Matthew Wolpe: Reinventing the Chicken Coop

Reinventing the Chicken Coop: 14 Original Designs with Step-by-Step Building Instructions
Storey Publishing, 2013
Paperback, 192 pages, $19.95

Hey backyard chickens: meet contemporary design! Coauthors Matthew Wolpe (assistant studio manager in CCA's fabrication shop) and Kevin McElroy present 14 complete building plans for chicken coops that range from the purely functional to the outrageously fabulous.

Eleven of the 14 are by the authors, and one of the remaining three is by two CCA alumni: Yvonne Mauser (Wood/Furniture 2006) and Adam Reineck (Industrial Design 2005).

One has a water-capturing roof; one is a great homage to mid-Modern architecture; and another has a built-in composting system. Some designs are suitable for beginning builders, and some are challenging enough for experts. Step-by-step building plans are accompanied by full-color photographs and detailed construction illustrations.

Wolpe and McElroy are the co-owners of Just Fine Design/Build, a studio that produces original handmade furniture and small structures. In 2010 they designed a chicken coop called "Chick in a Box" that went on to win an Editor's Choice award for design at the Bay Area Maker Faire and was featured on the Make Magazine blog, the Farmhouse Modern blog, and the Treehugger blog.

Wolpe reports that he first got interested in chicken coops by teaching a coop building workshop for City Slicker Farms, a food justice nonprofit in Oakland. He teaches woodworking at the Crucible, a nonprofit arts school in Oakland, and he lives in a 120-square-foot tiny house in Oakland that he built himself.