Cottages may be built within cultural boundaries on land tiles which have an unimproved yield of at least 1 . Tundra, Desert, and Ice tiles have the additional requirement that the tile must have direct access to fresh water; irrigation is insufficient. In practice, this limits Cottages to Flatland Grassland, Flatland Plains, Grassland Hills, Flatland Desert Floodplain, and Flatland Tundra (with access to fresh water). However, Cottages can also be built on Plains Hills or even Tundra Hills (with fresh water), so long as there is a food resource like Sheep or Deer to achieve an unimproved food yield of at least 1 . A tile can also achieve the required 1 from a Random Event such as volcanic ash.
Cottages are a relatively low-value tile improvement when they are first created, but they grow in value after many turns of being worked. They go through four stages of growth, becoming Hamlets, Villages, and finally Towns (though players refer to all of these things generically as "cottages").
Cottages must be worked to grow; that is, they must have a population point placed on them on the city screen. Unworked Cottages do not grow. The time required to grow a worked Cottage depends on game speed. Growth times are listed below for Quick/Normal/Epic/Marathon speeds and are halved when running the Emancipation civic. You can see how long a Cottage has before growing by mousing over it on the main map. The tooltip will show this information.
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