urban chicken coop

There's a chicken standing on its porch on the right of this photo. The egg doors of the coop are to the left of the chicken.

When Oliver was just a few months old, I took on the job at Stella's cooperative preschool of designing their urban chicken coop. Her preschool has a gorgeous bosque in the back, and they needed a permanent home for their chickens (at that time there were two). The site was very challenging, as the coop needed to be located at the rear property line fence, which is at a low elevation point in the site grading in the garden. The goal was to give the chickens an enclosed run and coop that would be fun for the children to interact with, and also to give the adults an enclosed run and coop that they wouldn't break their backs cleaning.

Collecting eggs from one of the stacked egg boxes in the coop.

An urban chicken coop, hidden, in a secret garden.

 To the left, the enclosed run, to the right, the enclosed coop and the roofed but open-air feeding area.

A section through the run, the feeding area and the coop. I would've loved to have a difference in height between the corrugated steel roof on the right over the coop and the chicken wire roof over the run on the left, but we needed maximum height for adults standing in the run, without pushing the height of the structure over the height of the existing fence which creates the back wall of the coop and run.

The "front" of the structure. The run on the left. The feeding area and coop under the sloped roof on the right. Exterior access doors on the face of the coop are for cleaning the coop without having to enter the structure. A roof overhang on the right end of the roof provides shelter for kids playing outside, which they do here, rain or shine.

The single biggest challenge to me as an architect was designing and drawing a structure that could be built by lay people. It required me to think really hard about what the parents could understand and read from the drawings, unconventional construction, and what order things would have to go in to utilize that unconventional construction. Thank goodness we had a talented contractor parent and his assistant to help us procure materials, pour concrete, help keep the framing level and in general do most of the work! A crew of parents so willing to help but not possessing most of the skill set needed does not a coop build! And me, with the postpartum hormones raging and visibly leaking through my nursing bra and sweatshirt. What a crazy couple of days this build was. But in the end, there stands a chicken coop that is "stylish and functional", according to the preschool director, and DEFINITELY will not be falling down anytime soon. It's a twenty year structure, minimum. We had the kids' safety in mind with everything we did here.

Sadly, my subterranean curb detail around the edges of the structure were no match for the aggressive city raccoons, and one chicken was lost through a hole near the rear fence/retaining wall. I feel just awful about that. Underground chicken wire = a must for ALL coops.

Here are some shots of los pollos y los niños en el bosque. And little Stellita up a tree, too. Such a beautiful place to go to preschool!

I really love how the interior of the coop turned out, and am so happy to see the recent shot of egg collecting. One of the things I was so afraid of was that the chickens wouldn't want to lay eggs here. The stack of doors so the children can peek in and grab the eggs is really fun. I would've loved to go further with the exterior finish of the coop. Although it is practically obscured by all the fruit trees in the garden, I would love to do something fun with materials or colors, or both, for exterior cladding. Oliver will start preschool there in a few years, so maybe I'll get a chance to propose that at some point. We shall see!

Any tips on what could've made this better, given the site specifics and circumstances? I'd love to hear them. Never too late to implement!


  1. How great is that? A chicken coop at a preschool, I think it looks great but I confess I know nothing about chicken coops...I'm gonna show this to my mom. The DIY, power tool, grew up a farm queen herself, she'll love it. I'm actually quite surprised we never had chickens.

    1. The preschool is amazing, and also Spanish immersion, and it cannot be beat. The kids just walk in and out the door as they please into the different parts of the yard and garden. And they cook with the eggs from the coop. Pretty awesome. I bet chickens love that Maui weather. We considered insulating the chicken coop to keep them warm at night, but it's small enough that I think the body heat from the chickens is good enough!

  2. AWESOME! This post is so inspiring. Someday I want to have a chicken coop too and I definitely want to build it with my own two hands :)

    1. Thanks, FG! Let me know if you need any help! ;)

  3. Wow! That's great! We had chickens, growing up, but this one is marvelous!

    1. I would've loved to! You're lucky! I hope we can do this for ourselves one day. In the meantime, both kids will have had it at preschool, at least. We eat so many eggs, I'm sure it would pay for itself eventually!


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