Bainbridge chicken tales

By popular demand, I’ll be posting freelance reporter Tad Sooter’s stories from the Bainbridge Islander on this blog. His Islander stuff is currently found nowhere else but on the printed page.

This week, Tad explores a new book about Bainbridge’s chicken enthusiasts.

What Came First – Chickens or Their Stories?
By Tad Sooter
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – Two friends met by chance downtown this summer and ― as often happens when imaginative minds come together ― a plan was hatched.

“Many of the creative things I’ve done in my life have originated from things I’ve talked about on Winslow Way,” said Nancy Rekow.
Rekow is an island publisher, poet and writing consultant. The friend she bumped into that day was Jo Ann Trick, organizer of the yearly Tour de Coup, who floated the idea for an anthology of stories by chicken owners.

Their collaboration became “Chicken Raising Tales,” a collection of 23 stories by chicken enthusiasts featured in the first three years of the Bainbridge Tour de Coop. The stories were compiled by Trick and Rekow and published by NW Trillium Press, which Rekow owns with her partner Everett Thompson. The book will debut with a reading and signing event on Nov. 27.

In “Chicken Raising Tales” contributors tell of the joys and trials of backyard farming, of eccentric chicken abodes built and lessons learned from chicken husbandry. In 56 pages there are enough heartfelt stories to satisfy peckish readers.

“They’re lively,” Rekow said. “Some are really funny. They all tell interesting stories about themselves and the family’s relationships with their chickens and their coops.”

The allure of fresh eggs harvested daily inspired most the book’s contributors to buy their first chickens. After establishing their coops, they discovered their new charges to be much more than food producers. Chickens, they found, have character (Paul and Erin Bang-Knudsen describe their flock as “working-class birds with an attitude”). Chickens can be pets, companions and entertainers.
“They are so fun to watch,” Trick said. “We get so much enjoyment out of them.”

Many of the writers shared similar experiences as they learned the ropes of raising chickens, like the shock of discovering a young “hen” was actually a rooster. On the morning of their Tour de Coop debut, Jim and Sharon Webster were surprised to hear Lucy, their Golden Laced Wyandotte, start crowing. They hastily extended the name to Lucifer.

Others adopted chicken philosophies after observing their behavior.
“We’ve learned an important life lesson from our birds: be vigilant but … relax,” David Little and George Lewis write. “That’s what they do so naturally.”

In her chapter, Caroline Kreugel writes that her hens are a source of eggs, fertilizer and domestic harmony.

“… in a home predominately made up of human males, my girls have also added just the right balance of feminine energy for me outside in my garden,” Kreugel writes. “I love them.”

Rekow and Trick have formed their own chicken bonds.

Rekow began keeping chickens after meeting the late Bainbridge icon Minnie Rose Lovgreen, an island farmer. Rekow later recorded Lovgreen’s stories in two books: “Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe For Raising Chickens” and “Far As I Can Remember: An Immigrant Woman’s Story, 1888-1975.”

“Recipe For Raising Chickens,” a mix of practical tips and wisdom, is in its third edition and has sold more than 25,000 copies.

Rekow no longer keeps a coop, but she enjoys seeing other families bringing chickens into their lives.

“It’s quite wonderful,” Rekow said. “In all the time there’s been a civilized world, and even before, people have raised chickens.”

“Recipe For Raising Chickens” served as a guide for Trick as she and her husband Steve built a coop in 2008. They organized the first island Tour de Coop soon after. Since then, chickens have become a part of her family’s life. Even Trick’s 4-year-old granddaughter, Easson, who is featured on the book’s cover, helps tend the flock.

“She loves the chickens,” Trick said. “She loves feeding them, she loves taking care of them.”

The contributors to “Chicken Raising Tales” are far from alone in their passion for poultry.

Chicken coops are returning to backyards across the country, a trend accelerated by the down economy and interest in local food, Trick said. Chicken coop tours are equally popular.

Now “Chicken Raising Tales” gives Bainbridge’s Tour de Coop something the others don’t have: a companion book.

“To my knowledge, and we’ve done research, I don’t think there’s anything out there like it,” Trick said.

Book Reading
Contributors will read from the new book “Chicken Raising Tales” at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Grange Hall, 10340 Madison Ave. For information, call Jo Ann Trick at (206) 842-4662 or Nancy Rekow at (206) 842-6908 or visit nwtrilliumpress.com.


One thought on “Bainbridge chicken tales

  1. Tristan – thanks for posting this and I look forward to more posts from Tad.

    Tad – great story and well written. I love chickens as well, but my work life is too busy to properly care for them. I think it’s lovely that people are teaching their children and grand-children where their food comes from and how to really appreciate the source.

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