The Barbie Dream House: A Very Cool Chicken Coop Idea
When We Decided to Keep Chickens as Pets, We Came Up With a Unique Chicken Coop Design
By Samir Shahin, M.D., California — Where did we start with our fun chicken coop idea? While our family was walking home from the beach, we saw three chickens in a neighbor’s front yard. That weekend we drove to a local hatchery and got four chicks. We did not have any prior experience with chickens but we learned rapidly. We put them under a chicken heat lamp in the house. I am still shocked that my wife Paulina approved this venture with owning chickens — she is a city girl from New York City who lived in a doorman building. But that day, we both found joy and wonder in watching our children, Emily (age 7) and Sam (age 5) play with chicks and fall in love with them.
So now, I had about one month to get some chicken coop ideas and build a chicken coop for our fuzzy pets. The commercially available coops were basic, functional, but not anything that would enhance the look of our small backyard. I wanted to find some chicken coop ideas that would match the house, or at the very least look interesting. Having someone else build a custom coop seemed too expensive, and nothing they showed me was very inspiring.
So the rapidly growing chicks were still without a coop while I was at a medical conference, sitting for hours with a pad of paper and pencil in front of me. I started doodling out all the chicken coop ideas I could think of, and started drawing pictures of chicken coops to keep awake. Then I drew my own rough plans, and made a basic materials list. When the conference was over, I was ready to get started on the coolest of my chicken coop ideas.
I had no idea how to build a chicken coop, but I found whimsical decorations to add to my basic design just by walking the aisles at Lowe’s. For example, using bedposts to frame the outer portion of the coop, and crown molding around the base outside. Also using wall paneling material for the roof, cutting the edges in a scalloped pattern. My brother Sudad gave me an antique stained glass window that I put in the front door. Then I borrowed many tools, such as a table saw and power sander.
I used plywood with a hardwood veneer because it was smooth for painting. My daughter picked out the six Disney paint colors. After I cut all the pieces, I primed and painted them before assembling. I purchased keyed latches to keep critters out. I used two old wooden gates placed on their sides over the ground and the coop rested on that.
I have an electrical outlet inside with a small night light, and an outlet outside for Christmas lights. There is a multicolored lamp on the ceiling that went perfectly with the color scheme.
I used clear acrylic tubes to make a feeder and waterer so that I could check the levels right away. They look futuristic and attractive. The two nesting boxes are easily accessible from the outside. Our chickens use the bottom nesting box about five times as often as the upper nesting box. At night they all crowd together on the roosting bars.
I designed this coop with the idea of having about six comfortable, pampered chickens.
I let Emily and Sam help as much as possible, and they signed it with their hand prints. Building this took two full weekends.
This was an immaculate dollhouse, my wife nicknamed it “The Barbie Dream House.” The kids played in it before the chickens were old enough to move in. The coop became a local attraction for our friends and neighbors. Just the fact that we have chickens in the city shocks and awes people. We are too happy to have them hold a chicken for the first time, and take home colorful eggs. When we had a baby shower at our house, we used the chicken coop as a centerpiece and decorated with matching colors and decor. This set a vibrant, lighthearted tone to this special event. As far as chicken coop ideas go, we got a lot of mileage out of this one!
Some of our well-meaning friends suggest I get out of practicing medicine and go into business manufacturing chicken coops and coming up with more cool chicken coop ideas. That might be a nice hobby, but I love my work and most people would not want to pay what I would need to charge to make this a profitable enterprise.
I added a 4′ x 8′ wire dog kennel enclosure that is the main chicken run. It’s tall enough that we can walk inside. I put in a dust bath (local beach sand mixed with diatomaceous earth), and a feeder with oyster shell and grit. I feed the chickens organic feed and vegetarian treats. (I thought squirrels were eating my garden strawberries and lettuce, until I caught Emily sneaking them to the chickens.)
We now have a total of seven chickens, very loved and pampered, and so friendly that one laid an egg in Emily’s lap while she was petting it!
A few neighbors in Manhattan Beach have started to raise chickens, so I helped Emily begin a club, Children Owning Outstanding Poultry, or C.O.O.P. We had one meeting so far at our house and it was a blast for both the parents and the kids. After showing off our backyard chickens and talking about and sharing chicken coop ideas for your beloved birds, it turns into a big play date for the kids and a gab fest with hors d’oeuvres for the parents.
These chickens have been a joy, outstanding pets. They are comical to watch and are ravenously grateful when they are given treats. They give us pretty eggs that are delicious. All of this is wonderful.
Dr. Shahin is the Medical Director and owner of ExpressCare Medical Clinic in Los Angeles, California. He has lived in Manhattan Beach for seven years.
Chicken Coop Ideas: Build Your Own Chicken Coop
3 – 4′ x 8′ three-quarter inch plywood with oak veneer
6 – 2 x 4s
4 – bedposts (outer corners)
4 – 4 x 4 posts (inner supports)
4 – decorative post caps for inner supports
2 – 4′ x 8′ paneling used for roof
2″ x 3″ soft pine for roosting bars
2′ x 24′ wire mesh for bottom run area
1 – sliding bathroom window with
opaque glass for rear wall
1 – decorative glass or stained glass for front door
2 – keyed latches for nest box and main door
6 colors 1 quart each – paint, “Disney Collection” from Home Depot
Originally published in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine.