Test your beginner’s cluck by touring some supercool coops for backyard/barnyard inspiration.
MOST CITIES ALLOW homeowners to raise a restricted number of farm animals, and you frequently can spy chickens in a Seattle backyard. There are, of course, rules regulating what kind and how many farm animals are allowed.
In Seattle, you now can raise eight chickens. Roosters, on the other hand, are strictly forbidden because they’re noisy and can be aggressive, and are not needed in order for chickens to lay eggs. (Banning roosters also prevents hens from laying fertile eggs, which could lead to more than the number of chickens allowed.)
More than eight chickens in an urban setting can lead to problems with excess manure; furthermore, an excessively large flock can be difficult to manage and could be quite destructive if the chickens find their way into a mixed border or vegetable garden.
Tilth Alliance Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour
What: In this self-guided tour of sites around Seattle, you will see every kind of animal enclosure you can imagine, from simple chicken coops built in an afternoon to elaborate finely crafted ones that took weeks of planning and building. (Plus, you’ll also meet the creative owners, who will share their knowledge.)
When: Saturday, Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tickets and information: Tickets are $15; $35 for a family of three or more; $8 for children 12 and under. Visit seattletilth.org/special_events/chicken-coop-urban-farm-tour.
One example of what can go wrong happened to José, a gardener with whom I worked at Seattle University many years ago. José lived right across the street from Seattle U., on Capitol Hill. In those days, you were allowed only three chickens and, as is true today, you couldn’t keep roosters.
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José, however, wasn’t one to follow those rules. He had two roosters and, because they had the run of the roost, he always had at least 20 chickens penned up in a flimsy old coop. Although the roosters crowed at the break of dawn, waking up most of the neighborhood, no one reported him because he kept the neighbors well-supplied with fresh eggs.
One of the roosters had a mean streak and attacked visitors, so José kept a broom by the front gate so callers could fend off the rooster on their way to the front door. One day, however, when I came to visit, I was surprised to find the rooster had failed to make his usual assault. Then I noticed the chickens were missing, as well. When I asked José what happened to the chickens, he replied: “The chickens got into the veggie garden last night; the priests are eating chicken today!”
Chickens aren’t the only farm animal allowed in most cities. In Seattle, you are now permitted to raise three rabbits or goats. The goats must be Miniature, Dwarf or Pygmy (dehorned), and male goats must be neutered. You also can have one miniature potbellied pig, as long as it isn’t more than 22 inches tall at the shoulder or more than 150 pounds.
Although I know we should all follow the rules, I’m glad no one ever turned in my neighbor for having a potbellied pig that was way too big. “Peanut Butter” (aka PB) was a real cutie, weighing in at more than 250 pounds. All the neighbors loved her, and no one could resist scratching her behind the ears.
If you do decide to raise farm animals, it’s important to construct an enclosure for them. In most cities, you’re allowed to let farm animals run free in your yard, but most people keep them fenced in to protect them from predators and to keep them from finding their way into gardens, where they are likely to cause major destruction.
If you’re contemplating raising farm animals, learn all about chickens, ducks, miniature goats, rabbits, mason bees and honey bees at the self-guided Tilth Alliance Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour on Aug. 18 (see accompanying box). Who knows? With a bit of luck, you might even get to scratch a potbellied pig behind the ears!