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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chickens 101: It All Starts With The Coop: Or The Glamorous History Of My Chicken Coop

An otherwise boring looking chicken coop but one with an interesting past.

I don't have any sewing projects to show today. I have two somewhat interesting projects I am almost done with. The first is a wool toddler coat I'm making for Gigi from a 1942 pattern and  the second is a fake fur vest I am just finishing up. If you have ever worked with fake fur before, you know it's a messy business and I would rather clean out my chicken coop any day rather than work with this stuff again.
In the meantime, I thought I would share a strange little story having to do with chickens since besides being a sewing person, I am also a "Chicken Whisperer"
 OK, that may be overstating things. Speaking at the upcoming Craftcation Conference doesn't make me a chicken expert per se, but I do know a thing or two about or feathered friends after raising them for the last 6 years.
If you have ever wanted to get involved with raising chickens you do need to have some sort of coop before you get them unless you don't want your chickens getting mauled by raccoons or coyotes, and I  tell you this from experience. I once left the coop open and walked into a morbid scene worthy of a slasher film the next day. The heads were actually ripped off of my poor hens. The damage was most likely rendered by a marauding raccoon, one of the most vicious of hen predators. My  second piece of advice to you after you get a coop is, don't forget to close it at night.

I worked very hard to give this coop an "authentic" country feel. Some worn out tires would complete the rustic, shabby, but charming look I am after, don't you think?
We are lucky enough to have a really good coop and we got it for free. We used to live up in the mountains above Malibu, California in a place called Topanga Canyon. People like Jim Morrisson and Janis Joplin were known to have holed up in the canyon and it has a "colorful" past. I had heard stories about the place and there was a nudist colony up in those hills somewhere. When I was about 20, I went to a paty with my friend up in Topanga Canyon. The old wooden house was on a big property that was full of old trailers, lovely oak trees, and a giant American flag hung across the whole yard. As someone from the party strung his guitar and sang "Girl from Ipanema" in the dappled sunlight, I thought,"This would be a cool place to live someday."
 And that is what I did. 

The Inn of The Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon, where I was married.
There is a crystal shop there where you can go in and lay on a bed of crystal that the owner believes has alien powers and vibes. There was a group of mom's at my son's kindergarten who would get together during the full moon and chant. Topanga was just that weird! When my six year old daughter was bit by a rattlesnake there in our front yard I took it as a sign that God above wanted us to get out of that place so we moved back down into the city of Los Angeles. But not after dragging our chicken coop with us.
Photos of Topanga Canyon Inn Bed and Breakfast, Topanga
This photo of Topanga Canyon Inn Bed and Breakfast is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The view from beautiful Topanga Canyon.
To get to Topanga Canyon you have to drive up the beach at Pacific Coast Highway and turn north. At the corner of PCH and Topanga were some old ramshackle but very charactered and storied properties that had been there since the 1930's. They overlooked the ocean but were owned by the County of Los Angeles so although the inhabitants lived there for decades, they rented the properties.There was an old motel there as well, and many rock musicians were said to have stayed there in the sixties and seventies when the Topanga hippie scene was at it's zenith. The county decided that that land near the ocean was too valuable to have a bunch of ramshackle dwellings on it and they were going to evict everyone and tear down those old houses and put up something that would be more in the "New Malibu" style. Something expensive and elegant like a fancy hotel. Sadly, they never did develop the property so all those poor folks were kicked out of their homes for no reason. All the inhabitants were given a 3 month eviction notice and had to clear out because all the structures were to be condemned. After everyone was gone, the houses stood there empty and on one was a beautiful abandoned chicken coop. My husband didn't feel the least bit guilty about going to rescue this chicken coop. He got some guys together , used someone's truck and put that giant coop on the back of it in the dead of night and drove it home! 
He brought that coop back to our property but we never did get any chickens and when we sold the property to a greedy forensic criminal psychologist and his crazy wife they demanded that the the chicken coop stay! The law states that only permanent structures remain with the house but these people didn't want to hear about that. Somehow I could not picture these folks as the chicken raising types.
 "And what is a criminal forensic psychologist", you might ask? A psychologist of serial killers. This man and his wife were pure evil from day one. We tried to get out of selling the house to them because we didn't want to saddle our poor neighbors with these characters , but they threatened to sue us so that was when we decided to take the chicken coop with us. 
They did send the letter threatening to sue us over our taking the chicken coop but nothing ever came of it.
And so now here she stands, an ordinary chicken coop with a storied and glamorous Malibu past on an old orange ranch out in the country. Doing what she does best. Housing baby chicks and their mommies and a mean old rooster.
So maybe the chicken coop you get isn't as interesting as mine. I won't hold it against you.
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  1. I have to say that your story is interesting to me. I have chickens, too. Well, I did until my last one finally passed away from old age. Our coop has housed bantam sized cochins for many years.

    Since my little girl has passed, I'll be out there tearing down old walls and building new ones. That's what I'll be doing this weekend.

    Although we live in the suburbs and aren't supposed to have chickens, I've been keeping them for near 20 years here in my neighborhood. My neighbor and I will be placing an order sometime this week for more chickens.

    And as far as predators go, we've had attacks by possums, raccoons, domestic cats, wharf rats (We live near the water here in Florida), and hawks. So, like you, we've had to put a cover over the top to keep all the predators out.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story about the chicken coop. It looks like a really well built one, too.


  2. haha..the chicken coop story is very funny. What a history, I'm glad it is still with you. We used to have a chicken coop behind our house. My mom used to keep 10 chickens until the noise and smell became quite unbearable. We had to slaughter and cook the chicken one by one.


  3. A fantastic story, made me miss the old crazy days just a little, although I never went up into Topanga Canyon, I lived in Venice Beach for a spell. I loved having chickens and only liked the rooster for his morning call. I raised Rhode Island Reds, my dogs like them too, so I couldn't let them free range to often, this was all in Wolf Creek, Oregon.

  4. I love your chicken coop story! I was raised in Los Gatos, and then Santa Cruz...weirdness prevailed there too.

  5. "in the dead of night" sounds a *little* bit guilty. ;)


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