Caroline Cummins is Culinate’s managing editor. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and cat in Portland, Oregon.

Urban birdkeepers

P-town struts its chicken stuff

July 31, 2008

Every July, the city of Portland, Oregon, offers a tour of its chicken coops. That is, local chicken-keepers agree to open their yards to the public for a few hours (in this case, on Saturday, July 26) and yak about their birds. The tour costs $5 and benefits Growing Gardens, a Portland urban-farming nonprofit.

Officially titled the Tour de Coops (Why French? Because the bantam rooster is the symbol of France, much like the bald eagle is the symbol of the U.S.?), the tour this year roamed between 18 properties in the eastern and northern districts of Portland. All of these coop locations were, as the media likes to say, in “gentrifying neighborhoods.” Which I guess explains why not a single coop on the posher west side of the Willamette River made it into this year’s tour.

Attack of the 50-foot chicken?

We chugged around to the six coop destinations nearest our home, hoping to get problem-solving ideas for our own coop constructions. But mostly we just checked out the wacky designs other people had come up with: an enormous rabbit hutch outfitted with the lower half of a reclining female mannequin (the birds, wisely enough, avoided this bit of sculpture), a Rube Goldberg contraption of ramps for birds to use between their elevated coop and their ground-level “playpen,” even a fancifully decorated coop with awnings and shutters on the windows.

A roving radio journalist asked tour-goers their thoughts on urban chickens; the interviews, it turned out, were going to be used for a podcast show called “Destination DIY: Urban Farming.” In case you were keeping track, “urban farming” is now very hip, as pointed out recently by Time magazine in an article called “Inner-City Farms.” And here you were thinking that the Inner City was just full of the cast of “The Wire.” Silly you.

Here’s a few photos from this year’s tour.

mannequin in coop

The red building on the right is the actual coop; the wire cage on the left is occupied by a mannequin’s legs. That’s a Barred Rock hen pecking away under the coop ramp.

license plates

What is it with the grandma names for birds? Culinate author Jes Burns named her chickens after the Golden Girls, and their names — Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia — are quite popular on the Portland scene.

a-frame chicken coop

The grandma chickens live in this A-frame chalet, which was built to fit a raised vegetable bed and can be moved from bed to bed.

hens for obama

Forget crossing the road; what hens really want is the vote.

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