The Peep at the Coops Tour benefiting Moss Haven Farm is Sunday, May 5.

Staff Reports

Come say ‘Hola, chicas!’ to these chicks living their best lives, at a special way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo! Join us for A Peep at the Coops, a one-day tour of private urban chicken coops in North and East Dallas. This year, it’s “Peepin’ La Vida Loca,” a 10th anniversary celebration, on this urban chicken experience tour set for May 5, which will allow you to chick out the eggcellent hen houses right here in Big D.

Some of the most innovative coops for raising chickens in the city are featured on the tour, and experts will be on-hand to answer all of your questions about urban chickens. The family-friendly event also features an Urban Market with local artisan and food vendors, community information booths, live entertainment, food trucks and other activities that the whole family will enjoy.

A Peep at the Coops is the largest fundraiser for Moss Haven Farm, a 501(c)(3) outdoor learning garden and STEAM curriculum enrichment for students located at Moss Haven Elementary. Moss Haven Farm is entirely supported by community and corporate support.

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5444 Springmeadow Drive is a beautifully remodeled home that has tons of great features and an award-winning chicken coop in the backyard.

Seriously, how many homes in Russwood Acres can claim to have award-winning chicken coops? We know of only one, and it’s a listing from Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate’s Lori Kircher.

This home was completely remodeled and expanded by builder Jim Kienast for a designer. There’s tons of great fixtures and built-ins, a really fun mix of rustic and contemporary elements … and did we mention the fresh eggs?

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Michael Cook inside his chicken "ark" his partner, Chris, built for their Oak Cliff home.

Perhaps I’m biased because my flock wasn’t featured in the June 2012 D Magazine story by Michelle Saunders, but it feels like East Dallas was a little over-represented. There are plenty more avid chicken keepers in Oak Cliff, specifically in the little nook just north of Ledbetter called Hideaway Valley. That’s where you’ll find Michael Cook, who not only has a flock of heritage hens in his backyard, but keeps — get this — silkworms!

Michael Cook raises silkworms, which are actually caterpillars, and harvests their cocoons for their fiber.

Michael tends to his own blog, dubbed “Wormspit” after how caterpillars create silk, and gives occasional updates on his organic garden, his silkworms, and his flock. Cook has been harvesting and spinning silk for more than a decade, but chicken keeping is a new hobby for him.

Cook keeps black copper Marans, which lay dark brown eggs.

“We started in 2010 with five Ameraucana chicks about a week old,” Cook said. ” Three of them turned out to be roosters, so we took them back to the man who sold them to us, which was part of our deal when we got them.”

From there, Cook has tried his hand at hatching chicks, and now has three French Marans, two Americaunas, one Rhode Island red, and another little mixed breed sold to them by a man in Quinlan.

“He purchased her as part of a mixed lot, so he didn’t know what breed she was,” Cook said. “After looking at pictures, I think she’s a breed called Golden Phoenix.  We called her Sue Sylvester, because she’s blond, mannish, and a little strident.”

Michael Cook raises birds, bees, worms, and vegetables in his Oak Cliff backyard.

For Cook and his partner, Chris, chicken keeping was an extension of their organic garden, where they also keep bees. Chris built their very classy chicken tractor, too.

“We based it on a style called an “Ark,” popular in England and parts of Europe; it is supposed to be moveable, but it ended up being too heavy to move easily, so it sits in one spot, and we just move it a couple of times a year to remove the compost from beneath it,” Cook said.

Of course, Cook loves keeping chickens for myriad reasons, but first and foremost is cheap entertainment. They also help him dispose of pests from his huge garden.

“We have always been ‘those weird guys,'” Cook said. “I’ve always had many strange hobbies, and chickens fit right in.  The eggs are now a standard present for whenever we go visiting – we package them up in beautiful clear containers to show off the cool colors, tuck in a couple of bars of homemade soap, and they’re always a hit. ”

So, how do most people react when they hear that Cook is rearing birds and bees (and worms!) all in his Oak Cliff backyard?

Cook also raises bees, which pollinate his extensive vegetable garden.

“I interact with a lot of people who are in various ways part of a more organic, hand-made, grow-your-own counter-culture.  If I am picking up the vegetables from the Urban Acres co-op and somebody offers me eggs and we get into a conversation about chickens, it’s perfectly normal. If I’m at a festival reeling silk, and I start talking with somebody there about the silkworms, and the chickens come up in conversation, it’s just another facet of my obvious weirdness,” Cook said. ” The main thing that people are surprised to hear, is that we don’t live in the country — they can’t picture all this happening in a little quarter-acre neighborhood lot in Oak Cliff.”