Your Home | Gardens

A Weston family’s home has a farmlike feel, complete with chickens

Backyard or homestead? A little of both, actually, in this spacious backyard.

Rosemary Fletcher
Comfy outdoor furniture surrounds a built-in fire pit, which is made from the same granite blocks as the nearby wall and topped with bluestone. Echoing the paving material used in the front of the house, the back patio was constructed with select bluestone from New York. Long granite slabs form steps to the covered porch that wraps around the house.
Webb Chappell for the Boston Globe
“The fire pit recalls old-fashioned campfires,” says landscape architect Dan Solien. “We approached the project in the spirit of creating a great place for family activities and cherished childhood memories.”

Despite his handsome chicken coop bustling with 14 Buff Orpington hens and raised beds filled with thriving vegetables, Eric Svenson insists, “I’m not actually a farmer.” But when he’s not at the office, you’ll find him collecting eggs from his “girls” and tending his organically grown produce. He refers to his newfound hobby as the modern-day version of unwinding after work with a drink. “It’s my way of decompressing,” he says.

Svenson and his wife, Sarah, along with daughters Alida, 9, and Juliet, 7, have the quintessential suburban setup in their Weston backyard. In addition to the agricultural trappings, requisite swing set, and walking path that starts at the house and meanders to the rear of the 2-acre property, a newly constructed bluestone patio functions as the heart of the outdoor fun.

Using the same team that built a multi-generational gathering place for their extended family on Cape Cod — Matt Schiffer of Hutker Architects, Dan Solien of Horiuchi Solien Landscape Architects, and Michael Piering of Landscape Collaborative — the Svensons began by commissioning a farmhouse-style house along with landscaping that complemented it. The bluestone patio — and the chickens — came later.


The family lived in the house for about a year to determine how they would use the yard, which is surrounded by a woodland buffer. They wanted a sunny place to relax and be social. As for their feathered friends, Svenson says, “it’s really just for fun, an opportunity to do something new. We’re a curious family.” They’re “growing” eggs, he says, with the chickens an extension of the vegetable garden.


Webb Chappell for the Boston Globe
While the family enjoys caring for the flock (and eating the eggs), they’ve opted not to name the birds. “The first one we named was the first to die,” says homeowner Eric Svenson. “It caused a lot of upset.”
Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Chicken coops have become popular additions to backyard gardens. For many, keeping hens for eggs means knowing where your food comes from, building community, and connecting with nature. We asked two experts for advice on getting started.

Gretchen Munafo, lead educator at Chickadee Seed & Feed in Walpole, reminds would-be chicken keepers that roosters aren’t needed for chickens to lay eggs. In fact, many towns don’t allow them. She recommends buying chicks from a reputable feed store, where they’ve been sexed and vaccinated, rather than trying to hatch them.

You can also purchase online. Julie Rawson, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association, suggests newbies acquaint themselves with the many varieties available by taking a look at Murray McMurray, an Iowa hatchery specializing in rare breeds.

 Start with six; chickens are social beings and require a flock. Gentle Buff Orpingtons are the “golden retrievers of chickens.” Munafo calls them “fluff-bottom love machines!” With baby chicks, it’s OK to mix types. Older hens must be introduced to a flock gradually.


 Hens are constantly producing eggs, so include a calcium supplement such as ground oyster shells in a diet of organic grains. They’ll eat table scraps — meat, veggies, and fruit. Munafo feeds hers kale, dandelion greens, and collards.

 Finally, protect them from predators, including hawks and neighborhood dogs, and provide ample space. Rawson says, “Chickens are great foragers; they like grass and love to eat insects.”


Webb chappell for the Boston Globe
Eric and daughter Alida coax a chicken off the roof of the cedar coop, which Eric ordered ready-made online. It has a vinyl-tile floor for easy cleaning and an enclosed run (which Eric made), but he also allows the birds to roam freely. He has even trained them to come running when he rings a bell.

Rosemary Fletcher
The honed-bluestone-topped bar was built to accommodate a wood-burning Argentine-style grill. Low-voltage LED lamps help illuminate nighttime gatherings.

Rosemary Fletcher
The stone sink, used to wash vegetables and grilling utensils, sits atop the same Corinthian granite pillars that accent the passageway in the wall. “We didn’t plan it,” says homeowner Eric Svenson. “An extra slab was mistakenly ordered, so we cut it in half and used it as the base.”

Send comments to