Our otherworldly thunderstorms sailed away today, leaving clear skies for showcasing the glories of chicken livin’ on Bainbridge. The rurban chicken farming craze is in full swing here, with the latest batch of chicken enthusiasts proudly displaying their feathered sweethearts and tricked-out coops for the fourth annual Bainbridge Island Tour de Coop.
My “biker chick” pin prominently affixed, I saddled up this morning to make the Tour’s rounds, which pretty much covered the Island’s four extreme quadrants. It was just about all cars, but the Tour looked well-attended today, with hosts reporting a steady stream of visitors throughout the 5-hour stint.
1. Cackling Crow Farm. Susan and Bob Waite’s sleepy Sands Road setup was inspired by a recycled coop they inherited from a farm on Koura Road. Bob built the surrounding coop structure, giving their ten good-looking gals plenty of room to roam and roost. Susan explained that their hens produce some 4-7 eggs a day, feeding their three boys and four other families in the neighborhood. Susan makes raspberry jam and mint jelly from their extensive raised-bed gardens.
2. Bantam Abbey. The Bantam Abbey Coop off of Baker Hill sits atop the LeVine’s lovely and immaculate terraced garden overlooking their updated 1940 log home. Carole explained that her seven chickens are expert gardeners, pulling out dandelions (a chicken delicacy) and other weeds during the day when they roam beyond the confines of their coop. Their spiffy home sports a metal roof and gutter, a feature Carole explained is very helpful in keeping a dry, healthy chicken house.
3. Gypsies in the Palace. Twelve hens and two roosters have found heaven on earth on Baker Hill Road. Housed in a spacious coop at night and free to ramble in a large fenced garden/orchard by day, the Gypsies have it all and more. More? Yes, the Brigham’s retired racehorse Mindy Ann provides a constant supply of manure, composted to perfection for her darling chickens, who happily devour the compost’s abundant worms. The property was vacant for ten years before the Brigham’s bought it, overrun with blackberries and full of holes where people had dug out trees and perennials planted by the previous owners. Darcy said their supply of daily eggs helps feed her 220-pound son, who is off to play college football this fall. What will they do with all those eggs?
4. Chicken Coop for the Soul. Wendy and Ted Jones built their chicken coop tall enough to walk into without breaking their backs (a smart idea, by my estimation). At five months old, the hens in this tidy, simple coop on Tolo Road are just shy of egg-laying age, which is generally at about six months old. In addition to helping build the coop, Wendy herself made its one-of-a-kind chicken sign.
5. Hogger Lavender Farm. Thirteen-year-old Micaela Hogger was the driving force behind this coop. She’s the one who wanted chickens, and she helped her father Rolf Hogger, a general contractor, build this charming and tidy barn-inspired red coop, complete with window flower boxes, near the top of a hill on their property, partly shaded by tall firs. Micaela explained that the metal roof helps keep the chickens cool. The coop includes a built-in bunny hutch for the family rabbits. Micaela is the main caretaker, but her mother Molly is clearly charmed by their feathered friends.
6. Ladies of Wisteria Place. A massive old Wisteria vine grows through the center of the McKie’s large chicken coop. Chris McKie told me it is gorgeous in bloom, which is easy to imagine, since it was gorgeous out of bloom. With a 25-year-old child’s playhouse as the center of the coop, Teri McKie envisioned a large enclosed area surrounding the original structure as a henhouse. Predicting that he would play a central role in the chicken caretaking, Chris McKie told me he built the coop large enough for his tall frame to walk around in. After their original coop roof was infiltrated by a raccoon who all but decimated their flock, the McKies hired a contractor to build a rock-solid roof. Eighteen-month-old Grace McKie posed for a picture in front of her coop.
7. The Enchanted Tiki Coop. When I asked Jennifer Amaden why she chicken farms, she replied, “I just love them; I love to watch them. . . . They are our life.” The Amadens have several coops, because they raise chickens and need to be able to separate mothers and chicks. Currently the Amadens have a Silkie brood of three-week-old chicks with their fluffy white mother doting after them in a small coop under the back of their house. Jennifer explained that Silkies are one of the most docile breeds, enjoying cuddling. Her 9-year-old son, Kaden, is especially bonded with their 18-month-old rooster, José, who he invited me to pet. Jennifer is raising special breeds with unusual colors for sale, such as cuckoos and partridge silkies.
8. Home to Roost. Allison Krug was all talk about her chickens, so much so that her husband David had to bring out a plate of lunch for her, which she began sharing with her ladies and their rooster Merlin. Allison, who moved with her family to Bainbridge last year from Hawaii, explained that chivalrous Merlin will actually use his beak to point at tasty food on the ground for the hens, leaving it for them to eat. Indeed, he pointed to the turkey meat Allison tossed on the ground, making sure the hens found it. And, yes, chickens are omnivorous, happily eating meat when they can get it. Allison also explained that their Jersey hen went broody on mother’s day, hatching three chicks, who were joined by two others the Krug’s incubated and hatched on their son’s birthday.
Here are photo highlights from the Tour:
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Photos by Julie Hall and Sarah Lane.