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With its peaked cedar shake roof, rustic embellishments and weathered look, the Spear family’s hen house is a storybook home for their 10 chickens.

A Newcastle family’s pride of place is a storybook chicken coop crafted from reclaimed materials

By Carola Vyhnak Special to the Star

Wed., March 23, 2022 timer 3 min. read


When the little house blew away in a massive wind storm in the fall of 2019, Jordan Spear knew immediately he’d have to rebuild.

“It had a fairytale cottage look to it. My wife was heartbroken,” recalls the seasoned carpenter and DIYer, adding their best-laid plans for the vacant abode were also gone with the wind.

By the following spring, the new house was ready for occupancy. And it was a triumph from every angle.

“They love it,” Spear says of the 10 feathered inhabitants who moved into the 10-by-10-foot coop behind the family’s farmhouse in Newcastle, about 80 kilometres east of Toronto.

Crafted from rustic barn board and other reclaimed materials, it’s multi-purpose, practical and storybook-pretty. Spear’s wife Ashley uses it “to take a breather” with a coffee or glass of wine, while their two sons, Rylan, 11, and Grayden, nine, have hatched their own business venture selling the surplus dozens of eggs.

“We always planned to have chickens,” says Spear, explaining the need to replace the old coop.

“Building things comes naturally,” says the multi-skilled DIYer whose handy parents both know their way around a toolbox and are proficient at woodworking.

Spear, a health inspector for Durham Region, spends his off-hours building custom furnishings and restoring the 160-year-old farmhouse they bought in 2016. “Charm and uniqueness” aside, it’s still “more fixer than upper,” he jokes. (He shares some of his home projects and family’s experiences on Facebook and Instagram.)


With the family cooped up due to the pandemic, the hen house was a great project for the boys to help with, Spear says. With plans “to go all out,” he nailed it with a design that’s both functional and fanciful.

“I wanted it to look like an old barn, weathered like it’s always been there — kind of a cool look.”

With a 16-foot-high, peaked cedar-shake roof, dormer and even a working chandelier from the farmhouse attic, it’s pure poultry-in-motion.

“Everyone razzes me: ‘You went way overboard on this,’” he says with a laugh. “It’s decorated inside, which is kind of weird for a chicken coop.”

Half the interior space is for the birds while the other half is for human use, to store garden tools, putter or grab a few minutes of quiet time. Old bottles, baskets and other farm relics are displayed on the walls and shelves.

The structure was built from old barn board, flooring, shelving, windows and doors as well as wood Spear salvaged from the destroyed coop which had blown into a back field.

He prefers to use reclaimed materials because old timber has old-world charm and character that new stuff doesn’t. It’s also better for the planet and easier on the wallet.

These days, a two-by-four costs $7 while an old one goes for a buck, says Spear. The hen house cost less than $1,000, which included a few new items like hardware and pressure-treated lumber for the floor. Solidly constructed with proper footings — future wind storms, take note — the coop also has running water and electricity.

Spear is a fan favourite at the National Home Show, which returns this year after a two-year pandemic hiatus. The 10-day event takes place April 15-24 at Toronto’s Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place.

Spear will appear as a main stage speaker and as an expert in the DIY Centre, where he’ll demonstrate various skills while working on building projects. Visitors will have hands-on opportunities to get help and advice on the basics, whether it’s tool how-tos, design or DIY projects.

The biggest hurdle for beginners, according to Spear, is fear of power tools, especially among women who’ve been warned off by their husbands.

“Once they get over that fear, it’s awesome, their eyes light up,” he says, advising first-timers to learn about tools then try an easy project.

If you’re investing in tools, big box stores offer “cool little combo kits” that will start you off, suggests Spear, who’s also a handyman with advice about keeping hens housed and happy.


Carola Vyhnak is a Cobourg-based writer covering personal finance, home and real-estate stories. She is a contributor for the Star. Reach her via email:


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