Transylvanian Naked Neck?!
Will it bite?
After a friend told me about the Coop of Dreams tour in Everett this weekend, a junior relative and I decided to participate. She raises several breeds of chickens and sells eggs, so I figured she might get some new ideas by networking with other chicken owners.
While I’ve never owned chickens myself, one of my favorite things to do as a child was collect eggs from my grandmother’s hen house. This was usually a delightful task except when Bok was alive.
Bok was the overprotective, egomaniacal rooster who cut my uncle’s knee to the bone and knocked down my toddler cousin. He was Genghis Khan reincarnated as an unstable alarm clock with Ginsu knives on his legs.
Despite always being around chickens at Grandma’s house, I couldn’t name very many breeds of chickens or tell you what’s unique to each breed. So the Coop of Dreams Tour was a means of educating myself about local fowl under the tutelage of an esteemed chicken keeper prodigy.
We picked up a map at the natural foods store and found our way to stop number one, called Little Henpoo. Although we’d gotten an early start, there was already a crowd at this first coop. We admired the yard and the fat, happy chickens scratching around in the dirt. They were very tame.
Given their relaxed state as they dirt-bathed and cast an occasional glance at us two-legged gawkers, I must wonder if it was more amusing for us to watch them or them to watch us. They did not seem concerned about having their picture taken or for us to open and close the compartments on their usually private living quarters.
Next, we went to stops two and three, The Red Roost Inn and a tractor-style coop. The latter is a small, portable A-frame that can be picked up and moved. The owner moved it around as needed to fertilize future garden space. The resident Dalmatian was soaking up the attention from all of us filing past the tractor coop in the bantam-sized garden.
The Red Roost Inn was an impressive use of a skinny side yard. Given the relatively small sizes of the parcels of the neighborhood we were in, I wouldn’t expect to find chickens there had I just driven by. The cheery red coop was decorated with cute signs and its open design allowed for easy chicken viewing.
Cozy as it was, the owner said that one of his chickens was always trying to find a way into the people house. This particular chicken seemed to have loftier standards than the others despite its high class outdoor accommodations. Or maybe it just wanted internet access.
By this second stop I realized that we all should have rented a party bus, because the same people kept showing up at the same stops simultaneously.
Somehow we skipped to stop five on the tour, called Our Little House. If I’m keeping my coops straight, this one was made from recycled materials and had hanging feed and water dishes. We were greeted by an affectionate orange cat lounging lazily on a wicker chair. One chicken outside of its house could not find its way back in. It kept arriving at the back side of the open door, like an inebriated tourist trying to find his hotel room.
Backtracking to stop four, Coop De Ville, we were immediately impressed. This large coop was the size of a storage shed with an attached, screened-in yard. Going inside, we were startled by a framed picture of Colonel Sanders. Was the constant threat of “finger-lickin’ good” a way to keep the chickens in line?
At this coop we were cracked up by a hanging light fixture and pedestal sink. I loved the practicality of having a sink in the coop. A variety of hens clucked and pecked as we milled around the coop like cattle. This coop supposedly had a live video feed so that the owners could check on the chickens from inside the house.
Stop six was The Carnival Coop, made from an old ticket booth. Here we met our first ever Transylvanian Naked Neck after being welcomed by a Rhode Island Red. I had to quickly drop my preconceived notion that a chicken with that moniker would be wearing a black cape and fixing us with a beady-eyed, otherworldly stare.
The hen looked like a regular chicken except for a lack of feathers on her neck. In the 80-something degree heat, some of the bearded men on the tour were probably wishing they looked like that. The owner said this chicken was probably her sweetest. She was very friendly and alert.
The Hillbilly Camper, stop seven, was an attractive brown coop with Americaunas and very pretty speckled Sussex chickens. They were so tame that they allowed themselves to be picked up. Having a contact allergy to eggs as well as a food allergy, I decided to forego chicken carrying to avoid looking like I had invisible bugs crawling all over me.
Stop eight, called Hen’s on Hoyt, had an Americauna, a Buff Orpington, and a white Silkie. A Silkie is a smaller, fluffy chicken that looks like a glamorous feather boa with legs. Each chicken in this coop lays different color eggs, so the owners always know who’s responsible for what. This coop was designed for easy cleaning and it showed. It was clean and welcoming.
