’s a glossy guide, complete with pictures of the ways in which Portlanders have wrangled chickens into their lives and onto their property.
Some coops are sleek, cottage-looking things, the sort of home Martha Stewart would order up. Others are more eclectic, cobbled together from scraps of tin and wood.
The tour started six years ago with just a dozen coops and about 100 people. Since then, Growing Gardens, which promotes home gardening and sustainable living, has taken it over and watched it expand.
Why hen-keeping came early to Portland is hard to say.
"It’s people wanting to get into a more sustainable way of living and more of a grow-local movement, and I think Portland and some of those other areas have been in the forefront,” said Rob Ludlow, the owner of Backyard Chicken, a California Web site that offers itself up as a chicken-keeping field guide.
Nationwide, many cities have changed laws to allow for small flocks, often without roosters and their early morning crowing. Disputes have surfaced in some cities and suburbs over concerns that chickens will reduce property values or that their feed could attract rodents.
In Salem, Oregon’s capital city, Barbara Palermo has led the local fight for the right to raise chickens in her backyard. When city officials told her she’d have to get rid of some illegal chickens about a year ago, she nearly gave in. Then she did some poking around and discovered the vibrant chicken scene in Portland and how it was spreading.
"I had no idea that this was allowed everywhere, that there was this urban-chicken movement,” she said. "When I discovered that, then I really realized that it was just ridiculous not to at least try to change the law.”