To make an original statement with yard art, think beyond fountains, globes and statuary. Add chicken coops to be chic. These outbuildings can amuse and enhance while providing shelter for fowl.

“Raising chickens is a different hobby now than it was in the past,” said Matthew Wolpe, who with fellow designer Kevin McElroy wrote “Reinventing the Chicken Coop.” (Storey Publishing, 2012).

Many of those who choose to raise backyard chickens today “are urban dwellers with no traditional (poultry) background, people bringing a fresh approach who want their chicken coops to be more like accessories to their houses,” he said. “They believe the coops should be at the front of the house rather than hidden.”

Once you have the essentials down — the egg boxes, a screened run, a perch, ventilation and feeding stations — a chicken coop can be whatever you want it to be, Wolpe said.

Chicken coops look best when designed to fit a particular yard or setting. That also leaves room for innovative ways to collect eggs or more easily move manure into compost systems.

Jenny Patty-Caldwell used a coffin-shaped door and cedar shakes reminiscent of fairy-tale houses or Dr. Seuss when creating her family’s small “Crooked Coop” in Clinton, Wash.

The gnome-like home was a popular stop on a recent self-guided Whidbey Island Coop Tour that featured a half-dozen eye-catching chicken houses and open-air enclosures or runs. Some incorporated folk art, others used recycled materials (a homemade truck canopy, flooring from a former Seattle department store), and several featured skylights and systems for diverting and using rainwater.

Still others have installed solar power in their coops, along with timers that turn lights on and off and open and close doors.

Online:

http://bit.ly/1azbrq5