Austin's Funky Chicken Coop Tour

sayle apr20 chickencoop.jpg

Photo by Carol Ann Sayle

The hens had plenty to eat and drink, but not I. I reckon my situation just wasn't desperate enough to ask them to share.

Saturday, as over 250 aspiring "chickenists" visited our hen house, I found out first-hand what it's like to be a hen confined in one. Looking through the wire fence at the visitors, I answered questions for hours, many of them over and over again, as the folks came and left, came and left. They had almost 20 other hen houses to see, and as many questions.

Our coop was probably an inspiration to like souls who will make their coops out of pieces of this and that, from the materials they already have.

This was the occasion of the first Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour. Coops of all sizes and designs were presented by their dedicated owners, some who had only had chickens for just a few months, and others, old ladies like myself, veterans of chicken-keeping for over 25 years.

These were some of the most frequently asked questions:

How long do chickens live? Well, Aunt Drop Tail is 14 years-old and pretty lively in her golden years.

Which breeds are the most productive? There's no question here: White Leghorns and Production Reds.

Why do you have so many roosters? We don't. Rusty Roo, the Rooster, is the only one we have, and the only one we need or want. Size and shape of the comb--which sparks their assumption--is not an absolute indication of sex. Some hens have very large combs, and hens like Americaunas sport "spurs" on their legs, even though those are a feature of roosters.

Is a rooster required to get eggs? Nope, like human women, hens make eggs without male interference. If you want chicks or babies, a rooster or man is necessary.

The coops on tour included several fancy ones with automated doors, artistically designed nest boxes, and predator-proofing innovations. Our hen house represented the category known as "ramshackle and rambling." We owned up to this description, of course, but we excused ourselves with the explanation that our hen house was mostly dismantled during the tornado of November 2001...and merely stitched back together. Our coop was probably an inspiration to like souls who will make their coops out of pieces of this and that, from the materials they already have.

In spite of our funky hen house, many visitors said the chickens appeared very healthy and happy. Like us, they make the best of what they have....

Larry did spell me for thirty minutes, at my hoarsest and hungriest moment, but he didn't stand inside the hen house. One rooster is enough for our hens. Two will find something to fight about.

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Carol Ann Sayle is co-founder and co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm, a five-acre urban, organic farm in Austin, Texas.

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