Cooped up in luxury

Staff writer

When Stephanie Ax and Larry Lago got engaged, one of the things Lago said he would enjoy was space to raise chickens as he did when he was a child.

“He loved taking care of them and having them around,” Ax said. “He said he thought they were relaxing.”

The couple fenced in a secluded area behind the garage in Ax’s back yard and began thinking about building a coop for the poultry.

“We collaborate on all our home projects,” she said. “Once I knew he wanted a chicken house I was researching them on Google and Pinterest. There are all shapes, sizes, and colors of chicken coops. One that I saw had murals painted on the interior walls. That inspired me to create an 8-foot-by-11-foot mural on the back wall of the garage to complement the fancy digs Larry was going to build for the chickens.”

Within the fenced area, Lago built a square coop with an egg-shaped window in the door. The building houses a roost and Lago plans to add a nesting area and insulation to the interior walls.

The area is enclosed to keep out neighborhood cats and other predators.

Ax and Lago have raised 13 hens since they were newborn chicks.

“We have two buffs and the rest are Rhode Island Reds,” she said. “Larry has a special relationship with them. They peck at his watch and his shoelaces. When he snaps his fingers, they come to him to be picked up. They like to be hugged and get some daily attention.”

To design the mural on the garage wall, Ax used an art technique called Trompe l’oeil, which means “to deceive the eye.” Images toward the front of the mural are large and they get progressively smaller toward the middle of the painting. The impression is that the viewer can see for a long distance.

Ax said it took two months, working every weekend, to complete.

“I always loved to draw and paint in three dimensions, so this was a great chance to work on a large canvas,” she said. “I had never done the Trompe l’oeil technique, but I enjoyed every minute of it.”

And what about the chickens? Do they seem to care if they are looking at art work that fills such a large space?

Ax pointed to the large rooster painted at the left edge of the mural and said, “Well, I am not sure if they appreciate art, but we’ve caught several of these gals sort of checking out this male, so yeah, I’d guess they like the view.”

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