July 18 2012 12:00 AM

Urban chicken coop tour draws enthusiasts and the curious


Eager bicyclists filled the Foster Community Center parking lot Saturday afternoon for the aptly titled “Tour de Coup”: This caravan was on a tour of urban chicken coops throughout Lansing.

The four-hour route wove through Lansing’s east side. At one point the 37 cyclists took up the entire right westbound lane of Michigan Avenue as they made their way to the Capitol.

The caravan stopped at 10 different coops, which ranged from simple to elaborate.

Many of those riding in the pack were owners of the various chicken coops. Each stop featured a different set of stories. Owners discussed a range of issues including pecking orders, brooding hens, types of chickens, coop maintenance and feeding tactics.

Some coops were made of scrap wood or old house siding; some had chicken wire and chain-linked fences that served as cages; other chickens roamed freely through the yards outside of their pens.

The fact that chickens provide fresh eggs is a big reason people raise them.

“Where your food comes from is important,” explained Matt Jason. “Raising chickens is an easy way to raise your own protein. Plus the eggs taste better than what you get at the store.”

Jason and his family, who live on Prospect Street, have always had a big garden where they grew vegetables — building a chicken coop seemed like a logical “next step.” Plus, Jason said, his kids wanted them. They’ve been raising chickens for three years.

“It’s very grounding to raise animals,” he said. “Especially when you live in the city. You can enjoy the food and the connection to nature.”

Jason said he built most of their chicken coop out of loft wood that was thrown out from the MSU dorms.

His wife, Corie Jason, was involved with getting the ordinance passed in 2009 that allows residents to raise chickens in the city. She said people can have up to five chickens per household and that roosters are not allowed because of their loud, constant crowing.

Just seeing them walk around the yard gives you a good feeling, Matt Jason said.

Bob Pena’s house on Vine Street was midway through the trip. He’s raised his chickens since they were hatchlings. One of them jumped into his arms like a puppy when he opened the pen. He also raises honeybees on the roof of his house.

The tour ended at Rivendell Co-op on West Genesee Street where Jacqueline Buleje, a poultry expert from Milwaukee, was available to “talk chicken” with the weary cyclists while they enjoyed complementary beer and pop.

While standing in the fenced-in coop, Buleje held a chicken while she talked about how the creatures have varying vocals, egg-laying habits, feathers and behaviors. She mentioned one type of “Easter egg” chicken that lays three different pastel-colored eggs.

She laid down some chicken facts during her talk: Dogs are the No. 1 killer of urban chickens. “Chicken diapers” allow people to keep their chickens indoors. The “vent” is where the egg comes out. And chickens can be taught to do tricks.

“They’re not stupid birds, they just think differently than us,” she said, spurring some laughter from the crowd. “You’d be surprised at how many urban folks are scared of chickens.”

Click here to see more photos from the “Tour de Coop.”