There’s a smell in the air at the Vastas’ property — the smell of freshly cut wood and the unappetizing stench of chicken leavings.

Manny Vasta, Patrick Shelledy and Kelly Biswell are building a five-star chicken coop.

This isn’t just any chicken coop. This coop has linoleum flooring, a tile roof, a long chicken run outside and several large paintings of chickens and roosters, painted by Kathleen Vasta and Ky and Kelly Biswell.

It took about a week to complete the chicken coop. We got the chickens — two light Brahmas, two Rhode Island reds, two Americanas, one buff Orrington and one Wyandotte — a few days before we finished. The chickens were only 2 days old. We have to keep them in a box with a heating lamp until they are about 2 and a half weeks old. They start laying eggs in about 18 weeks.

Taking care of the chicks is really fun. Every day we take them out and let them walk around in the living room for an hour or so. We’re hoping it will pay for itself by 2011. We have six people on the property who will eat the eggs, and we have eight chickens. Each chicken lays about one egg a day, so there should be enough for all of us.

If I were you and had a bit of land, I’d build a chicken coop. It’s healthy because, on chicken farms, the chickens aren’t usually fed quality food, and are always cramped in one small place.

— Kelly Biswell is a student at Santa Barbara Charter School.