“I started making chicken coops out of necessity,” said Askins, owner of Best Coops in Oakley, located at the corner of Sellers and East Cypress Road.
He’s been breeding chickens and selling their eggs, mostly silkies, Americanas and French black copper marrans, and making houses for them for more than 40 years. When friends took a gander at his creative works, they wanted nothing but the best for their own egg layers.
“I build about 300 a year,” said Askins, a retired high-end commercial tile contractor of 32 years. If it weren’t for a back injury, he’d still be laying tile, but the California native is much happier showcasing his creative side with custom creations. Mostly self-taught in woodworking, he does credit his first lessons from his junior high school woodshop: “what most schools are doing away with now.”
Depending on size and design, Askins’ chicken coops range in price between $275 and $3,000, and average about $1,000. He comes up with the designs himself, except for his popular 4x4 model, the brainchild of his late uncle, Bill Askins.
“He was a researcher for Purina Mills,” said Askins. “He ran a feed store in Oklahoma and always lived on a farm.”
Most clients choose one of his standard designs, some will ask for minor changes such as the removal of a nest box or perch, and others will direct Askins to match the paint of their home’s exterior. Orders take two to five weeks to fill.
Askin’s designs incorporates not only aesthetics and predator-proof features, but proper heat control, ventilation and dryness, which he believes contributes to the animals’ overall health and safety. It’s also why his competitors call him for advice about what proper materials to use for certain mammals, birds and reptiles.
Chicken coops aren’t all Askins makes. His portfolio includes pet urns and coffins, small bird houses, rabbit, turtle and raccoon enclosures, reptile homes – even patios for cats, called “catios.”
Not in it to get rich, Askins said it’s a great way to spend his down time: “I love the opportunity to work with my hands and be creative.”