Urban chicken coops growing in popularity

01/26/2014 12:00 AM

11/12/2014 3:47 PM

Any homeowner with a back yard can have fresh eggs every day, if chickens are welcome in the neighborhood, Danny Baldwin said.

Baldwin, who sells chicken coops for city folk at the Fort Worth Stock Show, said homeowners associations are generally not big fans, “but Fort Worth allows up to 12 chickens in a yard.”

Baldwin and business partner Randal Moore, both 29, take turns showing The Urban Roost models and taking orders in a booth at the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall.

The coops — called chicken tractors by their inventor, Joel Salatin, a university-educated farmer, author and lecturer in Virginia — keep chickens enclosed in a floorless contraption that’s easy to move and can be shifted daily to a different spot in the yard, Baldwin said.

“The chickens always have a fresh area to peck and scratch and you don’t wear a coop-shaped hole in your yard,” said Baldwin, of Granbury.

Baldwin and Moore tweaked Salatin’s concept into three cedar-and-galvanized-steel models: the Henningway, Roostevelt and Flockzgerald.

“The Flockzgerald is our most basic model and can hold up to three hens,” Baldwin said. “The Roostevelt has the elegance of cedar shake shingles on a more classic, upper-floor nest box.”

Suitable for up to five hens, the Roostevelt also has a space next to the nest box for an herb garden, Baldwin said. Not nearly so charming but certainly more productive, the A-frame-simple Henningway will accommodate up to seven hens.

Chickens and ordinances

And, yes, plenty of cities in the area allow chickens.

Fort Worth lets residents have up to 50 chickens if their house is on an acre or more, but never more than two roosters, city spokesman Bill Begley said. All must be kept in pens or coops.

The number decreases with lot size: With a half-acre, only a dozen chickens are allowed. And no chickens can be kept within 50 feet of a neighbor’s house or buildings catering to the public, like restaurants, churches, schools or shops.

Arlington also allows chickens, and its distance requirements are identical to Fort Worth’s. Arlington allows four chickens on lots up to half an acre; 10 on lots that are more than a half-acre but less than an acre; and 25 on an acre or more, according to a city ordinance.

And Keller recently amended its fowl ordinance at the request of residents who wanted to raise hens for eggs, city spokeswoman Rachel Reynolds said.

Before investing in chickens and coops, check your city’s ordinance and your homeowners association’s rules.

All about eggs

The greater an owner’s desire for eggs, the more laying hens are needed, Baldwin said. A good laying hen should give you an egg almost every day.

“If you have four hens, you can count on three eggs a day,” Baldwin said. “Fresh eggs are the best there are.”

Also, a laying hen can live up to eight years, Baldwin said.

Caring for chickens is relatively easy, and they not only feed you but also help you recycle, Baldwin said.

“Chickens will eat grain-type feeds, and you can augment that with kitchen [vegetable] scraps,” he said.

The three standard styles that Baldwin and Moore, a Benbrook resident, build vary from $495 to $695. But the men enjoy working with clients to custom-design coops for specific needs.

Both Baldwin and Moore are urban chicken farmers. For Baldwin, it’s kind of a return to his roots.

“I grew up on a hobby farm,” he said. “It’s just something self-sustaining, not commercial.”

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