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windy city coop & eco-yards tour – 10th year

Yep, you read the headline correctly, coop as in chickens. This post will introduce you to some fabulous urban chickens, the eco-yards they call home & their owners. If I had the space, I would consider getting some. The photo above is from the first time I went on the Annual Windy City Coop & Eco-Yards Tour a few years ago when one of my friends told me about it. I was hooked. Who knew that raising chickens in the city was a thing?

Well, it is a thing and has been since the founding days of the country. Even the Lincoln family had a pet turkey at the White House. During WWI & WWII, it was considered a citizen’s patriotic duty to raise hens and vegetables in the city and suburbs to support the war effort.

who me? a chicken owner?

Why should you consider raising chickens? Here are a variety of reasons, and once properly set up, a backyard flock is inexpensive and easy to maintain. 1/ Fresh Eggs. Nothing compares to the fresh, healthy eggs that come from a backyard hen. No roosters are needed for hens to lay eggs, and many types of hens lay an egg almost every day of the year. Did you know that grocery store eggs are often 3 to 5 weeks old? Fresh eggs taste better and are better for you, with higher levels of omega 3s and vitamins A & E with less cholesterol and less saturated fat. 2/ Sustainability. In addition to a fresh, local and often organic source of eggs, hens also consume kitchen scraps—keeping it out of the landfill. Backyard hens are preferable to many commercial producers where there is often little respect for the animals. 4/ Pests. Chickens and ducks are voracious foragers that will devour grubs, slugs, mosquito larvae & other pests. 5/ Empowerment. The ability to raise hens and gather eggs from your own yard is an uplifting experience, liberating one from the dependence on someone else to make, ship, and sell your food to you. 6/ Education. Generations of families can attest that having kids learn about and care for fowl is a valuable way to teach responsibility, respect for living things, and how food gets to our tables. 7/ Fertilizer. Poultry leavings are nitrogen-rich and, when properly applied, improve the health and appearance of lawns. Many landscapers pay top dollar for the fertilizer that poultry keepers get for free. Windy City Backyard Chicken Resource Guide, Chicago Chicago Enthusiasts website

While raising urban chickens may or may not be for you, a great resource to learn more about the subject is to follow the Chicagoland Chicken Enthusiasts. Search for them on Facebook or their website www.chicagochickens.org.

This year’s Windy City Coop Tour wasn’t on my radar until I recently saw a notice on Facebook. I planned a route from the well-laid-out map complete with locations & descriptions (listed below), grabbed my camera, and jumped on my bike. It was a beautiful early fall day and a perfect ‘pandemic safe’ activity to do that was fun & got me out of the house.

official details

Here are the official details from the 10th Annual Windy City Coop & Eco-Yards Tour. You should bookmark it for next year.

The Windy City Coop Tour is back for its 10th year showcasing backyard poultry, eco-yards, and urban livestock across Chicagoland! During this self-guided tour, hosts open their yards to visitors and share their experience keeping backyard livestock in an urban setting. The Windy City Coop Tour provides access to local examples of the broader nationwide movement toward sustainable yards. Join us to learn about chickens, bees, gardening, rainwater collection, and composting as part of sustainable urban lifestyles and get ideas for starting your own backyard coop. 

• Visit 25+ sites in Chicago and two suburban locations
• Learn about chickens, bees, gardening, rainwater collection, and composting as part of sustainable urban lifestyles
• Get ideas for starting your own backyard coop. So, how does it work?
• Visit the Host Site Info document and see what sites are open, get locations and descriptions >> https://rb.gy/jjn4n3 Each site lists if it is wheelchair accessible
• Choose your own itinerary on our map >> https://rb.gy/v6klsm.
• Clicking on map points for photos and descriptions.
• Check the days and times sites are open, Sat 10am-1am, and/or 1-4pm, Sunday 10am-1pm and/or 1-4pm.
• Plan your route! This tour is socially distanced! All guests and hosts are required to wear masks for the safety of each other. Host sites are private property, and hosts reserve the right to deny entry for any reason. NO DOGS ALLOWED. We love dogs, but please leave Fido at home this time! This event is sponsored by Home to Roost Urban Chicken Consulting and supported by Advocates for Urban Agriculture

eco-cottage on Leavitt

This was the first site on my list. While there weren’t any chickens, I learned a lot about how this neighbor is playing an important role in supporting the local environment & natural ecosystems.

