Cover The feathery residents of the chicken shed designed by Goy Architects (image: Fabian Ong)

Goy Architects founder Goy Zhenru shares more about her unusual commission—she designed a dream home for the beloved chickens that also serves as a tranquil extension to a modern house in Singapore

When you consider your pets as part of your family, there is little that you won’t do for these beloved animals. For one couple, they went the distance for their feathery pets—they hired Goy Architects to build a dream home for their prized chickens in a style that would complement the modern design of their home in Singapore.

The house, which was designed and realised by Ipli Architects, features a minimalist concrete facade with sleek black details and ample use of wood to create a cosy and homely setting. When the clients asked to build an extension for their pets, the firm referred the owner to Goy Zhenru, founder of Goy Architects.

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“Ipli Architects did an awesome job; it is a modern house with timber characteristics, which faces the park, is surrounded by mature trees, and is a green space that’s elevated above road level,” shares Goy, commenting on the site.

Adds Goy: “The clients have a keen interest in physical and mental wellness. They like to be in nature, and have a soft spot for animals—it’s just a very cosy, naturalistic space that they’re living in.”

The family lives with a mini menagerie of animals that they have adopted over the years: a dog, a clowder of cats, a brood of chickens, and a tortoise. The commission started with a “catio” (a portmanteau of a patio designed for a cat) that was created when one of the felines could not get along with the rest and had to have its own area separated from the other cats.

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Pleased with the outcome of that earlier catio commission, the owners then enlisted Goy Architects to design a cosy hut for their chickens. This space had to be future-proofed so that it be converted into the wife’s ceramic studio in the future after the chickens pass on. It also incorporates storage for gardening tools at the back and had to be comfortably sized for the client to move around to tend to her pets. Additionally, the owner was clear that she wanted as much natural light as possible in the shed, and for it to provide shelter from the rain for the chickens.

“She wanted to make the structure very light and translucent, so we needed to think about ways to achieve this; we used chicken netting to make the envelope of the space. It’s a simple design that reflects the materials of the timber construction of the house itself,” shares Goy. There were however practical concerns with this porous design. “The problem is that the wild birds were trying to eat the food inside the chicken coop. We need to make sure that the gaps [in the netting] are not too big as the snakes are also appearing [on the estate].”

In terms of the overall design of the chicken hut, the architect knew it needed to be kept “very simple” but with thoughtful details. “The simple chicken coop is built in Chengal wood in a similar colour which echoes the main house's building material. It merges into the landscape with a respect for the existing tree onsite, where its roof was modified to allow the tree to remain through.”

The shed features a simple plastic corrugated roof in a frosted finish, and the Chennai wood used to build the chicken shed was stained in the same colour to match the main building. A pebbled-wash platform was constructed so that the chickens could rest on it in case of wet weather. The floor of the shed had to be close to the ground level, and lined with tree barks and sawdust. The firm also created ladders that the chickens could use their claws to perch onto. Additionally, a sink was installed in the coop that the owners could use after handling and caring for their pets.

The unusual commission had to accommodate other unique needs of chicken rearing, which Goy familiarised herself with through a close discussion with the owners. “One mistake that we made was that the proportion [of the shed] should be even smaller. The chickens need a hideaway; they need a place to roam but they like to be in a small space when they are resting. They would still [rest in] a small box within the chicken coop,” shares Goy.

Constructed in 2020, a year when most of us had spent a lot of time at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the clients enjoy tending to their pets in this specially-designed hut. “Chickens make great pets as they come when called and are affectionate, and love being cuddled. The dedicated, shaded, and comfortable space allows the integration of the owners and their pets to feel more in tune with their surroundings and connected to nature within their home. The sense of companionship increases, allowing the connection between human beings and animals to grow.”  

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