Category Archives: Seattle

West Coast Coop Round-up (Part One)


While working on Backyard Roots I got to look at a lot of West Coast coops from simple to elaborate… Here’s a few to check out.


Ingela Wanerstrand  in Seattle wanted a coop nice enough to be located next to her front door. She designed this coop herself and built it with the help of a friend. She wanted a coop that was didn’t smell, was reasonably priced, easy to maintain and “pretty” It  even matches her Victorian cottage.

Her coop is about 6’x12’and is built mostly from scrap and costed about $500. The photo above shows all the compartments. The large door (behind Ingela) holds tools. The side door on the right is for easy cleaning, the three smaller doors are for fun– neighborhood kids like guess which door has the egg behind it. Below the three doors she keeps feed, and small door above is for ventilation. The green roof filters and slows rainwater that goes down rain chains into small barrels.


The back of the coop shows how easy it is to compost the bedding into a bathtub shipping crate She uses wood shavings for the bedding which makes great compost. The back has the 6’x6′ run covered with 1/4″ hardware cloth. She says the coop is really easy to clean and never smells.


If you live in Vancouver BC you might want to talk to Duncan Martin,  above, who builds and sells custom coops and mobile chicken tractors. The “Vancooper” model above is the one he has at home and it’s meant for 3-7 hens. Built of Western red cedar and galvanized wire mesh and measures 4×8′ so it can fit over standard raised beds and be easily rotated. It’s great for renters because it can be easily disassembled and moved. Duncan defines it as “the bylaw-compliant, pest-defiant, not-too-giant, and exceptionally pliant coop for the self-reliant and epicurious client.” Check out Duncan’s coops and chicken-keeping website to learn more:



Yolanda Burrell’s Oakland Coop is one of two in her backyard the that shows you can build a solid, safe and functional coop almost entirely from scraps. Here’s her description: “The actual coop was made from a salvaged shipping crate that we got off Freecycle. It was raised off the ground to provide some shade underneath for the chickens. The run is made from salvaged wood leftovers from various neighborhood construction projects. The run is completely enclosed on all four sides as well as the top and bottom in hardware cloth to make it predator proof. We made it tall enough for us to stand up inside for cleaning . The roof is corrugated fiberglass left over from a patio project. The coop has “sidecar” nesting boxes to allow more space for roosting inside the coop.” The run is about 6×10′ and the chickens also get to free range on the farm several times a week. Visit Yolanda’s store, Pollinate in Oakland for all your urban farm needs.



The last coop from this week’s coop round-up is John Thornton’s Portland cob coop. It was a creative project that he built as a way of dealing with a personal tragedy. The coop is made primarily from cob, a sustainable building material that uses clay, mud and straw. The green roof was influenced by a friend who builds eco roofs and the landscape was inspired by a trip to Mt Hood.



And to end the the posting on a ridiculously cute note, check out the recycled dutch door. More coops to come…

A Backyard Farm Evolves in Seattle


Tom and Didi with their backyard La Mancha goats in Seattle.

Sometimes there’s no grand plan to having an urban farm, it just happens. That’s the way it went with Tom and Didi’s Seattle backyard. Didi had always been a big gardener and wanted chickens, so growing vegetables and getting chickens was easy. Next a friend needed someone to take over her bee hive, so they adopted the hive and got bees.  And then they met Jennie Grant, a neighbor whose son went to school with the Burpee kids. When Jennie needed help getting backyard goats legalized they naturally gathered signatures for the petition. (Jennie Grant’s  story is in Backyard Roots.) Tom even made a hilarious music video about the process called Justice League Blues. Check it out, the entertainment value is high! After tasting how good  fresh goat milk was,  the Burpee family became interested in the idea of getting goats. The deal was sealed when Jennie’s baby goat needed a new home. Tom says at that point the backyard became “the land of milk and honey.” Now the animals and garden is just part of the daily routine.

Tom cautions others to not “jump into goat-keeping lightly.” The amount of work that goats require is a lot more than chickens. He and Didi milk the goats twice a day for up to 18 months after they give birth. He says a big part of  being successful requires having patient neighbors. “Bribe them regularly with cheese, eggs and honey,”  he advises. It’s also crucial to have friends and neighbors trained to help you milk the goats when you need a break. The Burpees have La Mancha goats that tend to be quieter, calmer and better milk producers than other small breeds.

Tom and Didi haven’t pushed their kids with lots of farm chores but the two girls help collect eggs, harvest honey and  like to cook and eat whatever is in season. Ada is the expert in making goat milk ice cream in exotic flavors like candied ginger and they both love having the animals, especially the baby goats.


Ada (left) and Mette on the back steps with chickens.


Ada looks for eggs (left) and walks Phyllis, the goat. Since these photos were taken, Phyllis has gone on a diet and lost close to 50 lbs. They found controlling her food portions of everything except hay and walking her regularly helped her get down to a healthy size.

Ada looks for eggs (left) and walks Phyllis, the goat. Since these photos were taken, Phyllis has gone on a diet and lost close to 50 lbs. They found controlling her food portions of everything except hay and walking her regularly helped her get down to a healthy size.




The chickens love cat food and take the opportunity to steal it whenever they can.


Didi makes remakes used feed sacks into purses and bags.


Ada and Tom walk Phyllis the goat, who has since lost close to 50 lbs.