Monday, April 6, 2015

Coop tours

This article about Chicken Coop Tours is in the current issue of Backyard Poultry magazine. The magazine has a nice map showing where the listed tours are being  held.

Kimberly Stein's coop in Fort Collins, Colorado
Kimberly's chickens investigate their new water feature.
Backyard chicken keepers are proud of their chickens and their coops. Inviting the public along for a coop tour has become a popular way to get chicken folks together. It’s fun, and gives everyone a chance to exchange ideas.

Many places hold their tours in the spring, but others wait until summer or combine them with harvest events. Check around your community to find out when and where the local tour is.

Joshua Heiling showed off his coop in Madison.
Madison, Wisconsin’s Mad City Chickens have been sharing coop ideas for more than ten years. They’ve gone digital, posting a Google map for participants to follow on their phones.

In Atlanta, the eighth annual Urban Coop Tour attracts around 300-500 visitors to 14 coops. Backyard chicken keepers often keep other critters and livestock, such as guineafowl, turkeys and rabbits. Bees are popular.

Claire Reeve makes use of a narrow space next to her Atlanta home.
“It’s almost become an urban farm tour,” said organizer Anne-Marie Anderson, who has chaired the event for the Wylde Center for the past four years.

Ms. Anderson got involved with chickens through her gardening business. She didn’t know anything about chickens, but got some a few years ago and now teaches chicken classes as well as organizing the coop tour. She currently shares ten chickens with her neighbors. They include Orpingtons, Sussex, Easter eggers, a Jaerhon and a Black Copper Marans rooster.

“He was a surprise,” she said.

In Fort Collins, Colorado, the Sustainable Living Association sponsors both a Tour de Coop and a Tour de Farms. The Sustainable Living Center championed Fort Collins’ legal acceptance of backyard chickens, which clarified the requirements in 2013. Chicken keeping is relatively new, so they are learning as they go. About 35 showed up for the eight-mile bike tour of eight backyard coops in 2014. A bike technician was on hand to help with mechanical problems. The tour concluded with a locally-sourced organic dinner.

“People wanted to talk about issues they had had with predators, feed, medications and unfamiliar behavior, like broodiness,” Kimberly Stein, program director, said. “They were excited about new breeds they hadn’t heard of. A Polish hen named Tina Turner was a sensation.”

In Raleigh and Cary, North Carolina, more than 1,000 turn out for the tour. It’s a fund-raiser for Urban Ministries as well as a chicken event. It has evolved over its ten-year history, into an event celebrating humane animal care, local sustainable food and community involvement. Its Coop Carnival in 2014 highlighted nonprofit agencies that benefit both humans and animals.

"My husband went all out on design," said Marian Crabb of Decatur. "He started by thinking of the arches we'd seen in French cathedrals. Over time those arches began to take on the shapes of eggs. A construction miscalculation then cracked the egg. These shots are from the construction process two years ago. The doors to the upper coop are now fried eggs!"
“Non-profits and sponsors had booths at the carnival, and we offered food and entertainment as well,” said organizer M’Liss Koopman. “All with a chicken theme, of course.”

In Tucson, Arizona, the Food Conspiracy Co-op sponsors the City Chickens Coop Tour in December. Water’s scarce there, so using less is a theme at the sites on tour, showcasing features such as composting toilets, aquaculture systems and both photovoltaic and passive solar systems. The tour includes Tucson Botanical Gardens’ coop, the coop of Watershed Management Group’s Lisa and Catlow Shipek and one at thriving midtown urban Dreamflower Farm. ReZoNation Farm in Avra Valley has mobile coops and visitors can see the coop at Drachman Montessori Magnet School Ecology Program, winner of Sustainable Tucson’s Green School Recognition. 

In Norwell, Massachusetts, the South Shore Natural Science Center sponsors the Hen House Hop, a tour of local coops that starts at the center. Friends of a Feather 4-H members are on hand to share backyard chickens pointers for success. Coops include local solutions to predator issues and surviving New England’s cold, wet weather. Tickets are sold to benefit the center’s Jose Carriero Children’s Garden, where children of all ages can get their hands in the dirt and learn where food comes from. The center has an on-site Nature Center Preschool.

Eugene’s Visit Coop Town USA shows diverse coop designs, ranging from high tech to simple and utilitarian. With about 3,000 locals keeping chickens, it’s easy to find coops for the tour.

“The coops on display are generally diverse, ranging from high tech to pretty designs to simple and utilitarian,” said Bill Bezuk of Eugene Backyard Farmer

In Boise, Idaho, the 2014 Tour de Coop included a raffle that sold a custom built coop complete with feed and four chicks, two original artworks and other items. The event raised over $3,000 for the Bishop Kelly High School Scholarships Fund.

 “The people who get involved are an interesting, varied mix,” Ms. Anderson of Atlanta said. “Chicken people are easy-going, bubbly and vibrant.”

Chicken coop tours

Keeping a few hens in the backyard has become so popular that advocates in many cities have organized tours of local coops. This list highlights some of them. Check around your area to find out whether your area has one. If not, perhaps you are the one to get it started!

Atlanta, Georgia, Urban Chicken Coop Tour, March 27, 28, 29

Austin, Texas, Funky Chicken Coop Tour, April 4,

Dallas, Texas, A Peep at the Coops, Sunday in May, 

Davis, California Tour de Cluck, May

Denver, Colorado, first week of October,

Fort Collins, Colorado, May 15 or 16, Tour de Coop,  

Phoenix, Arizona Tour de Coops Valley Permaculture Alliance, November

Tucson, Arizona City Chickens Coop Tour, December

Davis, California Tour de Cluck, May,

Fort Collins, Colorado, Tour de Coop, 15 or 16 May,

Chicago, Illinois Windy City Coop Tour, September 19-20

Boise, Idaho Tour de Coop September,  

Raleigh/Cary North Carolina Tour D’Coop May 16 

Monmouth and Independence, Oregon Coop Tour July

Eugene, Oregon Visit Coop Town USA, 23 May

La Pine, Oregon Coop and Garden Tour, second Saturday in August

Seattle, Washington City Chickens Coop Tour, July,

Madison, Wisconsin Mad City Chickens City-Wide Coop Tour, June

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