While backyard chicken keeping has not always seemed plausible in urban areas, the right coop design can make the process convenient for landowners and beneficial to the environment. Luckily, permaculture expert Penny Pyett has resolved noise, space, and temperature concerns with her insulated strawbale coop.
Penny’s design is supported by four cement pillars that provide enough elevation for a wheelbarrow to be rolled underneath for manure collection. Chicken waste, mixed with deep litter made up of wood shavings or mulch, exits the coop through a centralized nutrient hole in the floor, where it can then be used for compost and fertilizer.
Nesting boxes on each side of the coop facilitate egg retrieval, and the roof aids in rainwater collection. Air circulation in the coop can be controlled through the opening and closing of two small doors that divide space in the main doorway.
The real genius of this model lies in the use of straw. The bales work to insulate the coop and provide excellent temperature regulation, keeping chickens warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Straw is also able to contribute a sufficient amount of soundproofing, which can allow for the presence of roosters, whose morning crows are often unwelcome in urban areas. The use of straw bale insulation can therefore provide city dwellers with the opportunity for fertilized eggs.
Because straw insulation is biodegradable and composed of waste from harvests, it helps create an environmentally friendly coop system. Its ability to regulate temperature eliminates the need for energy and electricity use in the coop, and its ability to absorb sound allows for minimal disturbances. The material allows chicken coops to exist in harmony with various backyard environments, and makes the humane egg farming process available to homeowners of diverse localities.
In designing a chicken coop that accommodates many different settings, there is hope for more widespread involvement in local food investment. Unlike some commercial egg farms, backyard chicken farms are not overcrowded or wasteful. Chickens can wander the land by day as they please and spread their wings without being confined to unnatural environments. Chicken waste is carefully controlled in the coops, and its nutrients benefit the surrounding land.
Coops can help with water conservation if runoff from roofs is collected and reused. The presence of insects and worms in gardens allows for chickens to feed themselves, and obviates the use of synthetic feeds and unwanted chemicals. The chickens even help to turn compost while they search for food, which helps it to develop at a faster pace. With all of these environmental benefits, the importance of supporting the local growth and sale of eggs becomes clear.
Of course, getting eggs from a local backyard is advantageous to buyers as well. Large, crowded, industrial farms are susceptible to the spread of salmonella and other bacteria that can cause foodborne illness, while smaller pastures produce eggs that can contain up to three times more omega-3 fatty acids, and three times less cholesterol, than those produced industrially. Backyard chicken eggs are also often cheaper than farmers’ market eggs by one to two dollars per dozen.
These benefits, however, no longer apply to mostly rural areas because of the introduction of straw bale insulation to the building of coops. Designs like Penny Pyett’s have widened the horizons of chicken keeping for landowners everywhere who seek to obtain food from trustworthy, healthy, and sustainable sources. Urban areas can now easily support backyard chickens, and even accommodate roosters, as straw insulation eliminates noise concerns. The presence of chickens can help spark improvement in water conservation, gardens, and compost bins, and their waste can be used for fertilizer. The overall advantages of this innovative backyard coop design are copious, and are undeniably rewarding to coop owners, chickens, and the environment alike.