Andrew Brake started keeping chickens at his Broad Ripple home five years ago, before urban chicken farming became “normal.” Before long his pastime became
a passion, and he thought others should follow suit. So he approached IUPUI and asked if he could teach a class about how to raise chickens in the city.
As trends go, his eco-friendly, good-sense obsession with all things ova began catching on. Coops began springing up all over urban landscapes across the country and throughout Indiana. Meanwhile at IUPUI, Brake taught his students the ins and outs of poultry, and he included in the class a field trip to see his and other people’s coops. He established a website, Nap Town Chickens, to inform and educate other Hoosier hen hobbyists. At the time, Brake was also on the board of IndyCog, which is a community advocacy group dedicated to making Indianapolis a safer place to ride bikes.
- Courtesy of Nap Town Chickens
Brake says he can’t remember the last time someone asked him to borrow a cup of sugar, but he gets asked all the time for eggs -- which he gladly shares when he has them.
So it’s not hard to see where this led him. Brake found a way to merge his two interests. Taking his students around looking at coops gave him an idea: What if he created a community tour of chicken coops? And the mode of transportation from coop to coop would be bicycling, of course.
The result is Tour de Coop, a self-guided, 10-mile tour that routes visitors to a dozen chicken coops in the Meridian-Kessler, Broad Ripple and Butler-Tarkington neighborhoods.
The fourth annual tour is Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Admission is $8 in advance at Brake’s store, Agrarian Urban Homestead and Supply, 661 E. 49th St., and $10 the day of event. A portion of the proceeds will go toward Nap Town Chickens’ Project Poultry, which sets up coops at schools and community institutions and allows Brake to provide ongoing consulting services as well. Sunday’s event also includes vendors who’ll be outside of his store (where the tour starts), including Winter Rose Soaps, Central Indiana Beekeepers Association, Circle City Rain Barrels, Castaway Compost and others.
Brake initially modeled the tour after neighborhood home tours. He even asked neighborhood association members for advice about how to get people involved.
He found participants for the tour by driving around and asking people with coops to take part. The first person he asked told him about another person who raised chickens. Pretty soon it was a chain reaction that spread more than 10 miles.
When Brake opened his store in August of 2013, he researched the number of urban chicken farmers in Marion County. “I estimated that there were about 500 people doing it, and that was a very conservative estimate,” he says. “But now I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a couple thousand here.”
His advocacy group, Nap Town Chickens showcases a variety of coops and lets people know just how easy it is to “have a coop in every yard and a fresh egg on every table,” which is its motto.
“You don’t have to invest a lot of money,” he explains. “Generally you should consider it’s $3 per bird per month, and, on average, people usually have three to five birds for a family of four.”
Brake says managing the chickens is simple. The customers he serves out of his store tend to keep about three to five birds, though some have a dozen. A couple of customers raise upward of 20 to 30 chickens. There’s no limit to how many you can have in Marion County.
Sandy Papageorge started raising chickens because she wanted fresh eggs. She found urban chicken farming rewarding and not too difficult.
- Courtesy of Nap Town Chickens
There are as many different styles of coop as there are breeds of chickens.
“I clean out the coop once a week and take out old bedding and check for eggs,” says Papageorge, who likes to feed her chickens Cheerios and grapes as snacks.
Tour-goers will see Parageorge’s coop on the Meridian-Kessler loop of the event. Most people who take the tour ride their bicycles. Others drive.
Brake said his goal is to have people learn about urban chicken farming, enjoy themselves and stay safe. His goals for IndyCog remain with him to this day, even if his chickens and store operations take up most of his time.
“A good tour is where everyone stays safe,” he said. “People have a good time and it is a community builder. I had no idea the first time we did it that it was a community builder, but that’s what chickens do.”
Brake says he’s always busy and not one to have a chance to visit with those who live near him, but having chickens has forced him to get to know his own neighbors -- which is a good thing, he says.
“They have a vested interest, they help me with my chickens when I’m out of town,” he says. “It’s not like when you go on vacation and you have a dog. You can board a dog at a kennel; you can’t board your chickens.”
Brake says he can’t remember the last time someone asked him to borrow a cup of sugar, but he gets asked all the time for eggs.