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Pullets on parade: Tour de Coop features urban farms, coops


Town Crier File Photo
Ain’t nobody here but us chickens: A boy feeds some hungry chickens at the “Downton Eggy” coop at last year’s Tour de Coop. This year’s event is scheduled Sept. 17.
 

Get to know Olive Eggers, Plymouth Rock and Cuckoo Maran. Toss in a couple of Nigerian dwarf goats, fresh-squeezed lemonade sourced from a 70-year-old lemon tree, a few thousand honeybees and squadrons of bicycles tricked out with rooster-related regalia. That – in an eggshell – is the 2016 Silicon Valley Tour de Coop.

“People just seem to love this event,” said organizer Scott Vanderlip, a Los Altos Hills resident. “I mean, you can’t get real serious about chickens.”

Well, technically, you can. The 40 or so “coopsters” registered to showcase their local urban farms during the free Sept. 17 event invest countless money, time and energy into their backyards. They’ve constructed their elaborate coops by hand, installed rain catchment systems to supply their vegetable gardens and harvested honey from their own resident bees.

“I know that the coop owners are exhausted, but at the same time, well, a lot of them come back,” Vanderlip said. “They get to share their stuff. They’re really proud to have people come in and look at their gardens and coops.”

As of last week, an estimated 800 people had registered as “coop tourists,” participants who will explore various Bay Area “coop loops” by bicycle or motor vehicle. They’ll receive a map of participating sites – including private residences, community gardens and schools – by email a week before the event.

It’s a family-friendly opportunity to explore local communities, Vanderlip said.

“If you can get on your bike right from your house and get on a loop and bike around, that’s sort of ideal,” he said. “And then you meet your neighbors, you meet your fellow coop owners in your same town.”

Hanging with coopsters

Melanie Moyer has played the coop tourist before, but this will be her first year as a “coopster.” The Los Altos Hills resident adopted her brood of four – an Ameraucana, a Rhode Island Red, a Plymouth Rock and a Polish Crested – from neighbors in April. She figured the hens would complement her edible garden.

“The chickens I wanted to include as just another level of taking care of the soil,” Moyer said. “And what I didn’t realize is they’re so much fun to have.”

In addition to chickens, several Tour de Coop stops will offer homemade goods for sale; highlights include Persian mulberry jam, kombucha scobys, beeswax candles and flower arrangements. Expect a Dr. Seuss-themed coop at Alta Vista High School, where students will show off their outdoor living lab and accept commissions for custom coops, garden sheds and garden beds.

“We hope this whole Tour de Coop brings a community to the students, for the students to teach about urban farming, and I can see my work reflected in them,” said Shannon Wernette, Alta Vista’s urban farming teacher.

The Tour de Coop is a free, family-friendly event scheduled 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 17. To register (and receive a list of participating locations), visit tourdecoop.org.

Thinking about starting your own brood? Tour de Coop participant Isabelle Cnudde of Los Altos offers informational classes through clorofil.org.

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