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Tour de Coop this weekend | Kitsap Week
Chicken coops are hatching all over Bainbridge Island.
Some are lavish and include artwork and electricity.
Others are quaint and provide comfortable living quarters.
At this weekend’s third annual Tour de Coop, visitors will get the chance to check out nine coops on a self-guided tour around the island.
It’s the chicken version of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” minus the gilded furniture and luxurious yachts. Instead, you’ll see ventilated egg boxes and high perches for sleeping. Eating quarters consist of water troughs and food dispensers. Chicken bathtubs are made up of a mixture of dirt and sand — perfect for dust bathing. And one coop even has classical music piped in — the owners read that classical music helps keep the chickens calm.
Tour organizer Jo Ann Trick said she believes the reason people are keeping their own chickens is because they have become more conscious of what they are eating and seek high-quality food.
“Fresh eggs are the best,” Trick said. “Once you’ve had them, you won’t ever want store-bought eggs again.”
Trick should know. Her flock of hens produces about a dozen eggs a day.
For David Lewis and George Little, having fresh eggs was the main reason they recently acquired a coop and chickens.
They named their coop Sin Gallo, meaning “without rooster,” but in an ironic twist of fate, one of their “shes” turned out to be a “he.”
Lewis and Little named their hens after French pastries such as Eclair and Brioche. But when their rooster became ill and Lewis helped nurse him back to health with the aid of molasses water, they renamed the rooster Milagro, meaning miracle.
In the few months the couple has had chickens, they’ve noticed they don’t watch as much television.
“We watch the chickens instead,” Little said. The couple commented that the chickens are more than just for egg production —they are also pets.
This was evident when Little entered the coop and took a seat. After a few pats on his thighs, the chickens hopped up into his lap. One even crawled up to his shoulders.
“Sometimes they try to peck my eyebrows,” Little said.
Lewis said he’s heard that chickens have become so popular as pets, that they’ve been described as “the new golden retriever. But less slobbery and more productive.”
Although the chickens at Sin Gallo have yet to produce eggs, the couple looks forward to fresh eggs for breakfast, baking and for hostess gifts. People prize fresh eggs and it beats a bottle of wine, Lewis said.
Little and Lewis, who are known for their gardens and artwork, have put their artistic touch on their coop as well. Little sculpted a hen that hangs above the coop’s door. Painted bamboo adds a splash of color to the chicken run.
The couple was so taken with the chickens that Lewis said they put a no-buy chicken order on their account at Bay Hay and Feed, where they purchased the balls of fluff.
“We started to collect,” he said. “No more!”
Chicken collecting seems to be a common theme among owners. Because egg production of chickens considerably drops after age 3, many owners find themselves with what Trick calls a “Geriatric Ward.” It’s not unheard of for chickens to live for up to 10 years.
Chuck Everett and Julie Everett-Hews whose coop “Coop de Ville” is featured on the tour, have one hen named Mrs. Ramona Doubtfire who is 6. She’s a stately hen and the couple describes her as a busybody. However, she only produces one or two eggs per year.
The couple can’t bring themselves to send her to the proverbial chicken soup in the sky. Everett-Hews helped Mrs. Doubtfire from becoming hypothermic as a young chicken.
“You can’t eat something that you’ve held under your fleece to warm,” she said.
The Tour de Coop gives people curious about chicken-owning a chance to see what it’s all about. Chicken expert Paul Farley will be on the tour to answer questions. He’ll be the one wearing a shirt made out of fabric covered in chickens.
Nancy Rekow, who wrote the book “Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens,” will sell her book at a stop on the tour. The book offers practical advice on backyard chicken raising.
Besides being a learning experience, Tour de Coop raises money for Helpline House on Bainbridge Island. The past two events have raised $2,400 a piece. This year, due to donated expenses, Trick expects to raise more.
Trick doesn’t see the backyard chicken trend easing up anytime soon. Besides producing food, they provide entertainment.
“Chickens are so much fun to watch. They are social. They play tag. They waddle,” she said. “And they don’t talk back.”
Third annual Tour de Coop
July 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available at Bay Hay and Feed, 10355 NE Valley Road, Bainbridge Island, and at Classic Cycle, 740 Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island. Tickets cost: $10 per individual by car, $8 per individual by bicycle, or $30 per carpool of four. More details at www.tourdecoopbainbridgeisland.com.
Below: The interior of Geroge Little's chicken coop Sin Gallo and a sculpture Little crafted, which hangs outside the coop. Erin Jennings photos