Snyder and Martin's move brought about an entirely different lifestyle--one that involved a house, a yard, and for Snyder, the chance to launch his own firm, Mitchell Snyder Architecture, after first acquainting himself to Portland, Oregon, as a designer at Scott Edwards Architecture. His first project on his own: a chicken coop for the couple's new feathery friends.
The coop grew out of the garden. "We were so excited to have a yard," Snyder recalls. Martin started growing a vegetable bed and soon a friend and owner of Naomi's Organic Farm Supply suggested hens. "She got us excited about having chickens as an extension of our garden," Snyder says.
Portland permits each household up to three hens (no roosters), and in February 2009, Snyder had the plans in the works in Google SketchUp. Around the same time, the duo also got their chicks, housing them under lamps in the basement until the coop was completed. "We didn't know what they were going to be like," Snyder says. "But we didn't just get them for the eggs; they're really fun as pets, too."
Hens as clients, Snyder learned, are not too different from humans. "They have the same considerations of comfort and protection from the elements," he says. Chicken-raising guides recommend that each bird be given two square feet in the coop and four square feet in the run. Snyder's design is a four-foot cube with a four-foot-by-15-foot run.
Snyder finished the sleek-looking box with reclaimed cedar siding and ventilated it with two upper windows. On top, he added a green roof: "The living roof helps keep the coop cool, but mostly it was a chance to experiment and design something fun."
Inside, the coop is lined with oriented strand board (OSB) and fitted with cans of food and water. Though Snyder designed a large door so he and Martin can access the inside of the coop to clean it, he forgot that to get to the door, they'd have to crawl through the chickens' run. "That's the one think I would have changed," he says. "We're both pretty short but we still have to crouch down to get through."
In the warm months, each of the couple's three hens lays an egg a day. "It's a good thing we can only have a few chicken," Snyder says. "That'd be a lot of cholesterol to eat otherwise." Fortunately for Snyder and Martin, the hens' production slows to an egg per week in cool months (and some chickens stop laying eggs altogether in the winter). But even in the summer, the couple has plenty of friends happy to share a scramble.