Chickens aren’t just for hawks anymore. Urbanites have taken to them as both pets and a lifestyle
A Peep at the Coops Urban Coop Tour. April 18 at 11 a.m. Rain date April 25.
For a map of homes, visitAPeepAtTheCoops.blogspot.com
When you stop at Chere Hckock’s house in East Dallas, you’ll be overwhelmed by a slew of things: The garden in the driveway, the architectural beauty of the house and Dashiell, the grey and white dog who comes out to quietly greet you. Immediately you feel the natural comfort of the tucked away spot by White Rock Lake, but it continues to the back where Hickock has another menagerie all cooped up. Literally.
"I’ve had chickens since 1983 and have loved them ever since. They are totally a blast to have," she says.
Hickock is on the planning committee for A Peep at the Coops Urban Coop Tour, the first of its kind in Dallas. Her house is one of the stops and serves as headquarters for the tour — all because she’s happy to spread the good word about owning chickens.
Twelve coops through a self-guided tour highlight this slow food movement happening in this pocket of the city. The tour also educates and displays other sustainable practices like beekeeping, composting and rainwater harvest. Proceeds from the tour benefit the Our Saviour Community Garden and the gardens at Stonewall Jackson Elementary.
But the stars are the chickens. Not only can they be pets, they add to a self-sustaining and green lifestyle. And according to Hickock, the gays love their chickens.
"There are so many! " she says. "You’d expect it to all be us lesbians, but the urban chicken is the new big thing. I know several gay people who have them and not out in the country. Of course, they have these architecturally-designed coops. Gay men take chicken-keeping and gentrify it and make their urban flock fabulous."
Hickock is right there with them. Her self-built run (where chickens roam) is a long fence over an area adjacent to the coop where the little cluckers go in and out at night. It’s utilitarian and rustic but with enough design to match her home.
Her renovating background has even turned into a business. Hickok owns Custom Coop Co. and designs coops for her fellow urban chicken owners — but with flair.
If you’re thinking about joining the clucking ranks, Hickock says it’s easier than it sounds.
"It’s cheap! [Ed. note: pun intended.] For food, you just go to feed stores or Northaven Gardens. They fill that niche. Once you have feeders and waterers, you don’t need much else."
New owners need to be aware of predators: Bobcats, raccoons, coyotes, even dogs. "Lots of things will kill your chickens," she warns. "Just make sure they are secure at night."
Pets or not, the sustainability of chicken-raising is a big plus and a closed loop. Organic scraps feed the chickens, which then create waste for the compost, which is turned into the soil for the garden. Lest we forget, it’s also about connecting with the food source.
"It’s reconnecting to a simpler time," she says. "There’s something about having your own eggs. And the eggs taste so much better and so fresh.
"Are you an egg eater," she asks.
"I am," I say.
"Well then, I’ll have to give you some."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 16, 2010.