Urban Farmers Participate In The Valley's 'Tour de Coops'

Published: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 6:07pm
Updated: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 7:13pm
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(Courtesy of Ericka Wood)
Chickens Whitey, Willy, Kevin and Lucy live in a Scottsdale coop.

This weekend, several Valley residences will host the Tour De Coops. It’s a chance to check out the chicken coops and gardens of urban farmers in Phoenix. 

In the backyard of Ryan and Ericka Wood in Scottsdale, the hens have a great setup made from a converted dog kennel.

“Our system is built with a separate roost where the chickens go at night,” Ryan said. “The nesting box is a separate box that was an old baby changing table.”

The birds are not quite free range, but they aren’t cooped up all day either.

“They get supervised outings because they love the gardens as much as we do and they can destroy a garden in 20 minutes,” Ericka said.

They’ve had the chickens for almost five years now. Ericka loves going to the coop every day to collect the fresh eggs. She said the vibrant, tasty yolks are completely different from what you find at the store.

“Sometimes we have friends over and they’re like ‘What kind of egg are you using? Its really orange!’ And I’m like ‘They’re supposed to be that color,'" she said.

However, for Ryan, it’s about more than just eggs. 

“For me it is, it’s all about the poop,” he said.

He’s speaking of using the chicken excrement as a fertilizer in his garden. It’s what he likes to call the chicken cycle.

“We garden in the backyard and for the garden it needs nutrients and the chicken,” he said. “Their poop is great fertilizer, nitrogen pellets that we put into the compost and then the compost feeds the garden, the garden feeds us, we feed the chickens, the chicken feeds the compost — so it’s just part of the whole cycle.”

It fits in Ryan’s larger philosophy of conservation. He’s a program manager for Watershed Managent group which helps teach people sustainable living practices. He said saving water can really pay off at home and in the garden.

“We have an outdoor shower that we use in the summer time that will water the grapes and we also have a 600 gallon culvert-style cistern that we use to store water in between rainstorms to water our two apricot trees,” Ryan said. “We then also supplement the water with our gray water from our laundry machine.”

He said with this system they only had to use city water twice this summer to maintain their garden.

Several of the hens are getting on in years and have stopped laying eggs. So while Ryan still gets his fertilizer, Ericka has a backup plan inside the house, five new baby chicks.

“They were just little fuzzy guys two weeks ago,” she said. “Now they’ve got little wing feathers.”

The chicken cycle continues.

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