NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

June 12, 2013

Innovative chicken coops can give a yard some chic

To make an original statement with yard art, think beyond fountains, globes and statuary. Add chicken coops to be chic.

These outbuildings can amuse and enhance while providing shelter for the family fowl.

“Raising chickens is a different hobby now than it was in the past,” said Matthew Wolpe, who with fellow designer Kevin McElroy wrote “Reinventing the Chicken Coop.”

Many of those who choose to raise backyard chickens today “are urban dwellers with no traditional (poultry) background — people bringing a fresh approach who want their chicken coops to be more like accessories to their houses,” he said. “They believe the coops should be at the front of the house rather than hidden.”

Once you have the essentials down — the egg boxes, a screened run, a perch, ventilation and feeding stations — a chicken coop can be whatever you want it to be, Wolpe said in a phone interview from Oakland, Calif.

“As long as it functions well for chickens and their owners, it can be anything,” he said. “We think people should go nuts.”

Chicken coops look best when designed to fit a particular yard or setting. That also leaves room for innovative ways to collect eggs or more easily move manure into compost systems.

“Anything from technical to aesthetic to wacky,” Wolpe said.

Jenny Patty-Caldwell used a coffin-shaped door and cedar shakes reminiscent of fairy-tale houses or Dr. Seuss when creating her family’s small “Crooked Coop” in Clinton, Wash.

The gnome-like home was a popular stop on a recent self-guided Whidbey Island Coop Tour that featured a half-dozen eye-catching chicken houses and open-air enclosures or runs. Some incorporated folk art; others used recycled materials (a homemade truck canopy, flooring from a former Seattle department store); and several featured skylights and systems for diverting and using rainwater.

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