hubby like Cam, why not make one of our own and spend the extra cash on some fruit trees/bushes, a rain garden or more raised beds.
I like the idea of a portable chicken coop because of their many benefits. The run (open area) keeps chickens safe from predators (our rascaly dog Ihry and wild raptors), moving the ark every couple of days will minimize or even eliminate odor issues and we won't have to worry about adventurous escapees while we're not in the yard with them. I imagine that we would let them out while we are present to roam the yard freely but they still need fresh air and sunshine to be healthy. I found this image on flickr and it has all the features I'm looking for: raised hen house with open area below for shade, open run for sunshine and fresh air and light weight compact design for easy moving. The only thing I might add is a set of wheels on one end so one person could move it on their own.
One final design that I fell in love with and would imagine having something similar to house hens in the winter months is The Garden Coop designed by a couple in Portland, OR (one of my favorite places to be). I love this simple and beautiful design. I love the clear roof for protection from the elements and allowing sunshine. For a more permanent design I think this one is a winner.Now we're still in the dreaming and researching phase of raising some hens of our own. Next step, talk to the neighbors and make sure they'd be OK with a few hens clucking around next door. Maybe we can bribe them with some eggs :)