They strut. They peck. They squawk. They even run.
They take dust baths. And they bask in the sun.
Indeed, they provide an endless source of amusement for Kirk and Adrianne Wieber and their five energetic children, ages 2 to 11.
"It's very entertaining," Adrianne Wieber said.
Do the chickens lay eggs?
Not yet, but the family, who went in on a box of chicks with friends this past spring, is ready.
The Wiebers' storybook-cute, red-and-white henhouse is something of a marvel, a moveable coop on wheels, known among farmsteaders as a chicken tractor.
Every few days, they move the open-bottomed structure to a new patch of grass so the hens can eat grass and hunt and peck for bugs and grubs while fertilizing the lawn.
This Saturday the Wiebers' one-of-a-kind coop will be featured in Meet the Flockers, Everett's second-annual Coop of Dreams Tour, organized by the Riverside Neighborhood Association.
The Wiebers aren't so-called urban farmers, determined to grow, cook and can everything they eat.
But they do grow some vegetables in their Everett back yard, a family project, and eventually the eggs will come, just as soon as the birds mature.
"It is a family project," Adrianne Wieber said. "We've all learned and all enjoyed it."
It all started when 10-year-old Quinn, the second-oldest Wieber child, started looking for a new business project. (Last year, he made $80 selling 850 gumballs he bought for $5.)
The Wiebers, whose large family easily eats five dozen eggs a week, receive a weekly delivery of farm fresh eggs from a friend in Marysville.
Recently, Quinn started to wonder if he could make money raising hens and eggs himself.
That was his dream, Adrianne Wieber said, so the family took on the challenge, and they haven't looked back once.
Kirk Wieber, who runs his own radio tower engineering company in Everett, supervised the design of the family's quaint, moveable coop, dubbed the Brooder Barn.
Using reclaimed wood, sheet metal and dog fencing, he created a structure with a chicken run on the bottom floor, open to the grass, and a protected coop area on the top floor.
Windows on each side of the structure let in light. Crowned with a rooster-topped weather vane, it is the focal point of the yard.
Though the family originally thought the hens would lay their eggs inside the coop, their birds grew faster and bigger than expected, which means the Wiebers will have to modify their coop with additional nesting boxes to give the birds a few dedicated laying spaces.
Thanks to the open bottom of the chicken tractor, the Wiebers' birds can eat grass and critters anytime they want to supplement their daily diet of organic grain.
"The more grass they get, the less food they eat," Quinn said, "And food is expensive."
Feed costs about $15 a month. Fortunately, hens also eat food scraps.
"They eat all of our fruit and vegetable peels," Adrianne Wieber said.
"They're like scavengers."
The Wiebers homemade coop, which needs cleaning and new pine-shaving bedding about once a month, features a rot-resistant, easy to clean Plexiglas second-story floor.
Though the birds seem to love their coop, which protects them from the family's young yellow Lab, Abaigeal, they love even more their time free-ranging about the yard, usually four to eight hours a day.
Visitors will also see a few the other special features, including a 12-foot trellis covered in hops vines, planted three years ago to complement Kirk Wieber's home-brewing hobby.
There's also a gigantic treehouse, made from scrap wood, including a patent-worthy spiral staircase.
Now that the Wiebers' flock of hens is up and running, Quinn isn't so sure he wants to sell eggs when they finally do come.
After the cost of a business license and taxes, his profits might be slim, even though the hens and eggs are organically raised and grass-fed and could therefore fetch a good price.
Quinn also has learned, through countless hours of research, that laying hens aren't typically prized for their meat, so they won't have much value after they're done laying either.
"We're not going to eat them because they're chewy," Quinn said pragmatically of the family pets.
Quinn is also becoming quite the veterinarian.
Looking at Zebra, he notices something unusual under her chin and alerts his mother.
He sees some questionable black spots, which could mean she has a disease, he says, adding that a sick bird could put the rest of the flock at risk.
We'll look that up later and check it out, Adrianne Wieber says.
"He's a little entrepreneur," she said.
Take a tour
What: Meet the Flockers, the second-annual Coop of Dreams Tour of chicken coops, organized by the Riverside Neighborhood Association, will feature a dozen coops in north and south Everett.
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Free maps to the tour sites should be available at www.riversideneighborhood.org. Also available at these Everett locations: Cafe Zippy, 2811 Wetmore Ave., 425-258-4940; Cenex Co-Op Supply, 2901 State St., 425-259-5571; and Major League Pizza, 2811 Colby Ave., 425-259-5554.
Cost: Free. Organizers urge visitors to make a $10 suggested donation to the Riverside Neighborhood Association at any of the tour sites.
Information: See www.riversideneighborhood.org for updates or call Ritch Carbaugh at 425-319-0429 for more information.
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037; email@example.com.
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