PORTLAND, Ore. — Williams Avenue is a street with a soundtrack like most any other in the neighborhoods of Portland. There’s the swishing of bikes, the rustling of leaves and the whirring of motors.
But then there’s something else under those familiar notes: a tiny warble of clucks coming from a chicken coop set in a front yard. Newspapers across the country have been splashing urban and suburban chicken-keeping across their front pages. It’s the latest thing, they say. But in Portland, it’s old hat. For the past few years, chicken-keeping has found its place here. It seems odd at first; a background beat added to the wrong song. But if you listen as you walk along the streets, it’s a chorus that starts to sound familiar. Portland Mayor Sam Adams has two hens. Spots in chicken-raising classes fill up nearly as fast as the nurseries in north Portland can plan them. Hatcheries have trouble keeping up with demand. Residents dedicate blogs to their chickens. And late last month, hundreds of people turned out for the sixth annual Tour de Coop, a self-guided tour of 26 chicken coops. "It’s inspiring,” said Naomi Coplin, one of the chicken-watchers as she looked around at the setup just off Williams Avenue. The yard looked like a watercolor painting. Greens and reds and yellows and pinks folded in on each other. Sunflowers taller than the visitors shot up from the tilled ground. Raised beds offered up produce. Bees and butterflies shot through the air, using wildflowers as landing pads. And at the center of the garden was one of Portland’s most impressive coops. The structure wound through the yard in the shape of a "V.” There was a roost, a run, a tower for lounging and a sign out front in the shape of an egg. "Hens for Obama,” it read. Growing Gardens, the group that presented the tour this year, sold out of the 800 booklets it printed detailing the route.