by Michelle Hernandez, 6/25/2009
Do you want to know what you need to do to start your own city chicken coop tour? Here are our tour’s tips and tricks.1. Keep things simple when you start. There are so many great ideas for a coop tour. Keep in mind that you can always add extra attractions as you get a better feel for what your local chicken enthusiasts would like to see.
2. Gather your dedicated chicken lovers to help with the tour. Volunteers can help with planning, advertising, coop tour inspections, tour-day information centers, and other tasks as needed to support your tour objectives. Look for those persons who are willing to put time and commitment into this labor of love.
3. Determine the purpose of your tour. Are you doing it raise awareness of backyard poultry? It is part of a locavore or sustainability movement? Is it for community building?
Our tour was a mix of “all of the above”. The purpose of your tour will dictate the underlying theme/unity for the rest of the tour activities.
4. Set a tour format. Will it be a guided tour, or will it be self-guided? When and how long will the tour be?
A guided tour will allow the coop owners to know when visitors will come for a fixed time period and could allow coop owners to potentially participate on the tour as a visitor as well.
A self-guided tour will allow visitors to pick and choose the locations of interest in a less defined fashion during tour hours. Our tour had a very successful turnout and feedback as a self-guided tour.
Select a date that allows a showcase of backyard poultry. A tour date set close to related events, such as backyard poultry workshops, gardening tours, or sustainability celebrations is ideal. Consider a length of time to allow visitors to see multiple coops while still allowing the coop owners to have some downtime. If there are many coops on the tour, we recommend between 4-6 hours for the tour length.
5. Decide whether there will be an admission charge. If so, what will it support and/or what costs will it cover?
A free tour opens options up to the widest audience. Further, it is the least complicated from financial tracking and tax reporting purposes. Consider, though, that the wider the audience, the more consideration should be given to issues with large turnout numbers.
On the other hand, a fee, whether monetary or a donation, can support a good cause and also promote public awareness. In addition, fees cover charges for tour conveniences. For instance, in addition to supporting a good cause, proceeds can go towards printed materials, including a map of the participating chicken coops, advertisements for tour sponsors, and basic backyard poultry information.
Our first year tour was free to the general public with all coop tour information online at http://austincooptour.org . However, based on feedback, we learned that many people like the idea of having a handout or brochure available as part of the tour, so we will be exploring this option further for next year.
We also discovered on our tour that the crowds were large and frequent throughout the day for the whole tour, especially in areas with many coops. We had 1 coop owner and 1 docent/assistant at each site, but we will have a minimum of 2-3 docents in the future to accommodate the turnout.
6. Set tour geographical boundaries. The ideal touring situation is to have high coop density in a small geographical area. That way, people can have variety of coops within a short distance from their starting location. Think green and consider all forms of transportation – walking, cycling, and public transportation, in addition to, or in place of, vehicles.
As a first year, we had coops all around the city. We found the standalone coops on the outskirts often served to support the local area. We hope for more densely populated areas in all areas of our city on our future tours.
7. Determine coop admittance guidelines. You may want to consider basic qualifying criteria. Our guidelines included city ordinance and/or HOA compliance, coop cleanliness, bird health, visitor safety, and available parking for visitors. We had a coop review committee visit each coop prior to the tour to insure it met the criteria.
8. Find community coop tour supporters. Make the event a celebration. Consider including local feed stores, gardening and sustainability clubs, coop designers/builders, farmers markets, local restaurants supporting local business, and anyone else who is a fan of our feathered friend. The supporters can support through donations, advertising, word of mouth, volunteering, and just about in any other way. Likewise, the tour can promote the supporters. Make it a win-win situation.
9. Advertise, advertise, advertise! Make sure to get the word out to solicit coops to participate on the tour. Also make sure to have plenty of notice for the public for your tour. Supporters (see previous item) will often gladly help get the word out. Contact your local media: newspapers, televisions stations, radio, and magazines all are great sources for community events. Also consider online avenues, such as on CraigsList, and social networking venues, such as Twitter and Facebook.
10. Have an online presence. We are in an information age where people enjoy being able to get insta-notification. Have a simple website, blog, or other online tool to provide information on your tour, including tour date, deadlines for coop submissions, photos, maps, and any other relevant tour information. Many tools, such as blogs, let your audience decide how they want to receive update information through a variety of means.
The Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour used Blogger for its first year and posted tour photos through Picasa. See: http://austincooptour.org .
11. Inform your coop tour owners of the tour day game plan. Provide information through in-person orientation, email, or other means to help the owners know what to expect for the big day. Provide tips or suggestions on what they can do to make the tour progress more smoothly.
On our tour, we asked our coop owners to print out signs of our coop tour logo to place in front of their houses for. We also gave them information on what the coop owners’ and their docents’ duties were for the actual tour day. In the future, we would also have information printed, either by the owners, or in a coop tour brochure, of: 1) the coop dimensions, materials, and costs and 2) the breeds, ages, and egg production of their chickens/birds.
12. Have a great tour! You’ve worked hard, and now it’s time to enjoy! Don’t forget to share your thoughts and feedback when the tour is over. This is a great way to get new ideas and help others for future tours.
For more tips and tricks on coop tours, visit The Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour Blog at: http://austincooptour.org