COOP (Chicken Owners Outside Philadelphia)
COOP (Chicken Owners Outside Philadelphia)

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Tour spotlights urban chicken farming

Source: East Valley Tribune (Phoenix)
Date: December 3, 2009
Byline: Mandy Zajac

The chicken may have crossed the road to get away from situations just such as this: A flood of people streaming through the coop all day long to "ooh" and "aah" and ask if brown eggs taste better than white ones.

It's what Valley hens will have to deal with 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, when the Phoenix Permaculture Guild hosts its first-ever Tour de Coops, a self-guided tour of 12 backyard poultry operations all over town.

"There's really been an uptick in interest, among young people especially, in growing their own food, even if they live in cities," says Nicholas DiBiase, a volunteer with the guild. "Chickens go hand in hand with that. They produce eggs, of course, but they also support the garden by eating pests and scraps and enriching the soil."

Indeed, raising chickens within city limits just may be a phenomenon. Portland, Ore., has hosted a coop tour for six years. Austin, Texas; Raleigh, S.C.; and Fort Collins, Colo., have tours as well. And the Phoenix guild, which offers classes on raising your own chickens, has seen interest in the courses swell from a just a handful to more than 100 at a time.

Saturday's tour features urban and suburban backyards that house anywhere from three to 135 birds.

"There's a lot of variety. Most of the coops have chickens, but some have ducks and there are even quail at one of them. Most of them also have gardens, and you'll be able to see how they work together," says DiBiase.

Among the stops are Gilbert's nearly three-acre hobby farm Chickabee Gardens and The Bee Oasis in Mesa, a chicken coop and garden created by Don Titmus, one of the guild's founders.

"It's a small, residential lot, pretty typical of what most of us in the urban environment have to work with. In terms of space, it's not very big but it's very well-thought-out and well-planned, and really shows you what most people could do with the space they have," says DiBiase.

On the tour, visitors will be able to ask questions of coop owners and learn more about urban sustainability in general.

"We just hope to inspire people and educate them, and we want them to have fun, too. We hope some people will start a garden or a coop of their own," says DiBiase, 30, who is in the process of building his own moveable chicken coop for his Phoenix backyard.

"I grew up as a total urbanite, never in touch with nature whatsoever. For me, it's primarily about having my own eggs and the garden support. I'm into knowing as much about my food as I can, and there's no better way to do that than to grow it yourself," he says.

Tickets are $10 each. They are available online at or at the Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar at 14 E. Pierce St., Phoenix.

You can also buy tickets the morning of the tour at the following locations: 2652 E. Butte Circle, Mesa; 17346 E. Melody Drive, Gilbert; 2209 W. Runion Drive, Phoenix; 6735 N. 11th St., Phoenix; and 3402 E. Menadota Drive, Phoenix.

You will get a booklet and map to the 11 remaining tour stops once you buy your ticket at one of these starting points. Organizers recommend bringing a detailed city map with you to help pinpoint your route.