The Rosenkranz house is the talk of the neighborhood—a quiet, tree-lined street in Queen Anne where kids play out front and neighbors still invite one another over for dinner. Though the buzz isn’t about the corner Colonial’s trim exterior or even its bold interiors in chartreuse and houndstooth: It’s the street-side chicken coop.
Graphic designer Aubrey Rosenkranz is the neighborhood pioneer in urban chicken farming. She wanted an educational family project and was inspired by her aunt and uncle, who raise chickens on their property in Indiana. Last summer her husband, Andrew, who works at a Renton market research company, finally warmed to the idea, and Aubrey decided to build a custom coop in the four-foot-by-20-foot side yard. The design came from Ryan Parshall, a woodworker who specializes in outdoor spaces and previously built the house’s deck.
This was Parshall’s first coop, but chicken-sitting for his neighbors had given him some ideas of how to make the design more user friendly than prefab versions. The door is larger than average and the roof is high enough that adults don’t need to crouch while cleaning out the coop.
The result is every bit the showpiece both Rosenkranz and Parshall had hoped for: an 80-square-foot rustic structure of reclaimed cedar and Douglas fir that Parshall perfectly integrated into the existing yard and set on a concrete foundation to keep raccoons from digging under the structure and feasting on its inhabitants. A living roof left over from another of Parshall’s projects was planted with succulents to keep the yard looking green.
The coop has a large run in the back and a smaller one up front, next to the home’s walkway, so kids and passing neighbors can interact with the birds. The chickens perch on actual tree branches, turning the family’s front steps into a zoolike observation deck. Rosenkranz scouted local antique and salvage shops for coop decor, including a cowbell and mismatched letters that spell “eggs.”
Inside the coop live four plucky ladies: Cindy Sherman (named after the famous photographer), Foo Foo, Moonlight, and Shiny (named by the kids). The family selected the foursome as chicks from Baxter Barn in Fall City while on a Seattle Farm Co-op coop tour. Rosenkranz remembers a worker laughing at all the Seattleites who read a few books about chickens, then showed up convinced of their expertise. “We were like, ‘We are those people!’ ”
The chickens, now grown and past those early newborn nights that kept Rosenkranz up with worry, are laying three or four eggs a day collectively, in varying shades of brown and blue-green. Andrew Rosenkranz is picking up omelet--making tips by watching Jacques Pépin videos online. Sarah Lawer, who owns the home across the street, says the coop has become a neighborhood highlight. “I just love when the ladies say ‘hi’ to me in the morning.”
Published: April 2013