'Chickens are the new black': Urban hen house proves a winner

Ever heard of a spent hen? That's an ex-battery hen, and a clever design to help these chooks recover recently won Aucklander Stacey Kenny a Luminary Award, the top prize handed out by Red Dot.

stacey kenny nest urban hen houseEver heard of a spent hen? That's an ex-battery hen, and a clever design to help these chooks recover won Aucklander Stacey Kenny a Luminary Award, the top prize handed out by Red Dot, last month.

Kenny was one of three nominees worldwide eligible for the award, thanks to her Nest Urban Hen House entry – the final project for her design degree at Massey University.

"This project's helped me realise where I really like to focus on and that's designing things that change how we view our environment," she says.

Her hen house was designed for people in cities and allows spent hens to recover their productivity and continue to lay eggs.

As well as encouraging these hens to start producing eggs again, she says the purpose of the design is highlighting the relationship between the family and the food they consume.

"After talking to a lot of people, they said to me one of the key issues is that they don't want their backyard getting mucked up, which is completely fair enough. So I made that one of my key things to go out and solve."

The hen house rotates 360 degrees, contains an adjustable light, and is intended to be turned a little every few days, which she says stops worms and keeps the grass fresh for the hens and reduces the impact.

It also means owners have to get out there and get hands on.

"Everyone said 'why don't you automate the rotating feature'? I didn't want them standing there with a remote from the kitchen ... I want them to go out and interact."stacey kenny nest urban hen house

Kenny, who recently moved to Ponsonby, says she's noticed the area isn't exactly short on hens.

"Chickens are the new black," she says. "There's a definite need for some trendy hen houses."

She notes that traceability is also pretty hot right now – knowing where your food comes from, and all the better if its local.

"I think that's why my project was so successful - it's a trending topic at the moment."

Kenny says as a result of winning, she's been encouraged to put herself out there and a lot of doors have opened up. She's met some cool people, attended some neat events, and done a few interviews (like this one).

"It's given me a massive confidence boost in my design abilities," she says. "Like a lot of students coming straight out of uni you don't have a lot of confidence because you're very fresh."

The project was part of her honours degree, with the first half of the year spent researching and the second designing.

Kenny built one half size hen house - it had to fit through the doors to get to various exhibitions - but won't be pursuing it to the next stage right now as she decided against patenting the idea.

She's currently working for the family business, CS For Doors, but hopes to travel overseas next year.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).