I’m not the only one raising chickens in the city. Far from it. And last weekend, I saw it firsthand. That’s because Saturday was the 2012 Twin Cities Chicken Coop Tour.
Dozens of chicken raising city dwellers opened their backyards to fellow fowl owners and the curious who want to know how and why their neighbors are picking their eggs out of nest boxes instead of the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
Jay and I made five stops in St. Paul, navigating the streets and watching for signs leading us to the coops. But as much as we wanted to learn from our hosts, we found they were also seeking information from us. At every stop, fellow visitors and the homeowners wanted to know if we have chickens, how many, what breeds they are and how they are doing.
At our first stop, we saw this fabulously modern coop. The hens who reside here roam the yard when their humans are home. We’ve been expecting to find our first eggs when our feathered ladies reach about six months old, but the couple at this home told their birds started laying a month earlier than that. Hope!
Coops come in all shapes and sizes. At our second tour stop, we found a walk-in run attached to a cabin-like coop. And, surprise! An oval shaped breakfast package nestled in the nesting box. A lovely reminder of the real reason these little ladies are growing up on my tiny plot of land.
One of the greatest delights of visiting other chicken owners was getting to see the breeds of birds we aren’t familiar with. And I fell in love with Veronica the Speckled Sussex. She’s an English breed with coppery brown feathers dotted with Tiffany blue spots. Already dreaming of adding to my flock.
And she fits oh-so-perfectly in her English countryside style coop.
And then, there’s Woodstock. A chicken like none other I’ve ever seen. And not just because Woodstock is a Silkie. The Silkie is a bantam breed, meaning they are smaller than the standard breeds I own.
Likewise, they lay smaller eggs than standard hens.
They have soft, fur-like feathers. Some of those feathers flutter over their feet like designer shoes. But what makes Woodstock so special is what she does for people. Her owner is a therapist working with troubled youth in our community. And Woodstock is a certified therapy animal. When Woodstock goes to work, she puts sometimes defensive, struggling, anxious kids at ease. And makes it easier for Woodstock’s caretaker to take care of her clients. Who knew a chicken was up to that task?
Finally, we went to a legitimate animal house. As in, 8 chickens, 4 dogs, 3 cats and a snake. Phew. Did you get all that? With all those birds around, that sign needs the words “A Lot Of” before “Fresh Eggs”.
These people love to keep their chickens snacking and entertained. The little boy member of this family was thrilled to show us around and even give us a look at his chicken-fun invention.
He cut a slit in a tennis ball and attached string to the other side. He fills the ball with chicken feed, lets it bounce back closed and hangs it from the family swing set. The hens love to peck at their chicken pinata, rewarded by treats falling into the grass for them to snap up with their beaks. Brilliant!
It was a lovely afternoon of meeting neighbors and seeing the secrets of their backyards. Our final destination?
The neighborhood pub. Doesn’t get much better than that, if you ask me.