"I think chickens is a chick thing," joked Eric Olson.
He's right - in a way. Most chicken enthusiasts start with a few chicks, but their home-operations tend to blossom as they reap the rewards of the birds' eggs and manure. But back to Olson's point - usually the drive to run an urban chicken coop comes from women, he claims.
If Saturday's Take-a-Peak Chicken Coop Tour of El Paso County is any judge, "chicks" are far from the only ones taking the intiative. On Saturday, Olson and his wife, Bonnie, poked their noses into John Conner's chicken coop at 712 North Cedar Street, along with nearly 100 strangers and neighbors. Conner, who bought his first chickens in 2007, organized the tour of 31 private homes where residents have built chicken coops - in play houses, in old sheds, painted light blue - for would-be chicken farmers to peruse. The tour ran all day Saturday, and runs all day Sunday and stars from Conner's house with a suggested $5 donation.
The Olsons just recently made their foray into the world of urban chicken farms - Bonnie bought four chicks, which she intends to keep at her business, North End Adult Day Care. For his part, Olson may not have had the gumption to jump-start the quest for chickens and a coop. But owning the birds hearkens back to a way of life that appeals to him.
"This world is so backwards," he said on Saturday. "The things we value so little, matter so much." Things like - fresh chicken eggs, and gardens that can cut down the grocery bill each summer. Urban chicken coops are just a part of the urban homesteading movement that Olson has started dabbling in. He has attended regular urban homesteading meetings through the website Meetup - "how-to" sessions for aspiring urban farmers, much like Conner's weekend coop tour. Learning to can vegetables, raise chickens, and grow a big garden - all aspects of urban homesteading - also appealed to Angela Gainer, one of Conner's North Cedar Street neighbors. Gainers has 16 "teenage" chickens living in her basement, until she can get a chicken coop built. For her coop and other homesteading needs, she goes to Buckley's Homestead Supply, at 1501 West Colorado Avenue.
Allison Buckley opened the store a year ago for people like herself, Gainer and the Olsons. This winter, she sold chicks, and she stocks chickenfeed as well as supplies for cheese-making and canning.
"I just wanted to start doing all these things that my grandmother used to do," she added.