Along with brushed-nickel appliances, granite countertops and glorious walk-in closets, a backyard chicken coop is becoming an attractive feature for people buying homes in Seattle.
Redfin, a Seattle online real estate brokerage, looked at the number of homes listed nationwide in the past three months that mention chicken coops or enclosures on the multiple listing service description.
Seattle came in number five on the list of cities with the most residential chickens. Portland is number one, of course.
As trucks and cars whiz by on busy Holman Road in North Seattle, Eric Jonas scatters chicken feed on a corner lot.
“We have 10 laying hens on site. We also sell coops,” says Jonas, owner of Seattle Farm Supply. “We just got goats on Sunday; their names are Fraya and Maybelle. They’re mini manchas.”
I grew up on a farm in Iowa where we didn’t name our animals and the chickens weren’t pets.
They were foul fowl.
“Oh yeah, they’re very dirty. They can be,” says Jonas, who grew up on a farm too. His was in Idaho.
Chickens were mean too.
“They can be, but a lot of people like them as pets,” he says. “If you hand feed them from chicks and you’re handling them a lot and you’re good to them, then they are great pets.”
He’s sold 3,000 chicks in Seattle in the past couple of years along with some elaborate chicken coops.
It costs about $500 to get started in urban chicken farming.
Seattle residents may raise up to eight chickens, and the enclosure needs to be at least 10 feet away from any home. No roosters allowed, and chickens aren’t allowed to roam off your property.
“The biggest part of this movement has to do with the fact that we’re just tired of what big companies are putting in our food so we want to take back control of that,” Jonas says.
Part of the appeal of having backyard chickens is that it can be relaxing, he says, and “it’s great for kids because it teaches them where our food comes from.”
Susan Emery started raising chickens in her Ravenna neighborhood earlier this year because she wants to teach her seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter how to be responsible by having daily chores.
“The kids love to feed the chickens,” she says. “They love to collect the eggs and it’s a lot of fun to have your own chickens.”
Two black-and-white-spotted Dominique chickens and a Rhode Island Red strut by, scratching the ground for food.
“The ones that I have, I let them roam free during the day in the yard and they eat grass and seeds and worms and bugs,” she says.
“They eat the things that chickens are supposed to eat and when they eat those things it makes the eggs really healthy and they’re really delicious.”
Some chickens can produce up to 300 eggs per year. Most urban chicken farmers say the eggs their hens lay taste better than eggs from a grocery store.
Ironically Jonas doesn’t really like eggs.
“I’m not a big egg eater myself. Scrambled with lots of ketchup, that’s it,” he says. “I love chicken sandwiches though.”
Another irony? Although I never liked chickens when I was growing up on my farm, I have a collection of porcelain and ceramic hens and roosters from my mother and grandmother.
By LINDA THOMAS