Coops & Runs

Recommendations, preferred designs, and links to photos/videos.

The first annual Hen-apalooza: Chicagoland Chicken Coop Tour was held on October 3, 2010. Tour-goers selected from among the open coop sites to visit, meeting hosts and their chickens, doing their thing. Now called the Windy City Coop Tour, it's a 2-day event each September and a great way to learn about urban backyard chicken keeping.

See the page with coop designs, homemade incubators, more!

Urban Chickens coops pages.

Green Roof Chicken Coop

Jen Murtoff of Home to Roost Consulting recommends the book
Chicken Coops by Judy Pangman, Storey Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-58017-627-9.

And, some free plans/ideas:

See two blog posts from Home to Roost's Jen Murtoff:
More tips:
Preparing for Winter. Terry Beebe in Backyard Poultry, Volume 1 Number 6, Dec06/Jan07.

Preparing Poultry for Winter. Backyard Poultry, Dec08/Jan09, p.26. Extracted from Randy Stevens' article (he's in Michigan).

  • All chickens need is a quality diet, fresh water daily, shelter to get out of the elements, and wide roosts. What they do not need is a heated environment, or to be cooped inside [in a hen house or pen] all winter.
  • Most breeds are quite tolerant, actually have a harder time with heat than cold.
  • Shelter should provide somewhere to get out of wet and wind, but not be completely closed up. Could be a coop, a plastic barrel slung sidewise that they can hop in and out of, etc. Keep it clean - ammonia fumes in enclosed spaces can be bad for lungs.
  • If snow gets deep, shovel them a path/yard for roaming around, and also consider a woodchip layer for them to walk on (will become excellent compost source!) 
  • You can get electrically heated waterers OR a hard rubber horse dish - can be hit with a hammer or stomped on to break out the frozen water. If birds are near the house, put the water in a sheltered location where it's less likely to freeze.
  • Roosts are critical to keep chickens' toes from freezing. The roosts provided need to be out of wood or other natural material that doesn't conduct cold like plastic or metal. They also need to be wide so when birds are roosting they can tuck their toes under their feathers. Nothing less than 1.5 inches wide, like the narrow edge of a 2x4. Make sure that the roost is at a height and spacing such that your chickens like to use it.
  • Combs and wattles are also subject to frostbite. You can spread Vaseline on them regularly to prevent this, or you can dub those fleshy parts (cut them off permanently). Some breeds of birds have smaller combs and wattles and may be a better choice for our climate.
  • NOTE from CCE member Deborah Niemann-Boehle: chickens are less susceptible to frostbite if coop is well-ventilated to prevent moisture from accumulating and freezing.  Don't heat the coop, and allow the moisture to move up and out while preventing drafts blowing over chickens from the sides.


*Recommended by Chicago Chicken Enthusiast, Stephanie Weaver:

We just had a new coop built for us by a fantastic carpenter. We had been using a rabbit hutch for our three hens with a plastic netting attached run but we were having trouble with rats chewing into the run and then getting into the coop. Greg Seymour ( (773)510-9152) built us a raised coop with a hardware cloth floored attached run that is a much more spacious, rat-proof home for our three girls. I would recommend him for other people looking to build new coops.

*Charlie Hall, carpenter and general contractor in Chicago who uses salvaged and reclaimed materials whenever possible:

I have a full shop on Lake Street in East Garfield Park.

Feel free to contact me regarding any coops, raised beds, or any other building projects that you may be interested in.

Cell phone: 773.412.6049, email

Coop de Hill

by Richard McGinnis, as described on Deborah Niemann-Boehle's blog:

Coop de Hill

Andersonville Condo Coop
We live in a three-flat but only own one floor. We are using shared condo land for a coop so we had a few distinctly urban requirements:

1. The coop should not take up garden space.

2. The coop should be attractive for condo-neighbors.

3. The chickens would spend the majority of their time in a chicken-run, not in the garden--which is decorative and enjoyed by everyone in our building.


1. The henhouse was built in under the back steps. Electricity was required because this space does not get much natural light. The run was built on an adjacent sidewalk along the side of the house that was not in use. The two spaces are connected by a sliding wooden door, operated by a simple pulley mechanism.

2. The henhouse was built with a beaded-board facade, and painted in bright colors. The chicken run was painted with weatherproof deck stain, to give it a uniform look.

3. A predator-proof (raccoons, opossums) chicken run was built out of wood and 1/4" hardware cloth. It is half covered to protect the hens from the elements. The other half is hardware cloth to allow additional light and air to the area. It was built on cement sidewalk, then lined with mulch, hay and straw. It is 3' x 15" for a total of 45 sq ft, more than enough for the hens to be happy. The chickens get supervised garden time, and in the summer we hose their manure down in the evening so it doesn't bother anyone who wants to enjoy the garden the next day.

The total cost came to around $500. However, we knew from research that building the coop was going to be our big cost and time outlay. We hope this is helpful. Here are some links to our "coop tour" videos:

Coop Tour #1

Coop Tour # 2

Henhouse paint detail and interior