Burnet County couple builds roomy roost to teach grandkids about rural life
DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
BURNET — When Deborah and Dean Horton decided to build a chicken coop to give their grandchildren an appreciation of where food comes from and rural lifestyles, they didn’t know the undertaking would mean so much work — and a dash of notoriety.
“Yeah, it took us probably two months to build it,” Dean Horton said. “During the summer.”
Deborah Horton laughed a bit.
“We really didn’t know it was going to take so long or turn out like this,” she said looking at their chicken coop.
“This” is nothing like a normal chicken coop. Instead, it looks as if the chickens got a nice home in the country.
“Well, I thought if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right,” Dean Horton said. “And doing it right only took a little more work.”
The coop features stained cedar siding, a tin roof, two screened-in feeding areas and screened windows to allow in fresh air and sunshine. The stinky, dusty and dingy chicken coop many people remember from their childhoods shares only one thing with this upscale hutch: chickens.
Dean Horton enclosed the coop with cedar post and fencing. And people can relax in one of two chairs in the yard while watching the chickens.
“Our grandkids love to sit in the chairs, holding the cat and watching the chickens,” Deborah Horton said.
The Horton’s three grandchildren — 9-year-old Autumn, 6-year-old Cashton and 5-month-old Carlee — are the reason behind the construction project. The Hortons came from rural roots, even before settling on their Burnet County acreage on Park Road 4 about a year ago, but they noticed their grandchildren — though far from being city kids — didn’t hold those same country binds. So, the couple decided to do something about it.
They re-furnished an old cedar-log building that was on their property and turned it into the grandkids’ clubhouse, complete with a table, a shelf and a toy kitchen.
“They call it their ‘little house on the prairie’ when they come out here,” Deborah Horton said.
The Hortons even keep a horse along with all the necessary tack for the grandchildren to ride (well maybe not the 5-month-old, yet).
“Our kids grew up riding horses and rodeoing, so now it’s time for their kids,” Deborah Horton said.
The chicken coop, however, proved a challenging project. When the builders poured the concrete slab for the playhouse, Dean Horton had them add a smaller slab for what would become the coop. Then, when he found time this summer, he tackled the construction.
“This was all him,” Deborah Horton said.
He started with an idea of what he wanted the coop to look like. But as he went, he added things and made some adjustments
“I didn’t have an intricate plan of what I wanted, but I had a good idea about what I wanted it to look like,” he said.
At first, the two runs adjacent to the actual coop were uncovered. But Dean Horton decided to put tin roofs over them as well. Then, he remembered how old windows used to have counterweights to open and close them, so he built the coop’s doors using that concept so somebody could open and close them from outside.
“That way, you don’t even have to go into (the roost) to open the door,” he said.
And two rectangle doors below the windows open up into the chickens’ nests, so the Hortons or their grandkids can gather eggs from outside as well.
Despite all the amenities that allow them to take care of the chickens from outside the coop, the couple said there’s not much the two older grandchildren enjoy more than getting inside and trying to catch a chicken or two.
“They have a good time, and that’s why we built it,” Dean Horton said.
Visitors to the Hortons’ home often remark on what a nice chicken coop they have. But any requests for Dean Horton to build one for them are quickly turned down.
“Oh, no,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think I’ll build another one. I’ll give them some plans, but I’m not going to build one.”