In Westport backyards, the chickens really do come home to roost
There were answers to just about every question that anyone might have about chickens, with the possible exception of that eternal quandary: "What came first, the chicken or the egg?"
A program organized Saturday by Wakeman Town Farm, however, addressed many of the other details about raising chickens and maintaining a healthy production of fresh eggs -- right in Westport backyards.
The occasion was the second annual Westport Chicken Coop Tour, a chance to see first-hand this growing trend in a town better known for its arts community than animal husbandry.
"We've learned a lot," said Jim O'Brien of Southport, who visited the seven backyard coops on the tour.
"It's become quite popular in the last number of years," said his wife, Sally O'Brien, explaining that their family plans to try raising the birds. "I think the tour is great."
"We got this coop last year in the spring, so this is our second season with chickens," said Bennett Dubson, who was one of the chicken keepers on the tour.
Just about every day, Dubson said, his five chickens each lay the most delicious -- and distinctive -- eggs imaginable. "We can tell which chicken each egg comes from by the color and size," he said.
Dubson said the birds have a limited egg-laying "life" span, but they've become more than just providers. "These guys are pets now and they'll be here for a long time, I'm sure," he said.
Asked what he likes about having chickens in his family's yard, Andrew Taets, 11, the family's primary farmer, said, "They're really friendly. They're really fun, and the eggs are great."
"You'll never go back," Heather Carey of Fairfield said of eating fresh eggs. "Once you have chickens, you'll never buy a store-bought egg again."
Carey enjoyed the opportunity to convene with other chicken owners on the tour. "I just think it's nice to talk to some other chicken people," she said. "I have some questions about it."
"This is great," said Jodie Maassen of Pinebush, N.Y., who drove to Westport to go on the coop tour, as well as to hear a lecture at Wakeman farm by author Lauren Scheuer speak about her book, "Once Upon a Flock."
"There's a ton of people near us who do this," Maassen said. "We need to do a coop tour in our area."
Scheuer, an Upton, Mass., backyard chicken farmer, chronicled her experiences in the book. "They bring my backyard to life," she said. "My backyard was boring. (Now) there's a reason to go outdoors."
Derek Sasaki, president of My Pet Chicken, which co-sponsored the coop tour, runs a website for chicken owners and has sold more than 100,000 baby chicks to people across the country to start their own coops.
"We have lots of information for newbie chicken keepers," he said.
"We think chickens make a great pet," he said. "They're lower maintenance than cats and dogs, and they provide you with breakfast."