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Portland Tour de Coops

Is it possible I am the only person in Portland who doesn't own my own chickens? It seems every time I turn around I am introduced to a few more urban chickens. Clearly they are the "it" pet of ecologically-and sustainability-minded pet people. Granted, chickens provide the daily gift of fresh eggs, but when did us city dwellers begin to bring a little bit of the farm back into our lives?

Chickens are such a popular pet in Portland and surrounding areas, Growing-Gardens (growing-gardens.org), a nonprofit that teaches and helps folks develop and maintain community gardens, hosts an annual self-guided citywide chicken coop tour called 'Portland Tour De Coops'.

The event allows tour-goers a chance to check out home chicken coops, ask fowl questions, learn about backyard chicken keeping and help out a worthy cause. All proceeds help support growing-gardens.org and its work to build gardens and provide seeds, plants and classes for low-income households.

Portland city code states three chickens are allowed without a permit. And just why should the average egg eating individual think about adding hens to their family? Besides fresh eggs, there are a multitude of good reasons to think about chickens as pets. They offer everything from bug and slug control, provide nitrogen-rich fertilizer, and they are really fun to watch.

"The truth is, it wasn't so long ago most American households included chickens" says Barbara Kilarski, Portland resident and author of 'Keep Chickens!' She says, "Raising chickens satisfies an intrinsic and basic human right to feed oneself. No other farm animal is as adaptable to small-space living as the chicken."

Angela Molloy-Murphy, director of Rowanberry School (rowanberryschool.com), a mixed-age kindergarten program located in NE Portland, is proud mama to her flock of three; Pepper, Betsy and Camilla.

"I always wanted chickens, but getting them for the school sealed the deal for me. I chose banties, they are smaller and easier for the children to hold"

"They are so endearing. I love these ladies" says Molloy-Murphy.

Nancy Walker, resident of SW Portland and mother to twin five year-old boys, says her two chicks were an impulse buy from an exotic animal fair. "They lay eggs; this is a practical and ecological pet and educational for the boys." thought Walker who soon realized it was far more work than she expected.

"I wasn't prepared. I didn't have a coop for them and it was too cold for them to be outside" she explains.

After converting a portion of her kitchen into the chick's temporary home, she realized the addition of straw chicken poop on the floor was not optimal. Living on one acre, housing chicks in her kitchen was not how she imagined this playing out. Clearly the message is 'be prepared' when adding to the family!

"I thought I could allow them to be free range." Say Walker. "Because the property is not fenced in, I realized we would have to build a coop. Ironically, I think if you have a house in the flats and they could be in that kind of space they can roam around easier".

The addition of chickens to Walker's home, wasn't an overnight adjustment, but a year later, the chickens have a first-class coop and she is enjoying the fresh eggs.

If the idea of backyard chickens has piqued your interest, check out Tour De Coops or sign up for a growing-gardens.org 'Urban Chicken-Keeping 101 -an introductory workshop on raising chickens in the city class.