From Timber Packing Crates to Chicken Coops

Amateur chicken keeper, Jess Browning, met with this legendary coop-builder to discuss the joys of keeping chickens, bird safety and how securing your chickens can be achieved on a budget.

My parents were absolutely distraught when I announced my intention to be a chicken farmer. After years of proudly proclaiming my dreams of being a doctor, at the age of 10 it seemed that all of that was mere posturing and I now wished for a humbler, pastoral existence. Understandably, my middle-class parents were disappointed at first, but then struck upon the idea of realising my dreams before they’d reached fruition.

We were lucky enough to have a large back garden and sympathetic neighbours who didn’t mind the occasional squawk in the morning, so one day my parents drove me out to a farm and we purchased three chickens. Gerald, Tom and Arthur were the best gifts I had ever been given and an early indicator that I would fully embrace a non-binary approach to gender in later life. I wasn’t sure whether my parents had the intention of scaring me off the idea of keeping chickens for a career or not, but at some point they also developed quite the attachment to these birds which led to us investing in rather fancy custom-coop from a fledgling independent coop builder Richard Best.

Over a decade has passed since that day and whilst my first brood of chickens have long since departed this earthly plane, the excellent coop remains, now inhabited by a new trio of happy bantams.

I met up with the creator of these sturdy, high-value coops to talk all things chicken keeping and how his work started with just a handful of spare wooden packing crates:

It’s been over 10 years, so I doubt you remember building my chicken coop, it’s a 3-bird multi-roost with a 4x4m cage enclosure?

It’s been a long time, but I think I do recall building something like that for a little girl’s first few chickens. It sticks in my mind because at that time I was rarely doing coops, most of my time was spent doing hutches or runs for rabbits, a much more popular pet for young children. I remember being pleased that there were some children who still cared about the humble chicken.

I’ve still got that coop! My third generation of hens are currently laying regularly and are very happy, what do you think makes your coops so good at their jobs?

I wouldn’t claim to be an expert in animal psychology or even chicken keeping, but I have spent the majority of my life building things out of wood, whether that be simple packing crates (I sourced mine from Barnes & Woodhouse), bunk beds, chairs or chicken coops! One of the most important things that I’ve learnt from my career is that you get the best products by using quality materials and sound designs.

When I first started out I was using left over bits and pieces of packing crates, which were made of surprisingly decent timber. When I ran out of this stuff, I went to buy some more material of the same calibre and found that it was significantly more expensive than I’d initially thought. I had to make a decision whether or not to sacrifice quality in order to help my bottom line.

And you didn’t – which is why my coop is still standing over 10 years later.

Exactly! Although you’ve not had a reason to contact me again for another coop, I’m sure you’ve told others about where you got yours from and that’s led to more enquiries. I owe the success of my business to both my own handiwork and the passionate chicken keeping community who have been so kind to me over the years.