Host Your Own Tour de Coop
Meet local chicken coop connoisseurs is by starting or partaking in a Tour de Coop
An underappreciated aspect of our backyard chicken hobby is the people we befriend. The community aspect of homesteading and raising chickens is vital to keeping up with best practices and growing our body of knowledge. Having chicken comrades that we can learn from and bounce ideas off is immeasurable. Whether it is through blogs, magazines, or our Facebook group Backyard Poultry Chat, fanciers helping fanciers is awesome. One way of meeting local chicken coop connoisseurs is by starting or partaking in a Tour de Coop.
Tour de Coops and Tour de Clucks have been happening around the U.S. for about 15 years. They attract people researching practical and gorgeous coop designs that will result in happy backyard hens and fresh frittatas. Unfortunately, many of the early coop tours have gone kaput. I interviewed two long withstanding coop tours to find out their success.
M’Liss Koopman, Tour D’Coop Chair and Jordan Hewitt, Communications and Marketing Coordinator, of Urban Ministries of Wake County in Raleigh, N.C. recently hosted the areas 14th annual coop tour. The tour started in 2005 as a way for a few neighbors to show off their hens and coops. This year it has grown to a one-day garden tour that encompasses 20 coops and thousands of visitors. Tour D’Coop raises funding to support Urban Ministries of Wake County. Urban Ministries supports nearly 30,000 low-income neighbors who are hungry, homeless, and in need of medical care. Coop owners and the tour organizers volunteer their time to promote backyard poultry and urban farming.
Koopman says their accomplishment is because “It’s fun and makes you feel good to offer back to your own community. Tour D’Coop raises awareness about the benefits of backyard chicken keeping, beekeeping, and gardening. We promote humane animal care, and our visitors see first-hand how engaging and interesting chickens are in a natural setting, versus high-density flocks and cages.” The tour also highlights local and sustainable food sources and community engagement.
When starting your town’s coop tour, Koopman suggests to first think about your goals. “Is your primary goal to educate about backyard chickens? Local food? Ethical animal care? To raise funds? Just have fun? That will drive decisions about how large an initial core group of interested people you need to actually plan and conduct the event.”
The second consideration is manpower. Aside from coop owners themselves, you will need coop and traffic docents and registration volunteers.
“For us, the need for a larger day-of volunteer pool eventually made the decision to partner with a local non-profit, a win-win. Beneficial partnerships can be key in planning and conducting a tour, as each brings knowledge, ideas, volunteers, funds or whatever, to the event,” Koopman explains.
Her final advice is: just start! Host it, and they will come. Originally their tour was mostly built by word of mouth and social media. Koopman says starting small is okay.
“Even if the first year is just a few coops and a single article in the local paper, you can build year after year. Make sure the first event is fun, then spread the word. People will want to come, and you can build on that.”
On the other coast, Scott Vanderlip is preparing the 7th annual Silicon Valley Tour De Coop for Saturday, September 14, 2019. This tour is a free, self-guided bicycle tour of chicken coops, gardens, beehives, hoop houses, and the coolest Silicon Valley urban homesteads in the South Bay area of San Francisco Bay.
Vanderlip says that the “SV Tour De Coop has always encouraged other communities to create their own Chicken Coop bike tour and we allow other organizations to use our graphic for free.”
On their website (tourdecoop.org) they offer advice for communities who want to start offering their own tours.
After you have created a tour logo and event website, your next step is recruitment. The SV Tour De Coop website says, “As part of your initial outreach and marketing for the event, solicit potential coops for the tour. As part of the coop selection process, we asked potential coop stop owners for this specific information.” Looking at several Tour de Coop applications, I saw many had similar questions regarding proper husbandry and environmental conditions.
One organization requires all visitors to step in a cleansing solution while entering the coop area and while exiting. That tour delivers the sanitation trays to participating homesteads. This is a well-thought biosecurity measure that other tours should not overlook.
Other questions on the application included; coop location, bike/car parking directions, chicken names/breeds/quantity, coop name, design and photos, and the yards sustainable features. Since the goal of the tours is to educate the visitors, hosts are asked to be prepared to share the evolution of their chicken keeping.
Some organizations then have committees that choose the best coops based on location, design, and hygiene. SV Tour De Coop enters all the coop submissions into Google Maps to help configure routes and various loops as visitors are bicycling. This year they are asking for coop coordinators to configure smaller loops which will highlight specific neighborhoods.
Once you have your coop destinations chosen, your next step is to market the event. SV Tour De Coop used Eventbrite to gather interested participants emails. Since their tour is free, the ticketing and reservation service was also free.
Three to seven days prior to the event, Tour De Coop coordinators send participants route maps and details. This is the time to publish your event’s details on your website and social media. If you collected photos from the hosts, you can include them on the map, so visitors can better choose which homesteads to visit.
Chicken owners are not just passionate about their birds, they are avid about their coops too. Capture their excitement and that of the community for backyard poultry by hosting your own Tour de Coop.
Your Tour de Coop Checklist
- Create coop goals
- Create tour logo and website/event page
- Recruit host coops through social media/local feed stores
- Have hosts complete application
- Select coops based on location, design and hygiene
- Create a tour de coop route
- Advertise tickets to event
- Send out map and event details 3-7 days prior to event
- Create/sell Tour de Coop themed hats and t-shirts
- Invite local politicians and the media to partake and report on the event
Coop Names to Inspire and Impress Visitors
- Banty Barn
- Casa De Pollo
- Chick Inn
- Cluckin’ Cottage
- Cluckingham Palace
- Cochin Coop
- Cochin Crib
- Coop Deville
- Cozy Coop
- Fowl Territory
- Hen Pen
- Le Cordon Bleu Coop
- Little Egg Factory
- Palais Poulet
- Silkie Shack
- Taj De’ Koop
Originally published in the August/September 2019 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.
Kenny Coogan is a food, farm, and flower columnist. Coogan leads workshops about owning chickens, vegetable gardening, animal training, and corporate team building on his homestead. His newest gardening book “99 ½ Homesteading Poems: A Backyard Guide to Raising Creatures, Growing Opportunity, and Cultivating Community” is now available at kennycoogan.com.