Architecture for Chickens

March 26, 2009


Harley Cowan’s Chicken Sedan, courtesy of Portland Spaces.

Last year, I was one of the judges for the first annual Root Awards, sponsored by Portland Spaces magazine, a wonderfully well put-together publication edited by Randy Gragg, former architecture critic of the Oregonian. There were many, many nicely designed homes and offices among the winners, but my favorite thing in the competition was the chicken coop shown above. I am, as anyone who’s read The Perfect $100,000 House knows, partial to A-frames, and I’m always moved by architecture that’s better than it has to be. While I imagine that many of the clients that commissioned the award winning work were quite demanding, I suspect that Dorothy, Blanche and Rose, the pullets for whom the Chicken Sedan was built, were mostly interested in the basics: warm, dry, well-ventilated, fox-free. What they got was something more: an architectural icon.

As it turns out, the Chicken Sedan was designed by an architect, Harley Cowan of Yost Grube Hall Architecture. After the competition, he sent me an email suggesting thanking me for my enthusiasm. Next time I visit Portland, I’ll be sure to pay Mr. Cowan and his chickens a visit.

But, as I said, this was last year. I’d forgotten all about chickens and their housing needs when I got an email from Bob Kennedy of Bend, Oregon (bkennedy[at]bendbroadband[dot]com)who thought that the $1000 dollar budget for the Chicken Sedan was extravagant, particularly in these hard times. He built a handsome little shed (see below) out of homemade SIPS panels (foam insulated structural sandwiches) and mounted the thing on metal stilts. He spent $200 to house eight chickens. His CPC* is a low, low $25, compared to $333 for those fancy Portland birds. But I guess even chickens are willing to shell out for starchitecture.
*Cost Per Chicken


Bob Kennedy’s cut-rate chicken bungalow.