Iowa Alumni Magazine | December 2010 | People

The Unlikely Chicken Expert

By Shelbi Thomas
Meet Todd Brock, 92BA
PHOTO: DEBBIE BROCK

As a freelancer, Todd Brock has written everything from cheeseburger reviews to Mafia memoirs. Yet the Atlanta-area scribe never thought he'd first make it to bookstore shelves as co-author of Building Chicken Coops for Dummies.

"Giving instructions on how to work with tools, how to select materials, and how to actually build something? Those are topics I feel completely at ease with," says Brock, 92BA, who has written, directed, and produced HGTV and DIY television episodes on landscaping, home renovations, and gardening. "But chickens? I keep mine in the fridge until they're ready for the grill…."

Still, Brock was eager to accept the challenge when Wiley Publishing invited him to pen Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. The step-by-step guide comes at a time when a growing number of suburban Americans are raising chickens in their backyards to enjoy fresh eggs, save money on groceries, and practice sustainable living. With the help of his co-authors—a backyard chicken expert and a construction team leader—Brock spent five months writing the book, which debuted this past August.

The manual offers advice on tools and materials, as well as detailed plans for five different chicken coops that everyone from a newbie to a veteran chicken keeper can build. "It gives a good description of how to build a frame," says Brock. "The same principles can be used to build a tool shed or a house."

While Brock's chicken run is over, he readily anticipates his next out-of-the-ordinary gig. Already, he has worked as a consulting producer for a PBS gardening show, developed sports trivia for an online gaming site, and researched the history of Pac-Man. "I appreciate every day that I get to make a living on what I love doing," he says. "I honestly credit the UI for so much of that. To be in an environment where writers are encouraged and creativity is everywhere changed my life."