Midcentury Modern architecture and Japanese shou sugi ban wood exteriors. Wall-to-wall block-print wallpaper and shabby chic crystal chandeliers. These are not features on a Los Angeles home tour but the kind of amenities you might find in some of the city's more elaborate chicken coops.
In a city obsessed with design and indoor-outdoor living, it makes sense that some chicken owners want to house their pets in high-style comfort. In addition to giving homeowners the opportunity to personalize their living spaces, urban homesteading offers a taste of pastoral life that is elusive in a city of more than 4 million.
As backyard chickens continue to make the news in California after recent cases of Newcastle disease, it is worth noting that chicken-tending can be traumatic. Free-ranging can be deadly. Coyotes, raccoons, hawks -- even mountain lions -- will prey on hens. Extreme heat can overwhelm chickens because they don't sweat. And something as simple as a backyard avocado can prove fatal to chickens.
So why do urban homesteaders endure heartache, illness and loss? Because chickens are like any other pet: They make people happy.
"It is extraordinary to have chickens and fresh eggs and engage with them," says gardening consultant Lauri Kranz, author of the recent book "A Garden Can Be Anywhere: Creating Bountiful and Beautiful Edible Gardens." "I love visiting my clients who have chickens. They are always so happy to see me. But I always have a serious talk with clients who want them. When you raise chickens, you are engaging with the natural world in a whole different way. No matter how well your chicken coop is built, it still runs the risk of predators. They are more than cute and sweet and fun. It's a huge responsibility."
What follows are tales of six urban homesteaders and how they personalized their chicken coops, in budgets that ranged from $750 to $14,000.
Inspired by the clean lines of Midcentury Modern architecture, Casey Caplowe and Ellen Marie Bennett wanted a chicken coop that would complement the lines of their home. "We wanted an Eames-inspired chicken coop," says Bennett, founder of the culinary Goods brand Hedley & Bennett. In a nod to the '50s, Caplowe, cofounder of Good magazine, built a slant-roof coop and painted it a vibrant yellow. The color palette augments the home's animated interiors, highlighted by a yellow Bertazzoni range, aquamarine Heath tile and an orange sliding barn door. Located at the bottom of a terraced yard filled with drought-tolerant plants, edibles and decomposed granite pathways, the Midcentury-style hen house is home to a group of Silkies that Bennett refers to as "the ladies." Olive Oil is the only survivor of a flock that died during a heat wave last year. She now chooses to live in a backyard tree, visiting the coop for meals when not socializing with Oliver, the family's 200-pound pig, on the upper deck. "Olive Oil has laid eggs in his pig hut," says Bennett, a former chef. "I like the idea that when people come over, they can go outside and enjoy the ladies. It's fun to show people where their food comes from."