by Jennifer Sartell
I love the story behind the construction of Cluckingham Palace! It started as a desire from the memory of a childhood pet duck and then in 2009, stemmed to a beautiful coop.
What makes this story so special is that many of Karen’s neighbors, friends and family helped the creative process along. Everything from acquiring her first chicks to the naming of the coop to the vintage elements that were donated, was a community effort to help this “newbie” chicken keeper create a palace. But we can all learn something from Karen’s hard work, research and ingenuity, so let’s tour Cluckingham Palace!
Karen keeps six pullet hens, one of each of the following breeds: Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire Red, Buff Orpington, Black Australorp, Silver Laced Wyandotte, and Delaware. This is her second flock and she keeps them “for the eggs, as a joyful hobby, and as I always say, ‘For lawn ornaments’ (they’re so beautiful)!”
“Every home should have a name.”
I happen to agree with Karen on this. Your home is part of the family and deserves a special name. And like our homes, our chicken coops are also special. The coops that appear here on Coop Story have a history, or special significance in their building process.
Karen writes, “I think every home should have a name. We named our own home Maple Grove because there are a lot of maple trees on the property and in honor of the home I grew up in on Maple Ave.
When we were building our hen house our neighbor said, “That’s not a coop; it’s a palace.” I laughed and said, “Yeah, Cluckingham Palace.” And it stuck.”
The Birth of Cluckingham Palace
“I had a duck when I was a child and always wanted chickens. All these years later, I said that to a friend who owns a dairy farm and raises chickens. So one day she gifted me with two little peeps. The next day I went to Tractor Supply and bought six more. I knew absolutely nothing about keeping chickens or coop designs, so I went online and bought a couple of books and read a lot! We came up with the design of our girls’ house by combining all the features we liked and felt were important. We designed and built it ourselves.”
“Ours is 6′ x 8’x by 8′ tall. It has a man door so we can go inside. It’s a ‘house;’ not a coop. The attached run is irregularly shaped, roughly 6′ x 12′ x 3′ x 6′. It’s 4′ high and has a door. We can go inside but have to bend over to do so. We don’t really need to go inside very often.“
How Cluckingham Got Its Vintage “Look”
While sorting through entries, this coop called to me. I LOVE anything vintage! Flaking paint, old barn windows and antique feed sacks all adorn my own home, so when this coop passed through my inbox, I was enthralled! With a little help from some friends and family, here’s how Karen got the “look.”
“I love things that look old–primitive, distressed, vintage. I love seeing pictures of coops that are very cute and decorated, but I really wanted an old-fashioned hen house that looks like it has been around for ages.
We built our house right next to a tree for two reasons. First, it gives it that look that it’s been there for a while, but more importantly, it provides shade for the chickens.
A friend who owns an antique store gave me old distressed doors and windows for my hen house. My Dad said to me, ‘You’re going to paint those, aren’t you?’ I said, ‘Of course not; I love them that way.’ He made a face, but I told him they’re a lot like him: They’re old and have character. My Dad’s 93. He was a structural draftsman and got involved in helping us build.
Another friend gave us old nesting boxes from her farm. We power-washed them and disinfected them. I used old seed bags to make curtains for the boxes.
We incorporated all the features we read about that make a hen house secure from predators, healthy for the chicks, and convenient for us (ventilation, hatch door on pulleys, perches, poop pit, clean-out door.)”
5 Things She Loves
“1. I love the vintage look. Some people like cute and fancy, but I really love plain and simple. It blends with the environment. It doesn’t shout, ‘Look at me, look at me,’ but it quietly draws you in.
2. I love how the run, which is beside the house, extends beyond it in the front. As you approach the house, you walk alongside the run, and the girls are right there to greet you.
3. I love how easy it is to maintain. The poop pit under the perches, a clean-out door in the back, and a deep-litter system make it a breeze to take care of. We only have to clean it out twice a year.
4. I love where we placed it. For not knowing much about it in the beginning, I am glad over and over again that we placed it in a shady area. That was a bright move!
5. I love that I had friends involved in getting started: the friend who gave me my first two chickens; the friend who gave me doors and windows; the friend who gave me nesting boxes; and the stranger turned friend who let me come and see her coop just because I asked if I could. She gave me a lot of tips. When the house was built and the chickens were moved in, I invited these four women to come to my house for a tea and to see the finished project. They actually said they got some good ideas from me, a newby. Imagine that!”
2 Things She Would Have Changed
I sometimes think that no coop is perfect, there’s always something that could be a little more convenient, a little larger, a little prettier. If you’re planning on building a coop of your own, this section of Coop Story is always helpful in learning from others. Here’s what Karen had to say about Cluckingham Palace.
“1. I would build the roost slightly different. The one we built is ladder-style with 3 perches. They all want to be on the top perch. I read about that but thought, ‘Oh, my chickens won’t care.’ I learned to believe the experienced. They know what they’re talking about.
2. I would have made it bigger. It’s plenty big enough for my small flock, but I already have dreams of adding on.”
2 Unique Things About Cluckingham Palace
“Unique is hard to say because I got so many ideas from other people. Two things that we came up with on our own, however, are that we wrapped the run around a tree and we but an awning over the hatch door to keep rain from going inside.”
Cluckingham Palace is a beautiful coop with a great sense of community, learning and sharing. Thanks so much to Karen Driscoll for sharing her photos and Coop Story with our Community.