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Beyond chickens: Third annual Tour de Coop offers fresh eggs, ideas


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If you like bikes and chickens, you’re in luck: The Tour de Coop is awaiting your participation. The event is scheduled Sept. 21.

Though chickens are the big stars of the third annual Silicon Valley Tour de Coop, a series of bicycle tours that take participants to see local chicken coops, this year’s event boasts a strong supporting cast of bees, ducks and worms as well.

“It’s much more about sustainability… than just chickens,” according to event organizer Scott Vanderlip.

The event, which offers participants 10 different free, self-guided tours and covers 180 miles through Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City and San Jose, is scheduled 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 21.

Vanderlip hopes this year’s visitors will find as much inspiration in the backyard chicken coops, compost bins and vegetable gardens as they have in years past. The event draws survivalists, urban farmers, high-tech types and seasoned gardeners with at least a few things in common – an interest in sustainability and the origins of food.

“Chickens cross this big demographic,” Vanderlip said. “It’s a very equalizing activity.”

From luxurious Los Altos lots with $10,000 coops to tiny yards in East San Jose with recycled dog houses as hen homes, chicken owners have few limits.

However, even in the sleepiest suburban neighborhoods, owners should design coops safe from predators such as raccoons. Tour participants can get ideas for building the best protective fortresses, such as using finer mesh fencing instead of chicken wire. Despite the name, chicken wire doesn’t stand up to the masked pests, who can work their paws through the small holes and hurt the fowl.

Still, chickens are “way less work than a dog,” Vanderlip said. He touts chickens as good pets, saying they have a lot of personality. Owners need to clean coops only once every few weeks, and soil-enriching chicken waste can go right into a backyard garden.

Eggs don’t get any more local than from one’s own backyard. According to Vanderlip, egg-laying chickens produce approximately one egg every 24 hours.

“With chickens, your success rate is pretty high,” he said.

In addition to chickens, Suzanne Kasso’s half-acre Los Altos property, a Tour De Coop fixture since the event’s inception, will show off a hobby vineyard, beehive, rain barrel and extensive vegetable garden.

“We use every square inch in terms of agricultural endeavors,” Kasso said.

When visitors enter the Kasso Coop, volunteers spray the guests’ feet to minimize the introduction of contamination from other yards. Once they’ve been screened, visitors are free to wander through the yards and take in the urban farming inspiration.

“There will be signage all over our yard that explains our crazy hobbies,” Kasso said.

Visitors on tours throughout Silicon Valley can also view hoop houses (quick-build greenhouses made from plastic piping), worm bins and a new system this year, Duck-a-ponics, introduced by a San Jose urban farm. The duck pond-watering scheme fertilizes vegetable beds while simultaneously keeping the duck habitat clean. An added benefit: duck eggs for the owners.

“I think it’s healthy for people to start asking, ‘Where does my food come from?’” Vanderlip said.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Kasso of the event. She added that it’s a great way to meet people and “spread the chicken love.”

Also new this year are two social events, post-tour mixers where visitors can mingle with other coop enthusiasts and partake in an egg cook-off contest.

For more information and to register, visit tourdecoop.org.

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