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Urban poultry farming flocks Issaquah | Pictures
Sasha Visconty’s chicken fascination was unexpected. It happened at The Grange during Chick Days.
With feathers as fluffy as fur and feet as orange as the fruit, the chicks were irresistible. Their chirping was too sweet.
“We got suckered into the cute factor,” she said. “We didn’t have any idea what we were getting into.”
However, when her girls exchanged chirps for clucking and began laying eggs of their own, the attraction never left for the Tiger Mountain couple. Her 11 birds have distinctive personalities. They even follow her around the yard.
As interest in sustainable food grows, urban poultry farming has had a major upswing over the past four years, said Michelle Boman, operations manager at The Grange Country Store in Issaquah.
The business dedicates two months a year to selling chicks, and all of the gear that goes along with them.
This year they have 32 chicken breeds and four duck breeds. They expect to sell 5,000 of them between now and early May.
“Chickens can be pretty darn addictive,” Boman said. “Everyone says chickens are stupid, but you find out they have these really amazing personalities.”
They’re also rewarding.
On a snowy March morning, Visconty lifts up a flap to the two-story hen house to find a brown egg, still warm from when it was laid.
Crack an egg open to find a white with a pronounced shape and a rich yolk. Something this tasty can’t be found in a grocery store, she says.
Inside the chicken pen, she holds a box of leftover greens and stale hot dog buns. The gals rush from their coop and gather around her feet with affectionate clucks.
“They know who feeds them,” she says with a laugh.
When she doesn’t have leftovers, which make the eggs even tastier, the birds get store-bought feed. They’re omnivores, so they can eat meat, but cannibalism is generally discouraged.
It’s also not a good idea to let the birds alone in a garden. A few hours can be beneficial – they’re scratches turn the soil, and they have an appetite for bugs. However, they also have a taste for brightly colored flowers and fresh vegetables.
While a sheltered chicken could live to be about 10 years old, most of them die from predators before they reach that age.
The biggest threat in a suburban area is domesticated dogs. Even the kindest pooch will break down the door of a hen house and attempt to kill the birds inside. Hawks and raccoons also have an interest in the hens.
The decision on whether to allow the chickens to run free range, which increases their quality of life, was weighed carefully with keeping them safe from predators.
Visconty’s decided to let them out when she can, but to make sure they’re locked up by nightfall. Still, their freedom comes at a cost.
When Visconty got her first flock, she grew attached, especially to a hen named Lucy. A coyote snatched her from the yard and made it about halfway down the driveway before Visconty spotted it with Lucy firmly locked in its teeth.
Wearing only socks, she burst from her home with two dogs. The coyote dropped the bird, but she was pretty torn up. Today a bird would normally get the axe, but not Lucy.
Visconty called an emergency vet and asked, “Do you work on chickens?”
The vet responded in a curious tone, “I can.”
After 23 stitches, an IV drip and a round of antibiotics, Lucy got a couple more years of life.
“There was definitely an emotional attachment,” she said. “I couldn’t bear the idea of chopping her head off.”
Chick Days Seminar:
10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., March 17
The event is free.
The Grange – 145 N.E. Gilman Blvd., Issaquah
Sasha Visconty feeds her chickens kale and hot dog buns for breakfast at her Tiger Mountain home. BY CELESTE GRACEY, ISSAQUAH & SAMMAMISH REPORTER
A chick for sale at The Grange. BY CELESTE GRACEY, ISSAQUAH & SAMMAMISH REPORTER
Sasha Visconty reaches into her coop to recover the day's egg. BY CELESTE GRACEY, ISSAQUAH & SAMMAMISH REPORTER
The color of a chicken's eggs can often be guessed by the color of her ears. BY CELESTE GRACEY, ISSAQUAH & SAMMAMISH REPORTER