On Saturday, we volunteered as one of a dozen host sites for the Mad City Chicken Coop Tour. Visitors began arriving just after 9 am and continued in a steady stream all morning. Although the tour was scheduled to end at 1 pm, we chatted with guests until 2:00.
We met so many wonderful chicken enthusiasts, all of them curious and ready to learn. We shared our chicken-keeping philosophy---why we chose a walk-in style coop and elevated hen house, and the importance of hardware cloth over chicken wire. We talked about chicken breeds, egg color, heated water dishes, supplemental lighting, insulation, ventilation, winter protection, hawks and owls and coyotes. Oh, my! Many of our guests also asked about our top bar beehives, raised garden beds, hops towers, hillside terraces, home orchard and greenhouse.
In return, visitors were happy to share their own expertise with us. We learned that lemon balm is just as invasive as mint. One person shared a recipe for making skin balm from beeswax, almond oil and essential oil. Another new friend offered to share a bit of SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or "mother culture" for making kombucha.
We estimate that our visitors numbered between 60 and 70. A few guests came from the neighborhood, others from across Madison, Middleton, McFarland, Stoughton, Columbus, Walworth County, Milwaukee and even northern Illinois. Several folks expressed frustration at their restrictive local ordinances.
The only problem with volunteering as a host is that we didn't get to visit other coops. We managed a quick after-hours peek at one other host site where we discovered a wonderful and creative adaptive reuse of a child's play house.
It was a fabulous (and exhausting) day. The weather was beautiful, the chickens showed well, and the people were supportive and fun. If you haven't experienced a coop tour, give it a try!