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Tour gives a peek into the popular world of chicken raising
For every 10 people on Vashon, there is a chicken.
At least that’s what chicken owner Emma Amiad estimates. In celebration of her 25 chickens, the 1,000 other Island chickens, and their funky and varied houses, she’s pulled together a chicken coop tour of seven of Vashon’s finest feathered flocks and their humble homes.
The tour is a fundraiser for the Interfaith Council on Homelessness, which spends thousands each year putting homeless families into housing and keeping the working poor in their homes. The nonprofit subsists on donations from Islanders, and last year spent $3,000 more than it received in donations, Amiad said.
“We’re trying to raise the profile of homelessness on Vashon, and it’s a great way to do it,” said Dierdre Grace, whose farm is featured on the tour. “It’s fun, but it’s not for a frivolous cause.”
Amiad said there are lots of people on Vashon who would like to learn more about having their own chickens, and those who have the fowl are more than happy to extoll their virtues.
“They are incredibly thrifty,” she said. “They convert grass and bugs and kitchen scraps into these wonderful pellets of protein. They’re easy — almost anyone can have them — so it means you can very easily and inexpensively provide your family with nutrition that’s local and organic.”
She added that the poultry help out with gardening by “rototilling” the ground with their feet and leaving behind a rich manure.
“They can really be an asset in farming,” said Grace, who houses a flock of 30 chickens at her farm. “And we love eggs, and there’s nothing like a farm-fresh egg.”
Beyond their practical value, chickens are fun, their owners say.
While Amiad acknowledged that “they’re not the brightest bulbs,” she said chickens are a lot smarter than some give them credit for, and their personalities are as different as their plumage.
The best part of owning chickens for Grace is their entertainment value, she said. Her family watches “chicken TV,” she said.
“They hop around, they fight over little scraps of food, they make very interesting noises,” she said.
The tour should be a chance for newcomers to the world of chickens to see how other Islanders do it, while helping keep humans in houses of their own, Amiad said.
“I think it’s easy for tours to get kind of elitist, and people who keep chickens are generally not of that mindset,” she said. “We’re not looking at the fancy house they have or how many acres they own. We’re looking at what they enjoy and treasure the most, which is their animals.”
Lisa Chambers and Angela London, whose creative moveable “chicken trailer” is featured on the tour, concurred.
“We figured we’d never make it on the garden tour, so we were quite flattered to be on the chicken tour,” London said.
And as Grace said, “they’re just so endearing.”
“Everyone I know who’s decided to get a couple chickens has fallen in love with them,” Grace said.
The chicken coop tour
Vashon’s first-ever chicken coop tour, a fundraiser for the Interfaith Council on Homelessness, is Saturday and Sunday, May 9 and 10.
Tickets can be purchased at Vashon Bookshop, Books by the Way and Amiad & Associates (next to The Beachcomber). Tour details come with the tickets, $15 for adults and free for those 14 and under. Come prepared for the tour with sensible footwear.