Some of you might be looking forward to finding inspiration this summer when you get to wander through the gorgeous houses during the annual Parade of Homes.
Me? I've got May 20 and 21 marked down on my calendar so I can be inspired by another annual parade. Instead of lusting over granite countertops and Viking ranges, I will be checking out roosts and nesting boxes on the annual Take-A-Peak Coop Tour.
When I decided to move two years ago, I wanted to downsize and was willing to sacrifice on some formerly critical house features (goodbye garage, so-long soaking bathtub). But high on my list for the perfect home was room to raise chickens.
I knew a few people who had chickens and I had tasted the fresh eggs from their backyard fowl. I wanted to raise chickens.
Little did I know, when I brought home three chicks on Feb. 25 that I was entering into an exclusive club of sorts. Nor did I know that the very next day I would go back and get two more to make a flock of five (the divas: Beyoncé, Amy Winehouse, Iggy Azalea, Liz Phair and Queen Latifah).
Now, I find myself talking a lot about chickens. And I've been surprised by the number of people I meet (and people I know) who have chickens. I've joined the chicken cult.
It's a welcoming society. Everyone has advice. Everyone is supportive. Even those who no longer have chickens don't warn us off from the ownership experience.
I was sitting at a bar last Friday night and even there the talk turned to chickens. The guy to my left has 19 chickens and a few roosters (for the record, that's illegal within city limits: We're limited to 10 chickens and roosters are a no-no). He says he lives in a more remote area and has an understanding with the neighbors about the roosters. He might be a lawbreaker, but he had some useful advice: Instead of purchasing a fake egg to show the chicks where to lay their eggs, use a golf ball.
Kellie Dodson, who's heading up the parade of chicken homes for her fourth year, warned me: "Chickens are the gateway animal." She started with chickens in her modest Hillside neighborhood backyard. But now she has ducks, bees, a greenhouse and raised-bed gardens. She's excited that she added rain barrels this year, after they became legal in the state.
"I decided no on goats for me," she said. It's not the size of the yard that prevents her from hosting goats — city ordinances consider goats as pets, by the way. Dodson doesn't like the cold and doesn't have a way to build a warm shelter for winter milking.
It was concern for her husband and daughter's health that led her to get chickens six years ago. She says, "A happy chicken's egg has less cholesterol." (I just got done clipping the feathers on our flock to prevent them from flying. I'm glad it will be a while before they lay any eggs because those girls are not happy.)
Google has been a godsend to this newbie chicken mama. My search history is filled with chicken searches: How do you tell the difference between a chicken and a rooster? What shouldn't you feed chickens? How do you prevent chickens from flying?
But nothing beats being able to ask someone in person. The owners at Buckley's Homesteading Supply Store have been our biggest cheerleaders. From the first day we walked in, with the idea that we might want some chicks, they encouraged us. I went from wondering if we could do it, to owning five within two days.
Dodson says, "We need people in the city showing others that they can do it." And the coop tour can serve as inspiration for those of us new to backyard farming.
Meanwhile, while I wait for eggs (Dodson warned me that it might be the end of July before they start to produce), watching the chicks as they eat, drink and establish their pecking order is fascinating. I think the chickens are happy. I know I am thanks to chicken therapy: a seat near the coop, sunshine on my shoulders and a glass of wine in hand.
For more information on the Take-A-Peak Coop Tour, go to takeapeakcooptour.com.