Chicken Coop Sightings . . .
August 6th, 2009
Fresh eggs, how can you argue with that idea? I love cooking with fresh, organically-grown eggs produced by free-range hens. Thank goodness that I can buy them at my local, Thousand Oaks Farmers Market every Thursday!
I wonder how long it will take before I graduate from growing backyard herbs, fruits and vegetables to raising chickens? Let’s see. . . maybe after my children leave for college, and perhaps after my beloved Lab, Zanny, has passed on.
Poultry fever has smitten many of my friends, though. I love the way they’ve integrated chicken culture into horticulture (get it?). And I really love the chicken coop architecture created by inspired hen owners.
My blogger friend Bonnie Manion, who writes at Vintage Garden Gal, often shares stories of her hens, advice on raising chickens and even the care an maintenance of coops. She has just inherited a couple of charming gals – Buff Wheaten Marans. You’ll want to read more of Bonnie’s chicken adventures (and see more photos of her charming coop, which is a re-purposed children’s playhouse, shown here ).
Recently, a writer friend of mine paid me what I think was a lovely compliment. She said, “Debra, I want to create a book just like Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways – but about chicken coops!”
And my response: Go for it!
Bill Wright, my fearless collaborator, would love to photograph a chicken coop book. I call him “fearless,” because how else could you describe a guy willing to get inside a coop with half-a-dozen chickens, two youngsters and a lot of feed flying around . . . just to capture the perfect shot!!!?
Here is that photograph, of our dear friend and shedista Kathy Fries, along with her sons Xander and Jasper. We documented a moment in their daily routine, when mom and boys feed and water the chickens, gather eggs, and generally putter around the coop. That coop, by the way, is no ordinary henhouse. You’ll see what I mean about “poultry fever.”
”]Kathy’s chicken edifice is called the Palais de Poulet. She worked with Seattle artist-builder John Akers to create the magnificent chicken abode, complete with a jaunty turret and a brick entry path lined with boxwood clipped into a fleur de lis pattern.
We included the Palais in Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways. I documented Kathy’s chicken obsession in my chapter called “Suburban Follies”, although space constraints kept the description shorter than I would have liked. Here is the full, original narrative:
First, came the chicken coop, something this Minnesota native had always wanted. She enlisted John Akers, a Seattle craftsman, to transform a two-sided shed into a grand Palais de Poulets.
“We wanted you to come down the path and say ‘Wow,’” Kathy confides. Akers, who works with salvaged and recycled materials, sketched a 10-by-16 foot building, complete with turret, cupola and leaded windows.
Kathy ordered vintage knobs and hinges from eBay and quizzed local feed stores to determine specifications for the coops and nests.
Not one to do anything ordinary, she tracked down a rare breed hatchery on the Internet, ordering 10 types of exotic poultry, including French Salmon Faverolles, Sicilian Buttercups and Egyptian Fayoumis. Each morning, Xander and Jasper help their mom feed the chickens and gather eggs from the nests for breakfast.
As a finishing touch, Kathy personalized the rustic structure with a collection of antique sign letters, spelling out “Ed & Kathy Fries” in a hodgepodge of colors and font shapes.
“Inside is a working sink, my garden tools, a collection of cast iron farm animals and my chicken paraphernalia,” she chuckles.
Here are more inspiring ideas from Kathy’s garden:
On my journeys, I’ve been fortunate to discover other creative chicken architecture. Thought it was time to share some for those of you in search of inspiration. I’d love to see your photos, too!
STYLISH STONE COOP IN SANTA BARBARA
Bill and I met Santa Barbara landscape architect Sydney Baumgartner and spent a lovely morning photographing her studio, garden and stone-faced potting shed-chicken coop. It is just so beautiful you won’t believe it! Of course, Bill’s images are fantastic, seen here.
Sydney keeps her “working garden” hidden behind a long, mixed hedge of Escallonia bifida, Luma apiculata and Duranta stenostachya, all evergreen flowering shrubs from South America. In addition to raised beds for flowers, vegetables and herbs, she established her garden’s functional elements. But openings in the hedge partially revealed a compost bin, potting bench and chicken coop – features she had hoped to camouflage from the adjacent strolling garden.
“I was sitting in the garden one afternoon and thought, what I need is to make this look like a wonderful stone building with two doors.” Sydney designed a six-foot tall, 25-foot-long wall that resembles the façade of an old stone barn seen on her travels in France. “It looks like the side of a building and it hides all the accouterments of the garden that shouldn’t be seen because they can never look perfect.”
Stonemasons first built a concrete-block wall and covered it with local Santa Barbara stone as a “veneer.”
Openings in the random-cut stone accommodate two arched doors, fabricated from wood planks and finished with black wrought iron hardware. Each leads to a hidden work area (one contains compost bins and the other leads to a glasshouse for seedlings).
Sydney stained the doors a weathered shade of French blue. “They’ve aged beautifully, especially where my hand has soil on it and I pull back the latch.”
Iron scrollwork “windows,” created from doormats, lend a timeless quality to the structure and allow for good air circulation.
In order to connect the “wall” to the chicken coop, she added a stone column at its far edge. “It has become a wonderful vehicle for wisteria and white trumpet vines,” she adds.
TEXAS COOP USES LOGS IN A COOL, NEW-OLD WAY
Our friends Sylvia and Steven Williams live in Bertram, Texas, which is in the famed Hill Country west of Austin.
Featured in the pages of Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, their fantastic garden shed is built from traditional Texas limestone block with a red tin roof, cupola and rooster weathervane. This creative couple designed their shed to serve myriad purposes – from potting up seedlings and doing home repair projects to hosting garden tea parties or serving cocktails for their friends.
When they hosted a garden book party for Bill and me last spring, Sylvia and Steven told us they had a surprise. And that surprise was the new chicken coop they were nearly finished constructing!
The structure has the same cheery red rooftop as that of its big sister-potting shed’s, but what impressed me was the construction method they employed.
The lower wall sections are hand-built with mortared cross-section slices of logs, creating a very attractive, organic pattern that fits the country vibe of Stonebridge Gardens, their property.
Here are some photos I snapped last May when we were there. I can’t wait to return and see what else they’ve dreamed up for this beautiful place:
SAN DIEGO ARTIST USES COOP AS A CANVAS FOR MOSAIC DESIGNS
Kathy is an amazing mosaic artist and gardener who never tires of teaching herself new techniques and trying new projects.
Case in point: her poultry paradise! The facade is adorned with beautiful mosaic tile, most of which Kathy has made by hand, glazed and fired.
She shared these photos with me, including the interior mirror patterns, literally cast from her hens’ eggs:
In the end, I have to say that chickens are enchanting. If you love fresh eggs, you’ll want freshly-raised backyard hens. I know there’s a chicken chapter in my future. Not now, but sometime down the road.
I’d love to hear your chicken stories, though. I need ammo for when I spring this idea on my husband.