Students design urban chicken coops


Second-year students in the interior architecture and product design program have recently finished a project in which they designed urban chicken coops.

Manhattan is among many communities with a growing desire for urban chicken coops, said William Yankey, visiting professor of interior architecture and product design. Yankey said people are seeing the benefits of raising chickens, whether for food reasons or as pets.

Josef Lang, sophomore in interior architecture and product design, said urban chicken coops have established a place in cities as a part of the permaculture. In the later half of the past century, people have given the urban coops a place in the permaculture because they want to produce their own food at their own homes, Lang said.

Urban coops are different from their rural counterparts mainly because of space limitations, said Brianna Stevens, sophomore in interior architecture and product design.

Katrina Lewis, assistant professor of interior architecture and product design said the urban chicken coops were designed by the students for a competition for the Poultry Project. Each project was to be designed for a coop that would house 10 chickens and each chicken would have at least four square feet of space. This created many different design challenges for the students, Lewis said.

In addition to the number of chickens and the space that each one required, the students had to consider issues such as predators, weather and keeping the chickens shaded.

Sarah Rice, sophomore in interior architecture and product design, said while some of it is trial and error, preparation for the chickens’ needs is vital.

Taking into consideration all of the aspects involving design for the chicken coops was considered the most challenging part of the project. Access for the owners to feed and water the chickens and clean, maintain and even move the coops were all part of making sure everyone’s needs were met, said Anne Collingwood, sophomore in interior architecture and product design.

Design strategies varied between students; the mobility, modularity, materials used and dynamics all differed.

“Everyone used a lot of different approaches to the concept of their design,” Collingwood said.

While chicken wire was a basic component of all the designs, many students’ projects were slanted toward repurposing materials and upcycling, the process of taking old items and making them into new creations.

“You should always use what you have,” said Lang.

Some of the designs and models followed the simple, modest pattern of the environment-friendly materials, but others chose to use elaborate geometry, said Stevens.

Lewis found the Poultry Project contest while researching information on urban chicken coops out of desire for her own. Lewis said the value of the project lies in the necessity for students to work on a residential design that takes both the chickens’ and owners’ needs into account. The students learned much about the design process and profited educationally from the competition aspect of the project, Lewis said.

The project was first introduced four weeks ago. The students were given two weeks to research, design and produce models.

“Sweet,” Lang said, of his initial reaction to the project. “I was so pumped for it. It was really off-the-wall as far as what’s been done before.”

Lang said he enjoyed being part of the first group to do the project.

To begin, they visited two residences with urban chicken coops and were given the chance to interview the owners and observe the chickens’ behavior patterns. From there, it was a matter of researching and designing. Then, the models were made and the project was honored by an open house, dubbed the “Chicken Coop Celebration” by Lewis. The open house was a chance for students to showcase their projects and answer questions about them. Served at the open house were egg-themed treats.

“It was really well done, and I think it says a lot about our department and our class,” Lang said of the Chicken Coop Celebration.

Stevens said she enjoyed the project, even though it took her out of her comfort zone in the beginning. It was a good learning experience because she discovered the ability to design a product with no background in the subject, Stevens said.

Yankey said the project went even better than he expected and the students impressed him with their work.