Approximately 1,000 people pedaled their way around the Los Altos area to meet the exuberant owners of backyard chickens during the inaugural 2012 Tour de Coop. This year’s event is shaping up to be even larger.
Scheduled 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 14, the Tour de Coop will showcase 34 chicken coops in neighborhoods on the Peninsula and in the South Bay, according to organizer Scott Vanderlip, a Los Altos Hills resident.
In addition to more backyard chicken-coop owners – and chickens – for participants to squawk about, the self-guided bicycle tour will include coop stops boasting beehives, cistern water systems, organic composting systems and backyard gardens.
After a successful launch last year, Vanderlip said expanding the tour to include different forms of urban homesteading seemed like a good complement.
“It’s amazing what you can do, how sustainable how you can be on a quarter-acre lot. … It doesn’t require acres of land to grow, to have coops and bees,” he said. “A lot of these should be pretty inspirational to other people.”
The 2013 Tour de Coop offers five routes for participants to cycle – ranging from family-friendly loops of 5-10 miles to a more challenging loop of 60 miles that runs from Menlo Park to San Jose. Although some coopsters may offer lemonade or baked goods for sale, Vanderlip encouraged participants to prepare accordingly for the ride.
Los Altos resident Casey Carsten said she is eager to share with tour participants how seamlessly her chicken coop and bees meld with her lifestyle.
A proponent of the quality, taste and appearance of fresh eggs, Carsten said she dreamed of owning chickens much of her life and finally made the leap to ownership after attending last year’s tour.
“I had this feeling that it would be always very messy and smelly,” she said. “But you just clean it up and compost and put it on the vegetable garden. … It’s a cycle. It’s kind of satisfying.”
Chicken ownership has been enlightening for Carsten and husband Jack, an avid gardener, who have discovered unexpected benefits.
Instead of ushering melon rinds, carrot tops and food trimmings down the garbage disposal or into the trash compactor, Carsten feeds them to her chickens. Her six hens deliver three to four eggs daily in shades of brown, green, blue and white, prompting wide eyes and smiles from her visiting grandchildren.
“It’s the first thing they do when they come over,” said Carsten, describing how her grandchildren flock to her coop to check on Tinkerbell and Batman – the names they gave two of the hens – and examine their nests for eggs. “They get so excited when they find them.”
For more information, visit tourdecoop.org.
Tour de Coop preview - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier