Sunday, May 22, 2011

Urban Chicken Keeping

Raleigh's Urban Chicken Coop Tour, took place this past Saturday.  That's right...a CHICKEN TOUR.   It turns out that the Tour D'Coop is an annual event. My Mamacita loves chickens. Both she and my Dad had chickens when they were growing up in Rural Town. When I was at their house yesterday, both Madrecita and Dad had stories of holding their "pet" chickens in their laps when they were young.  Dad's chicken was a Rhode Island Red.  I can't remember what Madre's chicken was.  Since returning to NC, I've been more aware of the whole chicken keeping idea. As an aside, a dear friend of mine that lives only about 20 minutes outside of Seattle keeps chickens.  She has little goats too. Her chickens are allowed to roam the grounds until bedtime when they are put into their roost for safety. Before knowing my friend, I was only aware of chickens being part of livestock on a farm. It was neat to see that chickens are not just for people with large tracts of land and barns and the whole early to bed early to rise lifestyle.

Buff Orpington
In December of last year, Hubby and I were driving around some of the "Old" neighborhoods of our town. The houses are early 20th Century with an eclectic flair. The streets are narrow and many of the homes do not have garages or driveways, so street parking is prevalent. As we slowly navigated the cars and individuals puttering near the road in their yards, I saw an adorable house on a corner lot with three chickens in the front yard.  The FRONT Yard! The homeowner was in the yard working on yard landscaping type activities.  Of course, I had to stop and talk. The gentleman was initially guarded when I got out of the car to walk up to him. I suppose when he heard my squeal "Chickens!  You have chickens!", he realized I wasn't there to annoy with either Girl Scout cookies, Magazine Sales or Religious Pamphlets. I asked if I could take photos of the hens and if I could ask him some questions. He was quite gracious. City ordinance allows up to 3 hens to be kept inside city limits. These hens are Buff Orpingtons and his wife named them each something to honor their color. I was completely fascinated.

A neighbor down the street also has chickens. --He is someone I don't actually know, but I see the chicken coop in the front side yard. Mi Madre wants to keep chickens but my Dad is completely against the idea. I think for him, the thought of predators is something that would be too sad to bear. There are certainly predators around.  Last summer I saw several foxes running between the houses in my very suburban neighborhood.  And of course, there are hawks that are a concern. Dad says that the neighbor lost some chickens to foxes.  I have a friend that actually has a "real farm" and he has chickens.  He told me this Spring foxes devastated his hen house.

Hen located at Coop #16
Saturday, as I was reading the local Independent paper, I came across the one day only tour in the big city of Raleigh. The tour is billed as a garden tour as well as a "coop" tour that seeks to educate visitors about keeping hens and showcase garden ideas and inspiration. There is a wide variety of coop styles as well as surrounding gardens. This tour was one I couldn't resist. I picked up Mamacita so that we could both enjoy the event.

First of all, let me tell you, the tour was not overbilled. The homes are truly in established urban neighborhoods. As we drove through the neighborhoods with homes that are so beautiful they remind me of HGTV. Though the neighborhoods are defined as urban, they each had pretty substantial sized lots. Urban here doesn't mean highrises and bus stops. I think it really means very established older neighborhoods that are truly residential and not a hint of ruralness.

As we drove through the neighborhoods, there was absolutely no evidence of chicken keeping. But, as we were allowed to enter the back yard oasis, our eyes were treated to fun and artful chicken coop design. Evidently, there is not a clear maximum number of hens that can be kept inside Raleigh's city limits. Several of the chicken keepers had upwards of 20 hens. The hens were fun to watch scratching their grounds and hearing their quiet little clucks. It was clear that the owners enjoyed every aspect of chicken keeping. Not just the chickens and egg production, but designing and adapting their structures for aesthetics as well as utility. 

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