The Chicken Coop: Movin on Up

Chicken coop with stockings
Photograph provided by CLUCK the Chicken Store

With playful names like Coop de Ville, Cluckingham Palace, and Chez Poulet, the once lowly chicken coop has new cachet, moving from the back of the barnyard to being the centerpiece of the urban, suburban, and hobby-farm backyard.

A well-crafted chicken coop can do much more than simply provide secure shelter for a small flock of happy hens—the feathered pets who make our breakfast. It can provide a focal point for the landscape, a destination for a garden path, or a magical little house in a small child’s imagination. And though there are plenty of practical aspects a chicken coop must address, there’s something about designing a little backyard home for chickens that often brings out the creative and whimsical spirit in even the most down-to-earth builders.

Rod Rindy, who builds some of the coops that CLUCK the Chicken Store sells, is an experienced carpenter who has worked in construction, including home building, for decades. “Just like in home building, a chicken coop has to be practical and durable. And you need to add elements that keep your chickens safe, healthy, and happy,” he says.

As a longtime chicken keeper himself, Rindy has lots of experience making coops that are practical and safe by including proper ventilation, adequate room, and strong hardware and wire to foil predators. He also believes a chicken coop should be built to last by using high-quality materials and a cabinetmaker’s attention to detail.

In addition, Rindy enjoys adding playful elements that make a coop charming and unique. For example, his coops often include a flower box under the window or stencils of chickens on the doors, hand-painted by his wife, Sandy. He even includes a chicken swing to keep chickens, and their owners, entertained.

“You gotta remember that people take pride in their homes and their yards,” Rindy says. “They should be able to take pride in their chicken coop as well. And they’re doing this hobby for fun, so the coop should be fun too.”

Long before she had chickens, Jean O’Neil fell in love with a chicken coop she saw on Pinterest called Chez Poulet, designed by California chicken keeper and home décor blogger Heather Bullard. The white coop features a cupola, elegant black hardware, and details that suggest a miniature French chateau. “I think I’ve always loved the notion of diminutive things, and so the idea of a little, perfect house for chickens as part of my backyard garden was very appealing,” Jean says.

CLUCK the Chicken Store ordered a complete set of architectural drawings from Heather Bullard, and put Jean in touch with carpenter Tim Taylor, who built the coop and helped make arrangements for necessary landscape work before installing it in Jean’s garden. She has been thrilled with the result, and loves being a chicken keeper.

“I love the birds, and I absolutely love looking out the window every day at that coop. You know, Martha Stewart has chickens and some really beautiful coops. This makes me feel a little like Martha,” Jean laughs. “It’s the best money I ever spent.”

As a 25th anniversary present, Sue Foley’s husband told her to hire a local carpenter/artist to build a coop that she designed herself. “Best gift I ever received!” And although she and her husband have now downsized and moved from the house and yard where she created her dream coop, Foley has fond memories of the experience. “I was so pleased with the design … having backyard chickens was the most wonderful, enjoyable, and fulfilling hobby I ever had and probably will ever have had. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

When Katie and Brian Sweeney began planning for their small flock of backyard chickens in Mount Horeb, they looked at lots of premade coops but decided they wanted something specific for their needs and desires.

The couple found a coop design online they really liked, and then tweaked it to fit their space and meet their needs. A fairly accomplished carpenter, Brian says that the framing was fairly basic, but details on doors and trim work were more challenging.

Brian’s advice to would-be chicken coop builders? “Allow yourself plenty of time because it always takes longer than you think. It will also probably cost more than you initially estimate. Having it large enough so you can walk inside is really helpful for maintenance and cleaning.”

The Sweeneys live in a neighborhood where the houses are close together, so they were pleased that their neighbors reacted enthusiastically to the idea of chickens. “Ahead of time they were so excited about the project. We even had some neighbors stop by and compliment us as we were building, telling us how it was a great addition to the neighborhood. Because we live in houses that are close together, having a coop that’s visually attractive is an important part of being a good neighbor,” Brian says.

Artist Jane Varda wanted a horse for her birthday, but in 2012, her husband gave her chickens and a beautiful rustic coop instead. She’s more than happy about the switch, discovering artistic inspiration, as well as a sense of peace and delight, from her pretty flock of heritage breed hens.

Jane says it’s a great pleasure to spend time at the coop, watching the chickens go about their business of pecking, scratching, and interacting with the natural world and each other. “I can go and sit for hours in or near the run, watching the light change and observing the chickens as they do the things that chickens do. It’s extremely peaceful as you watch them move about, with one eye on the ground and the other eye on the sky. Chickens are curious, and they’re also very honest, not terribly sentimental. They are such old souls, almost prehistoric really.”

As such, chickens remind us to focus on timeless things, like the seasons and the changing light during each day. “Chickens are a great antidote to the anxieties of the human world,” Jane says. “They help keep you sane.”

Susan Troller is the owner at CLUCK the Chicken Store.

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