Rachel Solomon.
Ingela Wanerstrand with one of her mini dairy goats

Ballardites to welcome the Chicken Coop and Urban Farm Tour into their backyard farms

On Saturday, July 9, Seattle Tilth’s Chicken Coop and Urban Farm Tour will visit fifty unique sites throughout the Seattle area to showcase backyard animals and gardens.

Seattle Tilth has been organizing this community event for over a decade, originally to encourage people to raise chickens in the city. Since then, the event has expanded in both topic and turf to include urban and suburban sites, as well as a wide variety of animals and agricultural practices.

In Ballard, tour participants will get a look at mini dairy goats, chickens, vertical growing, rainwater harvesting, and more.

"Having chickens is absolutely doable in Ballard," said Ballard resident Wendy Barrington.

Nicknamed "The Barrington Farms" by their neighbors, the Burlington family has a flock of five chickens that they keep in their garage which has been retrofitted into a coop.

"We have a pretty small backyard so we used what we had to accommodate the chickens and make it aesthetically pleasing," Barrington said.

Barrington said she always wanted to "own a farm in the city" and that her children, age 10 and 7, wanted chickens.

"You don't save money by having your own animals. You should do mostly for the fun," she said.

The family has five chicken, some of which they've raised since they were only two or three day old. The newest member in their coop was adopted around Christmas time from the Humane Society.

"She was our little christmas bonus," Barringtonn said. "Not a lot of people know that the Humane Society sometimes has chickens but there are a lot of predators for stray chickens in the city such as raccoons and dogs."

Barrington said she found that having chickens to be a lot easier than expected.

"It's easier than having cats and dogs," she said.

In addition to giving the family fresh eggs, Burlington said the chickens are affectionate.

"They're social and affectionate. They each have their own funny individual personality," she said.

Barrington said the chickens like to crawl all over the family's chocolate lab and the cat has learned to "not
mess with the chickens".

Ballard resident Ingela Wanerstrand, expert in edible garden designs and tree pruning, has been leading the way in the urban livestock movement for years.

In 2007, Jennie Grant of Madrona wrote to the Seattle City Council and formed the Goat Justice League. With the support of Councilmember Richard Conlin, Wanerstrand and 1,000 others who signed a petition joined Grant in convincing Seattle that goats were pets, and they were tacked onto the list of allowed domestic animals.

Wanerstrand is one of about 12 people in Seattle who keep goats and the only one in Ballard. She also has chickens and grows fruit and vegetables.

She became interested in mini dairy goats after she discovered that was allergic to cow's milk but can consume goat dairy.

She now milks her four goats daily for fresh milk and makes her own goat cheese as well.

"Fruit and animals are my passion," Wanerstrand said.

Wanerstrand has converted her backyard in an urban farm filled with fruit trees, animals and other edibles.

"It's fun and beautiful," she said.

Wanerstrand said keeping an urban farm is "totally doable".

"I manage to maintain a house, a business, and all my animals," she said, adding that it takes her 45 minutes to an hour every morning to milk and feed her pets as well as do some minor cleaning.

"It's all in the design," Wanerstrand said, which is where her expertise as a landscape designer comes in.
"You want to make it as low maintenance, beautiful and productive as possible."

She said it was relatively low-cost to build the goat-shed and chicken coop as she used all recycled materials and enlisted her friends to help build it with a building party.

Wanerstrand said the best things about goats and chickens is that "they're pets but also productive".

"It's hard to quantify the love I get from my cat but the goats and chickens give me eggs, milk, cheese, and fertilizer," she said.

For Seattleites who have been thinking about converting their backyards into mini farms, the Chicken Coop and Urban Farm Tour might be the perfect way to see how it's done. Tickets are $12 each, with discounts for groups and families and Seattle Tilth members.

Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets.

For more information, visit the Seattle Tilth website at http://seattletilth.org/special_events/chickencoopurbanfarmtour.

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