I pull my beat-up pickup truck in front of an adorably hip family home and glance at my map nervously. I don’t want to walk into the wrong stranger’s backyard this morning, but I’m afraid this is a real possibility.
That’s when I notice two women walking out across the front yard, clutching tour maps and wearing farm-tough rubber boots. I relax. On this breezy Saturday, I’ve come to the right spot to find exactly what I’m looking for: a hen house.
What Is the Funky Chicken Coop Tour?
Today, I’m stepping into the backyards of ten ambitious urban agriculturalists, as a part of Austin’s annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour. The event gives Austin residents and poultry hopefuls the opportunity to swoon over chicken coops and take notes, examining how some of our city’s most savvy chicken aficionados have built innovative coops to house laying hens.
Black and white speckled Wyandottes fluff their feathers and shuffle through bamboo forests in East Austin, about as free range as you can get in the shadow of the capitol. During the Funky Chicken Coop Tour, urban homesteaders from south of Brodie Lane all the way to North Loop demonstrate to Austin residents how they are able to integrate beekeeping, composting, solar power and even aquaponics into sustainable backyard ecosystems with an artful finesse that is—I won’t lie— jealousy-inducing. The Funky Chicken Tour is a Best Yards Show, but for industrious hippies. I, for one, leave the tour hopeful and inspired.
My Chicken Background
I attend the tour as an urban poultry enthusiast and lover of all things gardening-related. It has been over five years since I had a coop and a few Silkie Bantam babies of my own. At the time, I was living proof that with a willing landlord, helpful friends who love construction projects and an enthusiastic roommate, you could wake up every morning and enjoy fresh eggs before biking to class at UT. I also learned the hard way that city ordinances matter.
If the baby chick you swore was a hen started crowing like a rooster one morning, he’d better get a swift eviction, or you’ll most likely have a violation ticket in hand. And yes, your new neighbor will, in fact, have the City of Austin come out to measure the distance from your coop to their fence line. It has to be 50 feet or more, in case you’re wondering.
Homing a happy flock of chickens in your yard can be satisfying, but it’s also daunting. Luckily, there’s a helpful community of urban homesteading enthusiasts within city limits to help with the steep learning curve.
Where to Outfit Your Austin Chicken Coop
If you’re like me and feel the itch to grab your pitchfork, head outside and start building a chicken coop or beginning your next urban homesteading venture, check out a gathering of Backyard Poultry Meetup. Another great place to start is Funky Chicken Coop Tour’s resource page. Pay special attention to their succinct guide to chickens and Austin city ordinances.
Once you’ve got a plan, check out some of my favorite places in Austin to outfit your project:
Buck Moore Feed and Supply Co.
It’s next to impossible to step into this unassuming feed supply store and not linger awhile. The scope of this family-owned shop is staggering. You can pick up everything from baby chicks to organic feed, all while getting Ken’s expert opinion on your latest gardening or farming endeavor.
5237 N. Lamar Blvd. – Website
An Austin original, Eco-Wise is home to helpful folks who are amazing resources for any sustainable project you can dream up. Check out their new North Lamar location.
4477 N. Lamar Blvd. – Website
Callahan’s General Store
With a giant room of baby chicks heated under the warm glow of incubators, it’s worth your time just to drive a little ways out of central Austin to check out this general store off 183. Specialty feeder? They have a whole row to choose from. Galvanized metal trough? They have them all. Plus, in true Texas form, you can pick out your next pearl button plaid shirt while you’re at it.
501 S. Hwy 183 – Website
This on-trend, sustainably-focused hardware store is a good option to check out if you’re looking to set up long-lasting, thoughtfully-crafted infrastructure. Check out their rainwater catchment systems while you’re there!
4477 S. Lamar Blvd. – Website
The Natural Gardener
Not only is The Natural Gardener a great place for garden inspiration, but their hen houses and chicken runs are built to last and serve as excellent examples of small-scale poultry keeping.
8648 Old Bee Caves Road – Website
Chickens as Waste Reducers
Funky Chicken Coop Tour’s theme for 2016 highlights the concept of chickens as reducers of kitchen and yard waste. It turns out these little birds not only supply plenty of eggs and amusement, but also act as an important link in a zero waste system. This point makes an intriguing case for urban chicken-keeping as both a rewarding hobby and a step towards sustainability.
After a long morning checking out some of Austin’s most awe-inspiring urban homesteaders, with chicken coops ranging from practical and efficient, and hen houses doubling as art installations, it’s nearly impossible to suppress the urge to drive straight to Callahan’s and check out the baby chicks for myself. Just to look, of course.
Funky Chicken Coop Tour is held on the Saturday of Easter weekend each year. Access information about the tour and garner poultry resources on the event website.
@kristinmleigh wants to know:
Have you ever kept chickens in the city?