Chateau Cluck. Cirque des Poulets. Downton Eggy. The Silicon Valley Tour de Coop, the annual parade of pun-slung poultry pads, returns Saturday, and the participation roster is packed.
“We’re definitely growing on the coop side, and we’ve expanded in terms of geography,” said Los Altos Hills resident Scott Vanderlip, the event organizer. “We have coops as far north as San Mateo and as far south as San Jose.”
So far, nearly 1,000 “tourists” have registered for this year’s free, self-guided tour. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., they’ll pedal their bicycles – or drive their cars – to visit as many as 40 “coopsters,” participating urban homesteads and community farms featuring vegetable gardens, beehives, orchards, aquaponics operations, rainwater and greywater catchment systems and, of course, the swankiest roosts Silicon Valley has to offer. Expect to see a Cape Cod-themed coop in Monte Sereno, a Hobbit henhouse in Palo Alto and a Henitentiary in Santa Clara. Residents include hens, chicks, ducks and the occasional fuzzy rabbit.
The Silicon Valley tour is designed to promote community connections and inspire self-sufficient backyard farming and agriculture. Master gardeners will be on hand to share their expertise, including tips for incorporating chicken poo into homegrown gardens. Coop architects and beekeepers will sell starter kits and market custom-commissioned creations.
Hatching an idea
The tour’s premise may sound a tad cuckoo to the unindoctrinated, but it’s not unique.
“It turns out there are a lot of bicycle coop tours around the country,” Vanderlip said. “You could do one almost every weekend.”
Vanderlip based the local tour on the Tour de Cluck, a similar event held in Davis. A Los Altos Hills resident for 18 years, Vanderlip began raising chickens and ducks after receiving encouragement from neighbors who did the same.
The inaugural Silicon Valley Tour de Coop took place in October 2012 and consisted of 10 stops sprinkled throughout Los Altos and Palo Alto. This year’s tour features 10 “coop loops” – one for each participating community – and tourists are encouraged to explore routes near their homes to foster relationships with fellow fowl-minded neighbors. Turn-by-turn directions and detailed route maps are available to registrants via email.
Mountain View resident Scott Stanford first joined the Tour de Coop as a tourist. His aim was to learn about chicken rearing, local ordinances and coop construction options. Eventually, he acquired his own hens – a White Marans, a Buff Orpington and a Silver Laced Polish – and personally built their tropical-themed tiki house.
“It looks like one of those over-water huts they have in the Caribbean,” said Stanford, now in his second year as a coopster.
Saturday marks Los Altos resident Isabelle Cnudde’s first year with the tour. She’s owned chickens for five years, but it was volunteering with AnimalPlace.org, a Vacaville refuge for abused farm animals, that inspired her to rescue hens and promote adoption by showcasing her L’Auberge Inn (a play on the word “aubergine,” another term for eggplant), home to Ameraucanas hens Ginger, Poppy and Sage, and White Leghorn hens Marjoram and Tarragon.
Cnudde said Marjoram and Tarragon were rescued from factory farms, large-scale operations in which farmers confine hens to cramped cages during their egg-laying years and then slaughter and trash their remains when egg production levels drop; overworked hens are too withered to be sold as food. Now Marjoram and Tarragon have a stylish home and 2,000 square feet of outdoor space to scratch and peck.
“They’ve been in a cage their whole life,” Cnudde said. “My yard is where they first learned to be chickens.”
To register for the Tour de Coop and for more information, visit tourdecoop.org.