AD explores the rustic backyard feature that is gaining popularity
By Rachel Wallace
Humans have kept domesticated chickens since as far back as 10,000 years ago and are thought to have eaten eggs in some form for just as long. And in March of 2020, as businesses and public spaces closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans were buying more chickens than ever, with The New York Times reporting that hatcheries throughout the country were sold out of chicks due to the increased demand. The fact that people suddenly found themselves stuck at home with less to do was likely a contributing factor, as was the scarcity mindset that took hold during the early days of lockdown. (Remember when it was impossible to find toilet paper?) “It just seems like having a steady food source is a good idea right now,” an Austin-based musician told the paper at the time.
Though tending chickens seems like quite a rustic pastime, even the rich and famous have been filling their backyards with flocks, installing hen houses right alongside their in-ground pools and outdoor pizza ovens. In the second episode of the highly anticipated new Kardashians show on Hulu (which aired April 21), Khloé Kardashian and her friend Malika Haqq poke around Kylie Jenner’s backyard, where the 24-year-old makeup mogul has a raised wooden chicken coop that matches her daughter Stormi’s play structure.
We aren’t sure exactly when Jenner added this to her yard, but the reality star first posteda Silkie Bantam (a fluffy, cute breed that doesn’t produce many eggs) she called Eddie on Instagram back in 2017. It was this same year that AD photographed Simple Life sensation turned fashion designer Nicole Richie next to her chicken coop in Beverly Hills, which she built as “a miniature version of my own house in terms of color and style,” the mother of two said at the time. Richie has since moved, but confirmed that she brought her birds with her and built them a new coop. (The buyer of Richie’s previous house was none other than Adele, though we don’t know if the 15-time Grammy winner kept the matching coop intact or filled it with her own birds.)
Other early adopters of Los Angeles–based chickens include Ellen Pompeo, who showed AD the coop she has at her Martyn Lawrence Bullard–designed home (with landscaping by Inner Gardens) in 2014, and Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady. The supermodel and the football star have sold the eco-friendly limestone palace they had custom-built in Brentwood in the years since it graced the October 2013 cover of AD, but their terraced garden there included a chicken coop which they would collect eggs from with their children. “It’s so important for kids to understand where their food comes from,” Bündchen told AD at the time. “And whether you’re talking about a home or the land, it’s the same—if you nurture something, it will nurture you back.”
Perhaps there’s a correlation between the rising popularity of organic eating and wellness trends—especially in health-conscious Hollywood—and the chicken coop as a status symbol. After all, Bündchen is infamous for her extensive self-care routine (which includes oil pulling, meditation, and much more) and extremely healthy diet. But the bigger through line seems to be how fun and educational chickens can be for kids, as many of the stars mentioned here are parents to little ones.
“I love that my kids get to grow up this way,” former Laguna Beach star and Uncommon James founder Kristin Cavallari, who added a coop to her home in Nashville, tells AD.“They love [the chickens] and help when they can. Last summer, for whatever reason, the chickens wouldn’t go back into the coop at night, so the kids had to help me wrangle them all in.” Other young parents dabbling in the farmer life include Hilary Duff, Drew Barrymore, and Tiffani Thiessen, all of whom live in the Los Angeles area, as well as Jared and Genevieve Padalecki, who live in Austin.
Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the fact that two of the most famous young parents in the entire world—Prince Harry and Meghan Markle—showed off their very own chicken coop at their Montecito, California, home during their groundbreaking interview with Oprah Winfrey last year. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex no doubt had their son Archie, now two, in mind when constructing it, as evidenced by the sign they added: “Archie’s Chick Inn.” (They have since welcomed a second child, 10-month-old Lilibet—no word on if the sign has been changed.)
Chickens, we can only assume, don’t have too much of an opinion about the design of their houses. But you can bet that people with multimillion-dollar homes decorated by top talent don’t want an eyesore in their yard. At her 1920s Tudor-style home in Purchase, New York, The View cohost Sunny Hostin started with a hen house from Horizon Structures that resembled a cute, small cottage, but recently upgraded by renovating her carriage house to turn the entire thing into a large home for her hens and other animals.
“I wanted more room to expand my flock—and add ducks,” Hostin tells AD. “We added a pen for ducks with a tub, a rabbit hutch, a heating system, new windows, a hatchery, additional nesting boxes, and natural roosting bars.” The result is a stone structure with dark green barn doors and trim that Joanna Gaines (who, obviously, also has a chicken coop) would approve of.
Like many chicken owners, Hostin can name plenty of reasons why adding them to your family is worth the start-up cost. “The fresh eggs [are the best part] of course,” she says. “But also the companionship. Chickens can recognize human faces and have unique personalities.”
Read this story on ArchitecturalDigest.com.