Raising chickens in your backyard is a growing trend, even in urban areas. This fact was very evident in Phoenix, Ariz., on November 10th, when the fourth annual Tour de Coops took place.
The Tour de Coops began in 2009 when the Valley Permaculture Alliance, an organization of gardeners, chickens keepers and other like-minded people in the Phoenix metropolitan area decided to open their backyards to those interested in seeing how to raise chickens at home.
The yearly event demonstrates that raising chickens is not only easy, but can also help reduce waste, since coops can be built from materials you already have on hand and chickens can help eat the leftovers from your kitchen.
Tour de Coops has showcased more than 60 chicken coops since its inception, according to the event’s website, hosting between 700 and 1000 attendees each year.
“It seems to be that this is a trend happening across the United States,” said Jay Headley, Tour de Coop’s media coordinator. “There are other tours in places like Seattle, Portland, Austin, Madison. It’s an easy way for people to become a little more green and sustainable, but more importantly a little more in touch with where their food comes from.”
Chickens are not just pets like a cat or a dog, Headley said, although they do have personalities. Chickens also provide sustenance.
“When you have chickens in your backyard, you know what you’re feeding them and you know what’s coming out of them. It’s a way to provide healthy food for your family. Raising chickens is really fun and super easy, which is what’s probably started to fuel the fire,” Headley said.
“They’re the entry drug into sustainability,” Headley added.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many people who attend the tour wind up with chickens in their backyards, and many of those people end up showcasing their setups the next year.
Kari Spencer, owner of one of the chicken coops showcased at this year’s event, had never attended the event before, but heard about it through friends. She just started raising chickens this past January with her husband, Lewis, and their daughters.
“I didn’t know anything [about chickens] ahead of time,” Spencer said. “I knew some people who had them and was interested, so I went to the Valley Permaculture Alliance and took a class on raising chickens. Then I took my kids to look at chicks and we ended up coming home with three. It grew from there.”
Spencer had already become a certified Master Gardener through the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, so the chickens added to her backyard ecosystem. Believe it or not, chickens can help cut down on waste because they can eat vegetable scraps. Spencer’s family also composts household waste along with chicken manure, which then provides nutrients to their gardens.
“Chickens are very easy to take care of. On a daily basis, we feed and water, clean up what they do near the house. Whenever it needs it we give the coop a cleaning, but that’s a really simple process,” Spencer explained.