Keeping up with the Joneses used to mean sinking money into an in-ground pool for the kids. Then, it evolved into man caves, flex rooms, hot tubs, wine fridges, gas fireplaces, and outdoor kitchens with smokers.
Now? Chicken coops with curb appeal are de rigueur. While some coops mimic the homestead or barn that they are situated beside, others lean toward whimsy and iconic farm images. Cheap upgrades are probably sitting in a layer of dust in your garage or workshop. That old stained glass window that you had the best of intentions of salvaging by sanding and refinishing is just the thing. You can assemble a jumble of mismatched wooden picture frames or church windows to take your coop to the next architectural design level (spray the tired frames with silver or glow-in-the-dark paint).
If you don’t have a collection of half-empty cans of paint in the basement, visit your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for random options. Make use of those near-expired cans of spray paint. Use scraps of corrugated steel to help lend a modern, contemporary vibe in a flash. Fashion together bits of barn board into a herringbone design to act as the perfect rustic backdrop for antlers and horseshoes.
For less than $20, you can add a fun door knocker, European licence plates or kitschy soft drink signs. Blackboard paint will provide you with an ever-changing (and not so permanent) canvas. Planter boxes can work two-fold as a coop upgrade and easy-access chicken buffet—just don’t be disappointed when the crew eats everything in one sitting.
Do you know somebody artistic? Hire them (or, better yet, barter in exchange for a year’s supply of fresh eggs!) to dress up your coop.
Does your coop have a name? It must! Google “chicken coop names” for a creatively juiced short list. How about Eggdiction? Meet the Flockers? Eggcellant Inn? The Chick Mahal?
Pinterest was invented for this kind of project. Check out the stream of goofy chicken coop signs, like “Last one in is a rotten egg!” or “Wicked chickens lay devilled eggs.” You may find yourself building another coop to incorporate all the signs!
If you have a steady hand, paint your favourite egg recipes on the henhouse in cursive; if you prefer not to freehand it, use a stencil. If your design demands an art degree, go big: Van Gogh’s Starry Night! Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel! Edvard Munch’s The Scream! You could also create a framed gallery of famous fictional chickens (another way to incorporate those old mismatched frames), such as Foghorn Leghorn, Henny Penny, Camilla the Chicken (The Muppet Show), Ernie the Giant Chicken (Family Guy), Sheldon (Garfield), Cornelius Rooster (Kellogg’s Corn Flakes) or the sriracha sauce rooster.
Or try this: Make use of some scrap wood to cut same-size blocks and paint your own Scrabble letters! Customize your coop by spelling out the names of all your chickens or breeds. For longevity, a couple of coats of urethane or spar finish (a boat-grade wood finishing varnish) will protect your letters from the elements. Pull out your Scrabble board or search online if you want to create an accurate alphabet with corresponding point distribution.
Remember that this is your opportunity to have fun. Be unconventional! Use that fluorescent yellow you were too nervous to paint the kitchen with. Hammer up found items like driftwood, canoe paddles, skis, hockey sticks, hooks, bottle openers, vintage bird cages or Belfast lights.
The sky is the limit! (Editor’s note: Contrary to Henny Penny’s worries, the sky is not falling.)
Jules Torti’s resume reads more like a well-folded treasure map. She has been a canoe outtripper, outdoor educator, colouring book illustrator and freelancer. Jules has volunteered (and eaten all sorts of questionable things) in the soupy jungles of Costa Rica, Uganda and the Congo. Her work has been published in The Harrowsmith Almanac, The Vancouver Sun, The Globe & Mail, travelife, Canadian Running and Coast Mountain Culture. She actively feeds her blog, Alphabet Soup, with posts on books, birds, burgers and beer (in no particular order) across the latitudes from Zanzibar to Iceland. Closer to home, she was grandfathered into the Galt Horticultural Society, was the caretaker of a 155-year-old stone heritage cottage and has chronic fantasies about church conversions, beekeeping and owning llamas. She has been known to slam on the brakes for photo ops of saltbox houses, saddle roof barns, snowy owls and sunflower fields. As editor-in-chief of Harrowsmith she is thrilled to be able to curate, write and read about the very best things in life.