We decided to make our last stop number nine as number ten didn’t have chickens, only coops. Cute Country Coop looked like a barn, and there we found a regal-looking chicken called a Russian Orloff. We chatted with the owners and petted the resident Australian Shepherd. After posing for the obligatory photo by the yellow “Coop of Dreams” sign, we high fived and returned home to make a slide show of our journey.
At that point we decided to make the whole day chicken-themed. We took our slide show to the grandparents’ house and hung out with their hens. Only one would pose for a photo; the rest hid in the bushes, unsure about my dog. He just wanted to sniff them, but they wouldn’t have it. They peered suspiciously at us through the berries and bindweed.
These hens are acutely aware that one of their own disappeared into the house after HIS true identity was revealed. He was banished to the stock pot to avoid annoying the Great Wall of Ugly Boxy Overpriced Houses that now stares down upon the One Acre Farm. We are convinced that the rooster who became dinner tried to exact revenge on Grandma for gender discrimination, because she choked on a bone when she ate him.
Later in the day we went yard saling in several unfamiliar areas before we haphazardly found our way to Country Village in Bothell for more chicken viewing. With a $2 authentic Mexican sombrero on her head and a free pink oil painting intended for her tree house in the backseat, my tour guide and I arrived at the shopping center still laughing about the artwork. Evidently the people having that yard sale had gotten too hot, marked everything “free”, and went inside to cool off. No one was around when we’d arrived. They’re lucky their landscaping hadn’t disappeared.
Country Village, an eclectic collection of antiques stores, gift shops, and restaurants, has always allowed chickens and ducks to roam freely. We went to the vending machines by the pond and got pellets to feed the flocks. The ducks were eager to gobble it up, while several roosters practicing kung fu moves and a neurotic hen stalked the perimeter of the pond. When the ducks and chickens weren’t looking, crows waiting in the trees would swoop down for the spoils.
All of the birds at Country Village are impressive, but as we rounded a corner by the toy store, we were hailed by a large rooster with a fabulous, Einstein-like mane of feathers. Flock of Seagulls, eat your heart out! This guy had a natural punk attitude with the hairdo to boot. He let the world know it as he stood in a window box announcing his awesomeness. We got some great pictures of him. At one point it almost seemed like he shot us the Derek Zoolander “Blue Steel” look.
Our last chicken photo of the day was of the giant speckled chicken sculpture at the shopping center’s entrance. It’s large enough to be a Trojan Chicken for preschoolers, or Chickenzilla for a low budget sci-fi movie. With laser-red eyes it glares at motorists on the Bothell-Everett Highway, summoning them to the new and used treasures within the walls of the village. It’s the kind of kitschy Americana that antique archeologists will be negotiating to buy in another thirty years.
Looking at the notes here, it seems that we observed Buff Orpingtons, a Russian Orloff, Americaunas, a Silkie, Sussexes, Rhode Island Reds, a Transylvanian Naked Neck, a Partridge, a White Crested Black Polish, Barred Rocks, a Golden Comet, a Light Brahma, Dominiques, Black Australorps, Golden Laced Wyandottes, and Silver Laced Wyandottes among others.
Before this tour, if someone had read this list to me, I’d have thought they were a few tacos short of a combination plate. It would have seemed that they were rambling on about seductive vampires, astronomy, country singers, mixed drinks, and trendy Australian sandals. I would have also guessed that they were a fanatical Shakespeare fan (the Bard Rocks!).
I appreciate these chicken owners opening their coops to the public so that we could see so many different kinds of chickens and learn more about suburban chicken farming. Most of the homes we visited had wonderful landscaping and yard art as well.
It is clear that most of these chicken-tenders care very much about their houses and properties. They’ve enhanced that beauty with the soothing sounds of a potpourri of buck-bucking, cluck-clucking feathered friends.
Thanks for the combination scavenger hunt/nature class/diversity training!
Fair is fowl, and fowl is fair. –William Cluckspeare, McFeather, Act 1, Scene 1
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