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Posted on Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 7:29 p.m.

Something to crow about: Loop de Coop tour highlights Ann Arbor's backyard chickens

By Janet Miller


Matt Grocoff holds one of his backyard chickens as he comes around the chicken coop, made from a reclaimed playhouse used years ago by neighborhood children. Grocoff has four chickens, all of them rare breeds: a Buff Orpington, two Araucanas and a Buff Brahma.

Janet Miller | for

The owners of nine city chicken coops talked turkey Saturday during what organizers hope will be an annual Loop de Coop tour.   

More than 100 people signed up for the free tour, spread out around Ann Arbor but concentrated on the west side. These chicken tenders needed little to egg them on, talking about coop construction, feed, care and the abundance of chicken varieties.

The city of Ann Arbor in June 2008 approved an ordinance allowing city chickens, with some limits: There’s a four-chicken maximum, roosters are prohibited, all neighbors must give their consent and there must be a covered enclosure. Since then, the city has issued 23 permits. The city of Ypsilanti has since followed suit.

While most of the chickens are considered pets - and have names such as Henrietta and Buttercup to prove it - their eggs are also a food source. That’s why the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum sponsored the event as part of their Local Table program, which encourages eating food grown or raised close to home.

“There are environmental and economic benefits,” said Karen Sikkenga, associate director of the gardens and a Loop de Coop planner. “But it also connects us to our heritage and to the community where you meet people who produce your food. Yard hens are part of that local food movement.” The gardens offer classes in city hens and coop construction.


Janet Jin wants to someday set up a chicken coop of her own and took the tour to get ideas.

Janet Miller | for

Janet Jin said she took the tour to learn more about setting up her own chicken coop one day. “When I’m established, I definitely want to have (a coop). They’re functional pets. I go through four to 10 eggs a day, for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” she said. 

Setting up a chicken coop in the backyard of his Seventh Street house was a way of returning to yesteryear, said Matt Grocoff. “I have a picture of the house from 1913 and you can see an old chicken coop in the background. It didn’t make sense that people could have cats and dogs that had no food benefit but that they couldn’t have chickens. And they’re easier to take care of than cats.”

Rick Richter, who lobbied for the city’s chicken ordinance and started the Website, said his four “girls” require little work. He feeds them daily grains and tosses in greens when he has them. His girls even dine on occasional arugula. He cleans their wood-chip nesting area once a week and rakes out the sand-covered run monthly. For that, he collects four eggs a day.

Grocoff gets the prize for having the most whimsical coop: He rebuilt a neighbor’s old playhouse adding nesting boxes, windows and painting it barn red. He turned to Craigslist to find three of his four chickens and opted for rare breeds such as a Buff Orpington and two Araucanas. 

Factory farms that supply grocery stores put all their eggs in one basket, the White Leghorn, Grocoff said. If a disease attacks this breed, egg production would be wiped out except for the small farmers and backyard chicken owners who have invested in other breeds. “Backyard chickens help maintain genetic diversity,” Grocoff said.

He doesn’t want to stop with chickens, he said: “The next step is goats. And maybe a horse.”


Janet Miller | for

Chicken nuggets:

• The chickens live outside year-round. Grocoff places a small heater in the water dish to keep it from freezing in cold weather.

• Richter has four ISA Browns, a hybrid of Rhode Island Reds and Rhode Island Whites. They are prolific eggs layers, but they all look alike.

• There is rarely a smell. “Only when it rains hard is there a little odor,” Richter said.


Hans Masing

Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 2:23 p.m.

While the headline 'Something to crow about' is clever, I do want to clarify that the city ordinance does *not* permit the keeping of roosters, so crowing is not an issue. We'll have to get over the mooing once we can keep dairy cows, however!


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 9:37 a.m.

A2CityChickens would like to thank the 9 Ann Arbor chicken coop owners for opening up their coops to the public on Saturday October 3rd, 2009 to over 100 plus rain soaked poultry fanciers. Folks big and small weathered the elements to see firsthand a wonderful selection of unique chicken coops and their occupants. This is the first of hopefully many Loop de Coops for the Ann Arbor and surrounding area with next years tour to include Ypsilanti and Saline City coops. Thanks to all,


Sun, Oct 4, 2009 : 7:51 a.m.

Nigerian dwarf goats are supposed to be popular with urban farmers. If you or a neighbor has left their backyard unmowed, that could give the goats plenty of pasture.

David Wallner

Sat, Oct 3, 2009 : 6:56 p.m.

My lot on Fulmer would be perfect for citychickens. One day I would like to go off the grid from and energy standpoint and grow all my own veggies. with more than an acre I think I have a good chance for success.