Yampa Valley Sustainability Council tours backyard chicken coops in town | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council tours backyard chicken coops in town

Liz Forster

Harold Stout's chicken coop at 804 North Park Avenue. Walker's property will be part of this year's Yampa Valley Sustainability Council's Tour de Coop.

With chicken coops sprouting up in backyards throughout the city to provide families with fresh eggs, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council latched onto the trend during its annual Green Gardens Tour on Tuesday evening by leading a group of 40 on a tour of four urban chicken coops in Steamboat Springs.

The tour introduced people to sustainable chicken coops of various sizes and designs owned by the Walker, Stout, Wilkinson and Hermacinski families, all of whom live less than a mile from Soda Creek Elementary. After visiting the four coops, participants met with Barb Wheeler, Steamboat Spring's code enforcement officer, to discuss the city’s regulations on owning chickens, and Routt County Extension's agriculture agent Todd Hagenbuch, for suggestions on coop building and maintenance.

"This is definitely a hot topic," said Andy Kennedy, YVSC's marketing director. "More and more people are keeping chickens, and we wanted to make sure people were educated on caring for and the safety of chickens and the regulations around having them."

The nearly sold-out tour began at the Wilkinson's coop, a small structure measuring about 10-by-10 feet the family had previously used as a garden shed. That was before the children switched from raising pigs to raising chickens for 4-H. The coop in their modest backyard was surrounded by herbs, strawberry, blueberry and other edible plants, demonstrating to visitors that backyards of any size can provide food for a family.

A short walk down North Park Avenue brought participants to the Stout house. The Stout coop stretched to nearly twice the size of the Wilkinson's and featured more crafty, but simple technology to, for example, maintain a positive feedback loop of chicken food and productive soil to grow that food. This was accomplished by planting weeds and vegetables chickens eat every morning and which regenerate every night.

Like the Stout's coop, the Walker's coop included an open air enclosure, as well as an insulated area. Given the family’s interest in a diverse range of chicken types, none of the Walker’s chickens look alike, nor do they produce any of the same types of eggs. And, at night and the morning, when Johnny Walker needs to lock up or release his chickens, he can do so "from his underwear at the back porch" with his self-designed pulley system.

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The final coop on the tour was owned by the Hermacinski's and was, like the Wilkinson's, modest in size. Yet the chickens are allowed to roam throughout the family's backyard during the day. There, the family maintains a hen population that lays eggs all winter owing to the use of heating methods that keep the animals productive.

"I finally got chickens this year," Hagenbuch said. "It's been relatively easy, and my family hasn't had to buy eggs once."

"We want to encourage people that owning chickens is a pretty easy venture that’s not expensive," Kennedy said. "This tour provided a good wealth of information on what's worked and what hasn't from people who own totally different coops."

For questions on city regulations regarding ownership of chickens, contact Barb Wheeler at 970-871-8274. For more information on YVSC, visit yvsc.org.

To reach Liz Forster, call 970-871-4374, email lforster@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LizMForster

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