Neighborhood: Bowmanville/Lincoln Square

Eco-Yard Aspects: My parkway is a version of a rain garden at the low end of a gentle slope of 125′ of sidewalk that previously drained into the storm sewer system (capturing up to 100,000 gallons of water/year). It was constructed in 2013, replacing an ugly concrete parking slab. Along 20′ of the parkway, a French drain of sorts takes stormwater and channels it into six L-shaped chambers (4″ perforated, flexible plastic pipes) that lead to the center of the parkway, into and below the soil layer to the natural layer of sand to feed the aquifer. Vegetation includes two trees and perennial plants; this is on the west side of my house, greatly reducing afternoon temperatures. I also compost and use three rain barrels on my two-building property and generate 100% of my electricity from a rooftop solar array installed in 2019. The interior garden is largely used for edible plants.

Host Statement: I have educated friends and neighbors on this installation for years, including as a host site for the annual Bowmanville Garden Walk, which was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

The owner of this eco-yard is Russ Klettke. A self-proclaimed tree hugger and a Business Writer in Chicago who can be found at www.RussKlettke.com. He is more than happy to share his knowledge of how you, too, can become more eco-friendly in your own urban setting.

chicken coop on Bell

I felt like I was back in grammar school in Bob & Tammy’s backyard. Besides raising chickens, they have bee hives & are raising butterflies! I had no idea bees need houses.

Neighborhood: Lincoln Square

Coop, Run & Structures: I built a coop from plans and am currently building a larger run.

Poultry & Other Livestock: 5 total. 2 Barred Rock (8yr and 2yr), Buff Orp (2yr), Red Ameraucana (8yr), Lavender Ameraucana (2yr)

Eco-Yard Aspects: Solar roof panels, a rain barrel for potted plants, 2 composers, raised movable beds for veggies and flowers

Host Statement: They are pets with benefits. We have hosted in the past, and it’s been fun. We love to learn new things and exchange ideas.

chicken coop on Rockwell

This was the first coop I visited on the second day of the tour. The owner Suzanne was very friendly & was happy to share her wealth of knowledge with a couple of potential future chicken owners.

Neighborhood: West Rogers Park/ West Ridge

Coop, Run & Structures: Our coop was given to us by someone whose neighbors were annoyed by her roosters! Sad for them, but a happy ending for the coop. They constructed it themselves and it has proven to be perfect for our 4 hens. One of its nicest features is the platform it sits on – its top is hardware cloth so no critters can dig their way into the coop from the earth below. 

Poultry & Other Livestock: We have 2 hens that are middle-aged, a Buff Orpington and a Black Australorp. In the spring, we added 2 chicks, a Rhode Island Red and an Ameraucana. 

Eco-Yard Aspects: We grow several organic vegetables and herbs and keep them from being munched on with 3′ foot tall mesh fencing. Our compost bin is out by the alley. Our other plants are mostly perennials with annuals added in every summer. We’ve chosen lots of plants that attract bees and butterflies.

Host Statement: 1) chickens are endlessly amusing, and they’ve taught my child to appreciate her food chain. 2) it’s so much fun to educate people about keeping chickens 3) I always learn so much from other people’s chicken setups and gardens. 

Besides being a chicken enthusiast & owner Suzanne is a photographer. You can check out her work here at suzanneplunkettphotographs.com.

chicken coop on Christiana

As a recovering graphic designer, my BEST Windy City Coop Tour sign award goes to this participant on Christiana. Well done! Specifically for using chalk & the clever chicken feet for directional prompts. They also win chicken safety protocols by offering a shoe bath.

Neighborhood: North Park

Coop, Run & Structures: Self-designed 4×8 coop with an enclosed house, secure outdoor space, nest box door, and full roof. Home-made hanging feeder. Separate chicken tractor.

Poultry & Other Livestock: We have 3 hens (Ameraucana, Olive Egger, Rhode Island Red) and an accidental Rooster (Mystic Maran). We got them as chicks at the end of April, so they may or may not be laying by 9/10.

Eco-Yard Aspects: 6 raised beds, including one in the parkway that is part of the Chicago Mutual Aid Gardens project, drip irrigation system, one in-ground bed, container gardens, native plants, home-built compost bin, rain barrels, fruit trees/bushes.

Host Statement: We keep chickens because we love watching them and are looking forward to their eggs; we look forward to hosting the tour because we enjoyed seeing others’ coops and yards last year and are always curious to chat about different ideas; we love the tour because it’s great to meet other city folks who are interested in small scale livestock and permaculture.

I found that everyone on the tour was super nice, with lots of great information & advice. When I have more space, I would seriously consider owning some urban chickens. Check out this amazing coop! Not sure where this is, but thought I’d share.

I hope you enjoyed the 10th Annual Windy City Coop & Eco-Yards Tour and hope you seek it out next year.

Until the next adventure, be well & stay safe, my friends!

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