Most of us have fears like spiders, snakes, heights and airplanes. I have two — clowns and birds — which is why agreeing to go on a chicken coops tour Aug. 8 was surprising.

Katie Peterson | Staff Writer

Most of us have fears like spiders, snakes, heights and airplanes. I have two — clowns and birds — which is why agreeing to go on a chicken coops tour Aug. 8 was surprising.

Several professionals from Fort Leavenworth braved the August heat and visited three local chicken coops that are kept by some post employees.

It turned out to be a pretty interesting experience, and I learned a lot.

There are many reasons to keep backyard chickens, but probably the most popular is fresh eggs for your morning breakfast and baking needs with complete knowledge of where they are coming from, a key factor for each of the three tour stops’ hosts.

The first stop was retired Department of the Army personnel security specialist Valynn Schmierer’s coop. Her shed was impressive, featuring a converted garden shed with plenty of room for her 15 chickens to roam.

Schmierer has a variety of breeds, including two black Australorps, one Rhode Island red, one Sebright, one silkie, one buff Orpington, one crested Polish, two Sapphire Gems, one speckled Sussex, one black sex-link, two silver-laced Wyandottes and two Ameraucanas.

I never thought about the number of breeds of chickens there actually are, but my fear of birds doesn’t stop me from recognizing that many of them are very beautiful animals. We got a little show at the first stop, too, as we watched Schmierer’s shih tzu mix Gabby herd all of the chickens back into the coop. That can definitely come in handy.

The second, yet impromptu stop, was Directorate of Emergency Services, Operations, Plans and Security plans specialist Stephanie Boulanger’s coop, which included five chickens and three ducks. Boulanger’s coop is across the street from Schmierer’s, and she was kind enough to include her coop on the tour.

Featured breeds included Rhode Island red, barred Plymouth Rock and black sex-link. Duck breeds included two crested Pekin and one Pekin. Though her shed coop is smaller than Schmierer’s, it still has a nice environment for her birds, which includes a door leading out to a small pond that was recently installed so the birds could cool off on hot days.

The third and final stop was Fort Leavenworth Lamp photographer and tour organizer Prudence Siebert’s coop, which featured eight chickens in a coop made of repurposed parts. Her flock includes one white Plymouth Rock, one Austra-white, one barred rock, one speckled Sussex, one Midnight Majesty Marans and three Sapphire Gems.

Unfortunately, I missed Siebert’s tour, but having had personal experience at her coop, (I named the 5-month-old Midnight Majesty Marans Loretta after country singer Loretta Lynn), I can say those chickens are a lively bunch, so it is probably better that I wasn’t there when they were running around in the backyard.

Now that all is said and done, my phobia of birds is nowhere near gone, but having been able to compare the coops, observe the birds (from a safe distance), listen to the keepers and learn about their own methods, I can say honestly that I’m glad I went. Every single one of the owners have a special place in her heart for her chickens, providing care for them and raising them in a healthy environment. My fear will probably keep me from ever having a coop of my own, but after seeing that personal relationship up close, I have decided I’ll be partaking in backyard fresh eggs instead of store-bought from now on.