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Chicken Tour: Not the “New Black”

July 12th, 2010 · 9 Comments ·

We had so much fun being one of the Host Coops on the Seattle Tilth City Chicken Coop Tour this weekend.  It was a warm sunny day, and there was a very strong turnout, about 150 people came through our backyard during the tour hours.  It was great to “talk chicken” with so many wonderful people, most of whom are thinking about chickens, many who already have them and want to “remodel” or see how other folks do things, and many who were just out enjoying the sun and gardens. We passed out the link to the online plans for our coop, which a surprising number of visitors had already seen on this blog.

Claire's sign welcomed people to the garden.

Among the many lovely people we met were Alison, whose delightful blog called A Bit of Butter features vintage recipes, and Jessi, an ecological landscaper with a beautiful website and a special interest in gardening with chickens.  The garden drew almost as much attention as the hens, and the whole day reminded me how the interest in connecting with food and nature through our home lives is such a deep-running current.

The flow of people in the garden was steady throughout the day.

Recently there was a long article in the Seattle Times that was rather critical about the recent popularity of backyard chicken-keeping.  The author cited concerns about odor, noise, and quoted folks who said things like, “If people want to keep chickens they should live in the country.”  In a media frenzy that has played up the positives of urban chickens, I welcome this article as adding some nuance to the choice of whether or not to keep chickens.  My hope is that all of us will consider ways to grow some of our own food from home, to find that even in cities we are deeply connected to life and soil.  But the worst thing that could happen is for the chicken “trend” to end up being just that–a “trend.”  Chickens should not be “The New Black.”  It takes more than initial enthusiasm to keep chickens–it takes commitment over time, and occasionally some tough choices (if you are vegetarians like us, what do you do when you chickens stop laying?).  That’s one of the reasons we were so happy to be part of the Coop Tour–the very best kind of community event, where people could gather to ask questions, share experience, pet chickens, nibble peas, plan and scheme, see the reality while dreaming big.

chickens, garden, urban farming

9 Comments so far ↓

  • megan

    What is your take on the vegetarian-elderly hen dilemma? We’ve thought about keeping chickens, but I’m just afraid we would end up with too many since we wouldn’t be slaughtering them at any point.

    • lyanda

      Hi Megan. There is no one answer to this question, and it’s definitely something you have to think about. Many zoos, including Seattle’s Woodland Park, will take older chickens–alas, not for the petting zoo, but to feed to the boa constrictors. We have some friends who did that. We are lucky in that I have an uncle who has a horse farm in Maple Valley. He takes our old chickens, and lets them roost in his barn at night along with the few hens he keeps, and wander the acreage. There are lots of coyotes, hawks, and raccoons, but I think it is a sweet, natural retirement for them.

  • Emily

    Hi – My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting your lovely coop. We met Tom and he was very kind in answering all our pressing hen questions. As I was showing my husband (Robert) your coop and plans, he realized that you played in Symphonettes together! Such a small town we live in! We’ll be basing our coop on your plans. Thank you for sharing them! I figure I have all Fall to get it built and then it will be ready come Spring. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for participating in the coop tour, it was both helpful and inspiring!

    • lyanda

      Thank you, Emily! What instrument does Robert play? Symphonette is such a great thing!

      • Emily

        Hi Lyanda – Robert plays violin. Our daughter is hoping to join next Fall also. We’ll see how it goes!

  • Bit of Butter

    Thanks for linking to your plans! We’re just getting started on the ‘plan’ for our backyard. We hope that next year we can be participants too!

  • SagaciousHillbilly

    Very cool. This is a great example of how we can ALL live closer to the Earth and grow our own, more healthy food. You don’t have to be rich to afford natural pure foods.

  • lyanda

    Emily–Robert! Of course! He’s a much better violinist than I am…

    Bit of Butter–you’re welcome. Can’t wait to hear about the progress of your own coop/garden–maybe next year we’ll visit your yard on the tour!

    Sagacious–Thanks!

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