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Take a tour of Whidbey’s finest coops

Kate Romero lifts the lid and reaches for eggs in her family’s innovative urban chicken coop near Coupeville, which shows how to raise chickens in a small space. - Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times
Kate Romero lifts the lid and reaches for eggs in her family’s innovative urban chicken coop near Coupeville, which shows how to raise chickens in a small space.
— image credit: Jim Larsen/Whidbey News-Times

To Whidbey Island’s list of home tours, kitchen tours, wine tours, bed & breakfast tours, farm tours and garden tours, add the 2010 Chicken Coop Tour.

The tour takes place Saturday, April 24, and for $10, you can pack your car with up to four people, follow a map included with the ticket, and enjoy some of the finest chicken coops on all of Whidbey Island.

Among the nine stops are Gary and Lois Fisher’s Camelot Downs near Oak Harbor, where they raise breeds that would be familiar to the American colonists; the Romero family’s Ambey Lane Farm near Coupeville, where they show how chickens can thrive in high style in an urban-like setting among fine lawns and gardens; Bay Breeze Farms and Gardens in Freeland where Meaghan and Brent de Wolf will show off their dozen varieties of prize-winning fowl; and “Farmer Bob” Frause’s three-acre spread in Langley with its predator-proof chicken run and hand-crafted coop for his Barred Rock hens.

The tour is produced by the Rock’n Doodle 4-H Club whose leader, Stinger Anderson, doesn’t like to explain the origins of his nickname because it’s not as interesting as it sounds. But he loves chickens, and he’s superintendent of the chicken exhibit at the Island County Fair.

Anderson first dabbled in gardening when he moved to the island to retire, earning the Master Gardener title. But something was still missing from his life, until he met his first chicken eye-to-eye.

“Chickens ended up being more interesting than plants to me,” Anderson said. “It’s only been five years since I got my first chicks, but I fell in love with’em.”

Today’s he’s got about four dozen chickens of various breeds, and he scoffs at mass-produced chickens sold in supermarkets. “They’re hybrids with lots of genetic problems,” he said.

Anderson would like other islanders to raise chickens and sell them locally, with the idea of lowering the cost to the consumer. “I’m trying to figure out how to sell them economically,” he said, estimating dressed chickens would sell briskly at $10 each. One problem is the raft of state and federal farm regulations a person must navigate to raise and sell chickens commercially, even on a small scale. “The regulations are so expensive,” he said. “There should be less regulations for up to 500 chickens. People want to do it, but they can’t afford it.”

At Anderson’s Working Girls Farm on Goss Lake Road, tour-takers will see his chicken coop converted from an old playhouse, and watch “chicken tractors” demonstrated. They’ll learn about chicken meat and processing. As the ticket delicately describes it, “Those interested can observe the entire process from live chicken to dressed and chilled carcass.”

“If you are thinking about keeping chickens on your farm or just in your own backyard you’ll get some great ideas,” Anderson said. “This tour will offer visitors some of the island’s best, funniest, funkiest and most beautiful chicken coops.”

The scoop on the coops

When: Saturday, April 24, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: A self-guided tour of nine different family-farm chicken coops scattered between Oak Harbor and Clinton.

Why: To teach the public how to raise wholesome chickens for eggs and meat.

Sponsored by: The Rock’n Doodle 4-H Club, which will use proceeds for educational efforts and to improve the chicken barn at the Island County Fairgrounds.

Cost: Tickets are $10, which permits up to four persons per vehicle. Tickets include a map and may be purchased at the Skagit Valley Farmers Supply Country Stores in Oak Harbor or Freeland, or at Bayview Farm & Garden at Bayview Corner.

More Info: Visit http://whidbeycoops.blogspot.com.

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