A €1,174 Chicken Coop for the Bourgeois Farmer

Allison Guy
December 3rd 2012

Long for farm-fresh eggs on the table? Dream about going to bed each night worrying about racoons, rats and foxes? Like the feeling of scraping chicken shit off your hands? For the low price of €1,174, upscale cooking supplier Williams-Sonoma will furnish you with a rustic chicken coop for your backyard flock.

Like children's playhouses, the complete line of Williams-Sonoma chicken coops enable suburbanites and weekend warriors to enact deeply emotional fantasies – except here, they're not fantasies of princely wealth or futuristic space exploration, but of preindustrial simplicity. Most fantasies are aggrandizing. The bourgeois farmer's fantasy is one of humility, of dirt and labor. And as with all fantasies, this one is only loosely grounded in fact.

Made from "solid western red cedar custom milled by a local, family-run saw mill," the coop has been manufactured to appear authentic. The integrated flower planter, utterly out-of-place in a real farm, only adds to the sense of darling, old-world charm. This is not a coop for anyone serious about producing eggs. This is the coop that a storybook Old McDonald would own. It's a tiny factory that produces egg-shaped symbols of pastoral ideal and moral superiority.

Ludicrously expensive "designer" farming equipment is not just some silly offshoot of our modern love of all things artisanal, organic and quaint. We've been silly for centuries. As far back as 1783, Marie Antoinette herself ordered the construction of the idyllic Hameau de la Reine, which was, in essence, a farming-themed playground. Hameau de la Reine featured a constructed meadow of wild flowers, buildings designed to look adorably haphazard, a dairy, and chicken coops. So if you feel the urge to spend big bucks for a Williams-Sonoma chicken mansion, remember: "Let them eat eggs" just might be the new "let them eat cake".

Chicken coop story via Acculturated.

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