Friday, March 4, 2011

CLUCK Tips: Creative, Helpful, Inspirational Coops (CHIC)

There are no doubt thousands of images of chicken coop designs available on the web, and the range is testimony first to the adaptability of chickens and second to the vision and creativity of the designers.  Truth is (and you can read it here first and quote it): There is no better subject for a design competition than a chicken coop. Why so?  Because chicken coops lie at the intersection of three crucial design factors: scale, complexity, and relevance. Coops are small enough that people can go beyond scale models and actually build their designs - they are manageable, affordable, build-in-your-garage scale structures unlike designing a bus station or a water tower. That means people can adjust their designs on the fly as they construct their vision. Second, they require integration of a long list of complicated constraints and functions. Because they must accommodate living critters that need good ventilation but not drafts, easy access but tough security, lots of light with dark nesting areas, etc. the design challenges are far more intricate than say a dog house or back yard gazebo. Finally, there is incredible demand for affordable, sustainable, workable coops and anyone who comes close on all three will be rewarded, if not financially, then at least with the sincerest form of flattery.

One thing about coop design: beware of coops where the design gets out ahead of the function. If it looks too cute, ask yourself if the design is designed more to impress human eyes than accommodate gallinaceous needs.

This blog entry will change as we add more examples, but here are some creative, helpful and inspirational coop designs:

First stop on any innovative coop design tour probably needs to be the folks at The Poultry Project, which is "a US-based nonprofit that collaborates with an indigenous Ugandan AIDS service organization, TASO, to help HIV/AIDS-affected families start small poultry businesses (selling eggs).  Each family receives 4 hens, 1 rooster, a bike, training & ongoing support, and an opportunity to earn extra income.  The families keep 100% of their profits."  

Part of their initiative includes a Chicken Coop Design Competition, and a visit to their blog will connect you with a number of VERY creative coop designs that range from yeah,-I-never-would-have-come-up-with-that to oooh,-I-can-use-that-idea. The current entry (as of early March 2011) is a the Urban Poultry Service (you do the acronym) a socially responsible, community-building coop that can be towed behind a bicycle. It was developed by a team from Chicago's ARCHEWORKS, an alternative design school that emphasizes real-world problem solving. (Victor Papanek would be pleased.)

Other coops at the Poultry Project include a shopping cart coop, a modular coop, and even a chickens  built into your kitchen coop!

Next, head to Just Fine Design Build. These S.F. Bay area folks specialize in small scale projects from conception to completion and just keep churning out a variety of creative coop designs. Check the modest yet innovative MODERN LOG CABIN CHICKEN COOP (below) designed with log cabin joinery. They have at least six other, more or less completely different, coop designs and their willingness to keep experimenting with different approaches is admirable.

Then check out the JennsPeeps Coop found on the Backyard Chickens website, which has hundreds of coops on display. This coop features an ingenious pull-out feed and water system (shown below).

Next, marvel at the "Little" coop, AKA 'north town chicken coop' or "Coop de Will" which is actually designed for 11 birds in Charlottesville Va. The name 'Little' comes from the architectural firm that designed it. This is a good example of how a coop design gets translated into an actual structure (with real chickens). And check out the horizontal scrollable format of the graphics.

Design Swan has a flock of Creative Modern Chicken Coop Designs. Some seem a bit precious, but, for instance, there's an interesting green roof coop designed by Mitchell Snyder and Shelley Martin in Portland. The four by four cube is an inspiration here in Sarasota where there is a maximum of four hens and each needs four square feet.

The State Library and Archives of Florida has some black and white photographs of historic, vernacular chicken coops from the set of The Yearling. While crude, their elevated approach was apparently a common strategy that may be worth reconsidering. The movie had 83 chickens, but few are visible in the film.

GrassrootsModern has featured Reclaimed Cedar Coops by Modern Coops. "These sporty chicken coops are made from recycled cedar with durable metal or fiberglass roof panel and an extra large side access door  for cleaning.  The entire coop is made to be mobile.  It moves around the yard to give the chickens fresh ground for scratching and allows for you yard to re'cooperate'.  The mobile segments can be added together to create a run as long as your space allows." 

Studio H (a public high school "design/build" curriculum) takes you into the design process. Be sure the check out the video. They documented the entire process, which is inspirational in itself.

Beckandtom had limited space and so, necessity being the mother of invention, devised a way to get their birds to the second floor of a barn. This design reflects the creativity of the owners and trainability of chickens. Click here to watch the Youtube video.

That's all for now.

If you know of a coop or coops that seem to fit with the ones above, leave a message and we'll consider it. And if we have pictured a coop that you'd rather we not, let us know and we'll remove it. We endeavor to provide links to the creators and never post more than one image of any coop to help drive the curious and interested to the source.

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