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Regina’s Chic Coop


By Leigh Ballard
Regina Brotherton’s chicken shed in Hickory Valley, TN is a new “old” coop, partially made from recycled and salvaged materials which give the utilitarian coop a decorative flair. It houses four hens: Shirley the red one, Goodness, Peggy the one with a bad or “peg” leg, and Sabu, the flock leader named after Karen in Out of Africa. The hens are evidently quite happy in their country chic coop. They regularly lay five eggs per day which is outstanding since there are only four hens!

The coop is decorated with pieces of architectural salvage from Europe. Regina has a friend who brings over containers of the antique pieces. “I think the windows are most likely from Brussels,” Regina says, “because that’s where she (the friend) gets a lot of her stuff.”  Regina received much conflicting advice from friends and neighbors about window design ideas for her coop. Some said the chickens don’t want windows; they like to be in the dark. Others worried that the coop needed windows for ventilation. Regina compromised on the windows, which are made of zinc and are actually sections cut off from old dormers. She painted the window glass with a mercury technique to prevent light passing through, and used them anyway. She says, “I had to use them for something, I’ve been carrying them around for 15 years waiting for just the right place for them!”

Another piece made of zinc sits prettily atop the coop and a very attractive brass water spigot is mounted on the side.  Regina allows, “We don’t have water; we have to drag the hose out here. And that door on the side is fake too, but it looks good.” On the corners of the building are wood moldings which were originally used inside Regina’s historical home, Whitney Hill in Hickory Valley, TN. “Those pieces originally protected the wallpaper in the house,” she says.

Regina admits, “The contractor who helped me build this looked a little askance at some of these ideas at first. I think he thought it was more like a doll house than a chicken coop, and maybe didn’t want his name associated with it. But after we got going with it, he was into the creative aspect of it, too.”

The chicken house has plenty of practical aspects too. The floor is made of slats, allowing for ventilation from the bottom, and there are also vents at the top of the house.  An old cedar limb is placed in the coop for roosting, and the hens have a place under the house to scratch around and dust themselves. The laying boxes were designed being mindful of the possibility of snakes. And other varmints are also held at bay. “We buried the wire pretty deeply all the way around the coop. It’s very important to bury the wire. We have a lot of foxes and raccoons here, and I think even the possums bother the chickens. Every morning there’s evidence of animals trying to dig into the coop. Sometimes I have to come out in the morning with the shotgun!”

Regina’s chicken house is a lesson in fun.  Her “recycle and reuse” mindset coupled with some creative flair shows us that utilitarian farm buildings just really don’t have to be boring!

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