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Authors reinvent the chicken coop

By From page A4 | May 09, 2013

Chicken coop bookW

Matthew Wolpe and Kevin McElroy, authors and co-founders of Just Fine Design/Build, will be at Avid Reader Active, 605 Second St. in downtown Davis, on Friday evening to discuss their new book on chicken coops.

The free event at 7:30 p.m., part of the upcoming Tour de Cluck’s Chicken Skool, showcases “Reinventing The Chicken Coop: 14 Original Designs with Step-By-Step Building Instructions.”

Over the past several years, keeping backyard chickens has become a national phenomenon. And as flocks migrate from rural homesteads to suburban and urban locales, a question arises — how can a person house one’s birds in a safe, sanitary and aesthetically pleasing way, so as not to tick off the neighbors?

“Reinventing the Chicken Coop” is a do-it-yourself guide to building contemporary, well-designed chicken shelters for the urban and suburban enthusiast. The 14 complete building plans in this guide elevate coops from the purely functional to the outright fabulous.

While sticking to the fundamental premise of building a good coop for both chickens and their keepers, authors Wolpe and McElroy have expanded the definition of what a coop is and can be. Just as the domain of the chicken has expanded from the farm to urban and suburban back yards, Wolpe and McElroy have expanded the design of the chicken shelter from the utilitarian to a proud statement of sustainability and individuality.

In 2010, the pair designed a chicken coop called Chick-in-a-Box that won an Editor’s Choice award for design at the Bay Area Maker Faire and was featured on the Make Magazine blog, the Farmhouse Modern blog and the Treehugger blog.

From Chick-in-a-Box, which features a butterfly roof that delivers rainwater to the animals’ feeding area, to the Modern Mobile Coop-Tractor, from which the birds can directly work nutrient-poor patches of yard into a rich soil ready for new plants, “Reinventing the Chicken Coop” presents plans for coops with an array of form-meets-function inspirations.

The Sym integrates a chicken coop, greenhouse, worm compost bins, and roof-water collection; the Kippen House Garden Roof Chicken Coop features a planting bed on the roof.

There are designs for all levels of do-it-yourself builders and each project includes step-by-step building plans accompanied by full-color photographs and detailed construction illustrations.

McElroy teaches welding at The Crucible, a nonprofit industrial arts school in Oakland, and is studying at Stanford’s Design Program. He lives in Bolinas.

Wolpe is a senior mechanician for furniture and carpentry at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design and teaches woodworking at The Crucible. He built and lives in a 120-square-foot tiny house in Oakland.

The authors’ presentation kicks off the annual Davis Tour de Cluck and will run in conjunction with the Second Friday ArtAbout. It is being sponsored by the Davis Art Center, Yolo Farm to Fork’s Davis’ Farm to School Program, Avid Reader Active and Storey Publishing.

The Tour de Cluck, a bicycle tour of backyard chicken coops throughout Davis, starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 25. Tickets are sold out.

Enterprise staff

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