Saturday was one of those almost but not quite days for the Campbell County boys soccer team. Top-ranked and consensus favorite to win the Class 4A state soccer tournament, the Camels fell just …
BILLINGS, Mont. — They may not be free-range, but urban hens can enjoy all the benefits of city dwelling without having to worry about the high cost of housing.
A finished two-story chicken coop sitting outside Tony and Kathy Seitz's home near Molt will be shipped to a customer in Billings for just a little more than what it cost to build.
In fact, the new chicken house is one of almost a dozen built by Tony since March.
"The requests have all pretty much come from word of mouth," he said. "Each one has been unique and some custom built to match people's homes. Orders just keep trickling in."
Chicken supporters pleaded with the Billings City Council to allow chickens for more than a year. Recently, council members voted to change the city's ordinance to allow up to six hens per backyard within the city limits.
"Billings is the only city we've ever lived that hasn't allowed backyard chickens," Kathy said. "Even New York City allows chickens. We are glad to see the ordinance pass."
Before retirement, the Seitzs lived in 17 cities and raised backyard chickens in many of them.
Three years ago, Tony and Kathy, married for 49 years, moved back home to Billings to retire. They bought land in the country and have established a small farm where they raise chickens, ducks and purebred Nigerian dwarf dairy goats. Their helpers are two Great Pyrenees dogs, Lexie and Willow.
A flock of about 30 chickens roam the grounds looking for grain, strutting in and out of two quaint coops their landlord built for them. Both coops are built with nesting boxes where the chickens roost and lay their eggs on beds of straw.
Along with tending the farm, building chicken coops is his hobby, Tony said.
The 68-year-old retiree builds the quaint henhouses on his property using materials he purchases locally. Each building is unique, with neatly trimmed windows and nesting boxes where the chickens lay their eggs.
Tony's favorite design element is an extended outside egg nesting box that makes it easy to gather the eggs.
"It's easy — you just lift the lid, and there are the eggs," Tony said. 'You don't have to go inside the coop to get to them."
Many of the coops are built with a roosting bar and stairs leading to a second level. Some have chicken-wire-wrapped wood beams and others are completely enclosed with cedar walls.
About 10 households have obtained the annual permit to keep chickens since the ordinance passed, according to the city's Animal Control Department. The permit is $25.
The ordinance requires the coop be at least 2 square feet per hen, and sets a 12-foot height limit. The buildings must be covered, predator-proof and thoroughly ventilated.
Tony builds the coops keeping in mind that the ordinance requires dwellings to be at least 10 feet from a neighboring property line, sidewalk or public right of way.
"People want a sturdy, but lightweight coop that can be easily moved," Tony said.
"And people want the coops to be cute, too," Kathy added.
The couple said they look forward to a day when Billings highlights backyard chicken dwellings with chicken coop tours.
"I think a lot of people might think of coops as a bunch of pallets nailed together," Tony said. "The chickens could care less, but if you're going to have them living in your backyard, their coop should be something that is functional and an environment that both you and the chickens will enjoy."
Information from: Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com