"It's not nearly as cool having chickens on your farm as in your New York City backyard," Dan Feldman says. Feldman, a thirty-nine-year-old executive who lives in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, is about to get cool thanks to a chicken coop--the Chicken Ark--designed by Australian expat Drew Waters, a TV news employee by day and Noah-like chicken coop creator by evening/night.
First, there's the cachet of it. Feldman had been living in Manhattan apartments for the last twenty-one years, and just bought a house that had space for a chicken coop – something remarkable in a city in which most people live in apartments that aren't much bigger than a henhouse. Second, Feldman had, he says, "just about every other kind of pet known to existence – all manner of mammal and reptile." He didn't want to go through the drama of owning a dog again, realized his family – Feldman has kids – ate a lot of eggs, and had been reading all the buzz about backyard animal husbandry. Third, installing a coop is really just the next logical step.
Feldman found Waters' company, Handcrafted Coops
, to be an awesome alternative to the Eglu, which is quickly become the most popular coop for amateur backyard enthusiasts,
the--"Frank Gehry-designed modernist coop," as Feldman calls it. The Eglu is made of polyethylene plastic and shaped like a spaceship.
Waters' coops--of which there's just one A-frame model--are the complete antithesis. "The look of the coop is based on a traditional design used by a lot of henkeepers in Britain," Waters says. "But that ark A-frame structure -- that was just a design experiment." The handcrafted coop is a simple but sleek little chicken home.
How did someone get from TV news to handcrafted chicken coops? For Waters, it started with the Park Slope Food Co-Op, one of the oldest in the country and a cultural touchstone for new Brooklynites. That, and the increasingly inescapable presence of what we can call the Michael Pollan School-"eat food, not too much, mostly plants"-of eating. "People are becoming more and more aware of wanting to control the source of their food," Waters says. "It was both a design desire and seeing a need that was lacking." Waters' coops are manufactured by a local woodshop and pack flat for shipping to anywhere his customers are; typically hippy places like Madison, Wisconsin; Portland, Oregon; and Austin, Texas are big on his waybills.
Feldman isn't sure how his experiment is going to pan out, but one thing's for certain: it looks like we're en route to a chicken coop coup.