Put a bird in it: The story of the Kenny Cooper chicken coop
Scott Smith did what a lot of Portlanders do when they’re looking for meaning in their lives. He took up gardening and raising chickens in his back yard. Only he combined poultry husbandry with another great passion in his life, the Timbers.
“I decided to get chickens last winter for the fresh eggs, to help control bugs in my garden and for their (ummm) ‘fertilizer,’" as he put it in an e-mail. Smith got three chicks in February and set about building them a coop. With Timbers fever in the air at his Alberta Arts District home, he and his friends decided to dedicate the coop to the first Timbers player to score a goal in Major League Soccer.
That honor, as we all know, fell to number 33, Kenny Cooper against the Colorado Rapids.
“When he scored we didn’t scream and yell, we looked at each other and said ‘Of course, of course!’” said Smith’s friend Vincent Aarts, a former wilderness firefighter who helped build the coop.
Aarts’ wife Lindsey painted the logo, copied from a season ticket, and the numbers. The Kenny Cooper Coop was open for business. Soon Poopon, Penny and Attilah the Hen (three hens are allowed without a permit by city law) were scratching about under the gaze of a framed photo of KFC.
“We’d get the most work done on away game days when people would come over to watch the game and then go out back for a work party,” said Smith. To work on the coop he took a week’s paid vacation from investigating crimes for the Department of Environmental Quality. But after “reading a couple of books and a couple of websites,” Smith needed help. When Chris Cline, a contractor friend, offered his know-how, the lumber budget went from $120 to about $700.
“There was no way I could not overbuild it,” said Cline. “It’s the smallest thing I’ve ever done.”
“It’s built solid,” added Smith. “If there’s an earthquake I’m running out the house to the chicken coop.” When clearing the dirt they found a small log and decided to saw off a slice for every goal scored by the honoree.
“We love Kenny Cooper, he’s the Energizer Bunny of the Portland Timbers," said Smith "When the eggs start coming he’s welcome to make himself an omelet here any time for good luck.”
A green Timbers flag flies most of the time, although after a defeat it is temporarily replaced by a black flag that reads “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”
Smith and his neighborhood friend Grant Morehead have been season ticket holders since 2003 and 2004, respectively. They sit in Section 206 above the Timbers Army. Smith used to be known as the “Bugle Guy.” He played bad bugle in Section 126, down by the old west side beer garden.
Friends still gather at the NW 20th Avenue apartment of Aarts near JELD-WEN Field, although he is often left home alone, listening to the crowd from his yard. He missed out on season tickets this year, but will sit behind a pylon if he has to. His wife Lindsey played soccer passionately in school in Florida but didn’t know soccer madness until she married into the Timbers Army.
In making the case for Cooper, Smith, Morehead and Aarts reel off the names of forwards from the Timbers USL era. Scot “With One T” Thompson--now a Timbers community ambassador--remains their hero.
Smith says he only really got into Timbers soccer when he saw Thompson’s combination of brains and athleticism, which stood out from everyone else on the field. It was in 2002 that Smith and a Coast Guard buddy actually got their first ticket to a game; freebies because they were in the service.
He remains jazzed about the Timbers despite their ups and downs in their inaugural MLS season.
“This season has been a blast,” said Smith. “I loved the team when there were only 2,500 going because it was ours. What’s mostly different now is the number of people who think the Timbers is theirs. It’s so much fun to see 18,000 people at games.”
Today the residents of Cooper Coop spend their days behind chicken wire, safe fromraccoons, rats, hawks and coyotes. They should lay an egg a day for 2-4 years. Plus, these chickens are green: they eat kitchen scraps plus chicken feed, a $20 bag of which should last the summer.
Oh, and Attilah is an Americana chicken which means that when she matures, she’ll lay green eggs.