By Ian Taylor
This article is part of the Way to Grow Urban Farms series by Ian Taylor highlighting six hosts from the 2015 Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour.
Stephanie and Michael operate “The Eggplant” in Northeast Seattle, along with their children Elise and Aidan, and four chickens named Crowsmary, Chica, Florence and Mitzi. It all began two and a half years ago when Stephanie—who had wanted chickens for about 10 years—bought four two-day-old chicks from Seattle Farm Co-op without telling her family. Surprise! Happily the rest of the household rallied round and soon Michael was building a splendid coop based on a design from a library book with modifications to suit Stephanie’s ideas.
“We raised the chicks in the family room, and we wanted the coop to be visible from there and for the chickens to be able to see us, too,” says Stephanie, so Michael built a window into the side of the coop facing the family room. “It’s so much fun to watch them. They’re endlessly entertaining.”
Michael observes the pecking-order maneuverings that play out on the roost perches. “There’s a chicken making a play to become the dominant bird — I’ve seen her take the top spot on the perch. She aims to rule the roost!”
“We wanted to make sure the coop was very tight against rats and other pests,” says Michael, “out of consideration for our neighbors as well as to protect the chickens. The hardware cloth extends several inches beyond the walls of the run, with pavers on top of it to discourage burrowing. So far we’ve had no problems.”
The two family dogs saw the chicks grow into chickens and co-exist quite happily with them. “The chickens are so relaxing to be around,” says Stephanie, and Elise pipes up “I like to kiss them!”
The family would like to add a beehive to their urban farm but first a pet rabbit. “I grew up with rabbits,” says Stephanie. “I think it’s a wonderful thing for children to grow up with animals. There’s so much to learn from them.” And Elise, who likes to kiss them, clearly agrees.
Among the visitors to The Eggplant was Lorenzo, who cycled all the way from West Seattle where he lives with his wife and 1-year old daughter. Lorenzo just started vegetable gardening last year and now has four two month old chicks and a small coop. He knows he needs a bigger coop and he’s on the Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour looking for ideas. “I’m inspired by the goal of living closer to nature,” says Lorenzo. “This coop has great decorations and I love the window!”