The $1300 Chicken Coop: Williams-Sonoma Goes Agrarian

Williams Sonoma chicken coop photo
©. Williams-Sonoma

© Williams-Sonoma

Whenever we write about fancy chicken coop designs or new urban beehives, the hardier back-to-the-landers among us invariably pour scorn over yuppie hippie wannabes and their expensive tastes.

But given the fact that we'd all be better off if more of us grew our own food and understood where it comes from, and given that some folks are willing to pay above-the-odds for products they don't have to make themselves and fit in with their own style and aesthetics, whose to begrudge the richer greenies among us their right to spend what they like on their gardening supplies? After all, I'd rather see someone drop a large amount of cash on a fancy chicken coop than on another SUV.

Either way, this debate is likely to get dredged up again as Williams-Sonoma launches its line of Agrarian gardening supplies. From chicken coops through beehives to seeds, there's some nice looking—if expensive—stuff here. There is also some pointless fluff.

Let's take a look.

The Alexandria Chicken Coop and Run
Pictured above, the Alexandria mobile chicken coop (aka a chicken tractor) and run is handcrafted in the USA from certified-sustainable wood. At $879.95 for the coop, and $399.95 for the run, I can't imagine there are many places where you couldn't hire a carpenter to build you something equally beautiful for a fraction of the cost—but as I argued above, that is not the point. If this means more 1%ers start keeping their own hens, then I am all for it. I wonder what eggs taste like when chickens are fed leftover caviar anyway?

Williams Sonoma beehive photo

© Williams-Sonoma
The Backyard Beehive
During my stint as a failed beekeeper, I spent a good few hundred dollars on hives, bees and equipment. A starter kit from Williams-Sonoma would have cost me $499.95, but at least I would have had a beautiful copper roof on my hive.

My one concern, having demonstrated first hand that ill-trained hobbyists can neglect their bees to death, is whether kits like these encourage folks with an overly romantic notion of beekeeping to take it up before they are ready. But then, who am I to judge?

agrarian shiitake log photo

© Williams-Sonoma
Shiitake Mushroom Log
This one might be a tasty gift, but it is a little odd if we are going to talk about green living. For $30, plus shipping, Williams-Sonoma will send you a hardwood log inoculated with shiitake mushroom spawn. Having inoculated my own shiitake logs, I can attest to the joy of mushroom growing. But to be shipping around hardwood logs for the mushroom fruits that will grow out of them seems to have gotten the whole food miles concept a little backwards in my book.

agrarian twine photo

© Williams-Sonoma
Garden Twine
OK, this is where it really does get a little silly. For $14.95 you can buy some twine in a can. Enough said. And don't even get me started on the $16 heirloom tomato plant...

All-in-all, it is a fascinating sign of the times that William-Sonoma is offering all the trappings of the back-to-the-land lifestyle, albeit at a premium price. And while some of the items really are incredibly expensive, there are also some solid looking pieces of equipment that should serve their owners well. Yes, you could build them for cheaper yourself, or find their equivalent at your local garden center. But for those who like Williams Sonoma's aesthetic and have the cash to spare, I say all power to you if you want to house your chickens in luxury.

But please, do go buy your twine at the hardware store. Feel free to send me a check if the money you save starts burning a hole in your pocket...