How does your backyard chicken grow? Laguna’s cycling Tour de Coop will find out

Reem Khalil Bell holds her hen Chicky Mama in front of her backyard chicken coop in Laguna Beach.
(SCOTT SMELTZER, Coastline Pilot)

Reem Khalil Bell’s purpose for building a chicken coop in the family’s Laguna Beach backyard was two-fold: to give her 2-year-old daughter, Zia, pets to care for and, the mom hoped, instill in the child a love of home-produced food.

But caring for chickens has added benefits for Bell, her husband, Andrew, and Zia besides fresh eggs: droppings that can be integrated into the soil for gardening and opportunities for socializing with neighbors.

That connection with others will get a boost Sunday, when curious cyclists will tour 15 Laguna Beach homes to see how residents provide shelter for their fowl.

The second Tour de Coop will begin at 9 a.m. at Anneliese School’s Willowbrook campus along Laguna Canyon Road. People who want to participate but don’t have a bike can travel by car.

Bell created the event after a conversation with neighbor Kerry Bowers about ways to bring the community together around chicken coops.

The Bells built their wood-framed coop, which is roomy enough to step into, for their two hens: Queen Victoria and Chicky Mama.

They adopted Queen Victoria, now 3, a year ago and bought Chicky Mama from a feed-and-supply shop in Orange when she was a week old, Bell said. Chicks must stay under heated lamps until their feathers develop, she said.

Both are now fully grown and spend most of their time inside the coop with a few excursions when Bell or her husband can keep an eye on them.

Wire netting runs up the sides and over the coop to protect the hens from predators.

The hens’ personalities are endearing, Bell said.

“They are docile, loving,” she said Tuesday while holding Chicky Mama, an Americana breed. “My daughter can hold them.” Queen Victoria is a Maron breed.

The coop contains a little hut where the hens sleep and an opening to a box where they lay eggs. Each chicken lays an egg every other day, Bell said.

Queen Victoria and Chicky Mama eat grain and any food scraps from the dinner table, and they are helpful soil tillers, she said.

Laguna Beach residents are allowed to keep chickens, but the animals must remain inside a coop or enclosed area and the space must be kept clean, according to the city’s municipal code.

Chicken coop cycling tours are nothing new in California.

Davis’ tour, which is in its fifth year, is called the Tour de Cluck.

Specific data on the number of Californians who own backyard chickens is not available, but anecdotal evidence suggests the practice is gaining popularity, said Joy Mench, vice chairwoman and professor in UC Davis’ animal-science department.

Raising chickens is not as intensive a hobby as one may think, Bell said.

“They are easy to maintain, inexpensive, their eggs are fresh and nutritious,” she said. “They keep bugs out of the garden and their waste is great for compost. The best part is our daughter has a pet and she learns where things come from.”

Registration for the event is free through the Laguna Beach-based nonprofit organization S.E.E.D.S. website.

S.E.E.D.S, which stands for Strengthen, Enliven, Enrich, Develop and Spark, funds programs for childhood education in the arts, health and wellness, and environmental stewardship.