Building a better chicken coop on the North Fork

North Fork Egg Farm's chicken coops were designed by architect Meryl Kramer. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

North Fork Egg Farm’s chicken coops were designed by architect Meryl Kramer. (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)

They say that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. But as the popularity of raising backyard chickens continues to grow, many North Forkers are opting to build their own chicken coops or hen houses — either from scratch or repurposed materials. Here are four decidedly one-of-a-kind examples:

Eight years ago, Matt and Marilyn Pasierb of East Marion launched North Fork Egg Farm with 35 free-range hens. Today, the Southold operation is home to 450. 

The Pasierbs keep Red Sex Link chickens, which lay brown eggs, and White Leghorns, which lay white ones. After attending a Virginia seminar by farming guru and author Joe Salatin, the Pasierbs hired Mattituck architect Meryl Kramer to execute their vision for the perfect chicken coop.

“We had never done anything like this before,” Ms. Pasierb said. “So our contractor and I met with Meryl Kramer, who had done an addition to our house.”

The couple’s design is based on the Salatin model, which advocates sustainable agriculture. They decided their coops would sit on trailers so they could easily be moved in order to avoid overgrazing.

“We needed to build a coop on a trailer, choose what materials to use and keep predators out, as well as create shade and ventilation for the chicks,” Ms. Kramer said. “The Pasierbs had a very clear idea of what they wanted, so I mostly facilitated and we worked together to execute it.”

“Meryl helped because she’s got the conceptual thing,” Ms. Pasierb said. “She tweaked the design, making the roof angle more to get more run-off, and binding the floor a certain way.”

Ms. Kramer installed vents and windows to increase airflow, keeping the hens cool in the summer. In the winter, Plexiglass covers the openings to keep the chickens warm. One side of the henhouse opens up entirely, letting in more light and air and easing the process of collecting eggs. Since the coops are on wheels, they create shade from below on hot days and can be moved in case of inclement weather.

“In the winter we’ll move the coops by the house, so they’ll eat what’s left over in the garden,” Mr. Pasierb said. “Come spring, we’ll move the coops and fence that area off. We have enough space, so we don’t need to do that more than twice a year.”

Chicken coop nesting boxes at Shinn Estate Vineyards made out of old wine barrels. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Chicken coop nesting boxes at Shinn Estate Vineyards made out of old wine barrels. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

When it comes to using repurposed materials, nothing beats the chicken coop nesting boxes at Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck, which were built using wine barrels.
Winery co-owner Barbara Shinn, who is a firm believer in using what you have on hand, said they were a last-minute creation.

“I was getting ready to have chickens, but didn’t have a coop,” Ms. Shinn said. “So I thought, ‘What do we have around here that would work without spending a lot of money?’ ”

Ms. Shinn decided to stack old wine barrels, which her husband, winery co-owner David Page, tweaked to be more chicken-friendly.

“We put little perches in them,” she said. “They sleep in there every night and love them.”

The Shinns keep Bantam chickens, which are a smaller breed.

“Our barrels are good for small chickens,” Ms. Shinn said.

Joyce Barry and her dog Kubota with the flock of Buff Orpington chickens at The Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast in Cutchogue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch(

Joyce Barry and her dog Kubota with the flock of Buff Orpington chickens at The Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast in Cutchogue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch(

If you want to create a repurposed chicken coop that is pleasing to the eye, take inspiration from The Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast in Cutchogue. Their coop was made from an old playhouse that once belonged to owner Joyce Barry’s niece.

“We retrofitted and fixed it up into the chicken coop about five years ago,” Ms. Barry said.

The Barrys keep Buff Orpingtons, a British breed of chickens bred for their meat. The Barrys, however, only use them to supply guests with fresh eggs.

Mark Bridgen's chicken coop with Solomon's Seal on roof and a solar panel in Southold. (Credit: barbaraellen Koch)

Mark Bridgen’s chicken coop with Solomon’s Seal on roof and a solar panel in Southold. (Credit: barbaraellen Koch)

Mark Bridgen, professor and director of Horticultural Research at Cornell University, designed his Southold coop to be green — literally.

The roof is covered with plants like Solomon Seal, a native wildflower that grows in the woods, making it the perfect shade plant.

“Green roofs moderate temperature,” Mr. Bridgen said. “It keeps the henhouse cooler in the summer and warmer in winter, acting as an insulating layer.”

The rest of the backyard coop was built using simple materials like white pine two-by-fours and plywood. It also features a solar panel.

“We built it from scratch four years ago,” Mr. Bridgen said. “We have a lot of deer, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to have some plants in the garden.”

Mr. Bridgen keeps several types of chickens, including Ameraucanas, which lay blue eggs, and Marans, a French breed.