Author talks chicken coops in Manchester

Thursday June 13, 2013

MANCHESTER -- Backyard birds are becoming big business and a new book is out with coop designs to keep your chickens contained.

"Reinventing the Chicken Coop," released earlier this year by North Adams, Mass.-based Storey Publishing and authored by Kevin McElroy and Matthew Wolpe of Just Fine Design/Build studio, details 14 original coop designs with step-by-step building instructions for the dilettante chicken owner and/or carpenter.

"Our motivation is to make beautiful coops that people celebrate instead of push to the side of the yard," said Wolpe, of Oakland, Calif., who'll be speaking in Manchester at Northshire Bookstore on Thursday, June 13, at 7 p.m.

Self-sufficiency and the egg as local food

The do-it-yourself guide to contemporary, well-designed chicken shelters expands on the definition of a coop, which is now becoming a sort of "statement of self-sufficiency," the authors say in their foreword.

"Throughout the project we often joked with each other that our mission was to bring the coop from the backyard to the front yard," McElroy and Wolpe write.

"Chickens are kind of the mascot of the DIY and local food movement," Wolpe said by telephone in a recent interview. And "we're always surprised by the broad spectrum of people we meet," from urban farmers to people with livestock, and "really mainstream people" excited to be able to produce their own eggs.

A graduate of Yestermorrow Design Build School in Warren, Wolpe called the coop the "perfect first-time building project."

The guide begins with coop essentials for people interested in keeping a small number of birds, including general space requirements, coop and run setups, roosts and nesting boxes, and additional coop-building basics for happy hens.

The book also includes fundamental carpentry tips and recommendations particular to chicken shelters.

Each coop is rated by difficulty and the authors encourage creative adaptations as needed.

The step-by-step building plans are accompanied by full-color photographs and detailed construction illustrations.

Included designs run the gamut from typical -- the "Standard" and A-Frame -- to the award-winning "Chick-in-a-Box."

Wolpe said his favorite design was the "Coopsicle," a shelter atop a pole that alleviated a site constraint in his own yard: a steep incline.

McElroy meanwhile is a fan of the "Container Coop," which repurposes a large metal shipping container.

Thursday's author event at Northshire Bookstore will begin with a 30-minute slideshow, according to Wolpe, who will then open it up to discussion.

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