If your passions include urban chicken farming and cycling, you'll be a very happy human this Sunday. That's when Nap Town Chickens, a local group of actual and aspiring backyard chicken farmers, hosts Tour de Coops, a three-hour bicycle tour of feather-filled coops in the Broad Ripple, Meridian-Kessler, Butler-Tarkington and Rocky Ripple neighborhoods.
Event organizer, Andrew Brake, teaches a class called "How to Raise Backyard Chickens" through IUPUI's Community Learning Network, and his original tour plan simply involved a group of students and him spending a day checking out coops within the city. But as he moved forward with the idea and realized that others may be interested in participating, he decided to spread the word and offer it as an event open to everyone.
Brake, who works full time for Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, may want to consider a career in event promotions. Tour de Coops has generated tremendous interest, with more than 200 people on the event's Facebook page committing to attending and 17 local businesses signing on as event sponsors. Brake has even had to turn away chicken farmers who'd like their backyard coops featured on the tour.
Not surprisingly, Brake has a few backyard biddies of his own. "I raise chickens for the eggs," he says. "I figure walking out to my backyard to get breakfast is much easier than getting in a car, fighting traffic, finding a parking spot, grabbing a grocery cart, making sure none of the eggs are broken, waiting in the checkout line, paying for them, trying to remember where I parked and then fighting traffic again."
Aside from the convenience, Brake suspects that a primary allure of urban chicken farming is humans innately wanting to raise their own food. "Not so long ago, nearly everyone raised their own food," he says."I think we're just trying to get back to that bit by bit. Chicken farming is easy and there is an instant reward. Furthermore, chicken farming is fun and can be a great educational tool for children about where food comes from."
Brake cites predators as the biggest challenge to backyard chicken farming. "Raccoons, foxes, hawks, owls, even rats can be very determined when chicken is the main course" he cautions. "All this said, however, a properly built and secured coop can serve as a perfect defense against those predators."
Other cities, such as Seattle and Madison, have held Tour de Coops-like events. The one in Indianapolis, however, is thought to be the first that's bicycle-themed. Brake says that, while bicycling is encouraged, walking or driving from coop to coop is permissible -- though he jokes that drivers shouldn't be surprised if their cars get egged.
Tour de Coops runs from 2 to 5 p.m. this Sunday, Sept. 18. The self-guided tour begins at Broad Ripple Park, where you can pick up a map, register for the event and buy a raffle ticket - one lucky raffler will win a deluxe chicken coop. The suggested donation for tour-goers is a mere five bucks, with the proceeds going to local nonprofits Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and IndyCog.
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