Published: May 13, 2014
Our chickens have it pretty good: an enclosure that protects them from predators, a fenced side yard to roam in at times and a coop that's decent-sized and quite sturdy.
The coop is a bit plain, though, compared to some where chickens truly live in style.
This weekend offers an opportunity to see a variety of abodes for chickens. About 20 coops - most in Colorado Springs, a couple in Black Forest - will be open to view during the fifth annual Take a Peak Chicken Coop Tour. The free, self-guided tour is the brainchild of John Conner, whose coop in the Shooks Run neighborhood has been part of the tour since the start. He got chickens about seven years ago after spotting another home with them.
"I wondered, 'Is that legal here?' I went and looked and sure enough, it is. I thought that sounded like something fun to do."
Homeowners are allowed to keep up to 10 chickens - no roosters - in Colorado Springs. (There's no restriction on flock size - or roosters - out in the country where I live.) I asked Conner how many chickens he has and got a surprising answer.
"At the moment, I've got about 45 of them," he said with a laugh. Most of them, though, are chicks that he's raising in his garage for other people; he has five adult hens of his own.
He built his chicken coop, based on plans for what is called the Playhouse Coop. "It's a coop that you see all over the Internet," he said.
You can spend as little or as much as you'd like on a coop. The Big R in Falcon has one for sale that I've always admired: a red "Amish style," with two windows, a chicken door and a walk-in door, five nesting boxes - and a price tag of $1,400.
Looking online, I found other high-end coops. The Alexandria Chicken Coop & Run from Williams-Sonoma will run you about $1,500. It's hand-built from solid pine, has an "easy-care" linoleum floor and is topped with a cedar-shake roof; the coop also has large rubber wheels so you can move it.
For the same price, Williams-Sonoma has its Cedar Chicken Coop & Run with Planter; the planter box is equipped with a drainage system that keeps water from falling into the run below.
Conner has also eyed some extravagant coops.
"I've seen some really extreme ones, like Martha Stewart's," he said. Some get rather ridiculous, he added.
"We don't have any extreme ones that I've seen here in town," he said. "I've seen some nice ones, some pretty funky ones."
Many of the coops each year have been part of the tour before. "We usually get a few new ones," Conner said. Some tours - such as the Funky Chicken Coop Tour in Austin, Texas, or the Denver Chicken Coop tour - charge admission. Conner likes that his is free and somewhat casual - "You just go see the ones you want to look at."
The Take a Peak tour is Saturday and Sunday; a tour map will be posted online at takeapeakcoop tour.com and will also be available this weekend at Conner's home, 712 N. Cedar St., and Buckley's Homestead Supply, 1501 W. Colorado Ave. (Not all coops will be available both days.) People are asked not to bring dogs or other pets, not to chase or handle the birds and to supervise their children. Since you can't bring animals, I guess I can't bring my chickens to see how their city slicker counterparts live.
Bill Radford and his wife live in the country with a menagerie that includes a horse, a mule, two goats, three dogs, two cats, a half-dozen chickens, two rabbits and two parrots. Contact him: Twitter @billradfordiii, gazettebillradford
on Facebook. Follow his blog at blogs.gazette.com/thecountrylife.