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Egg entrepreneur, 11, gets new coop for growing brood

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Acadia Coombs, 11, holds one of her 30 chickens in their new home in North Harpswell. Acadia sells their output under the name Chipper Chickens Farm Fresh Eggs. Robin Casey photo

Imagine you had 30 pet chickens. Could you tell them apart and call each by name? Acadia Coombs can.

The pint-sized 11-year-old powerhouse sells organic eggs from her family’s backyard farm along Harpswell Neck Road. She’s been an excited egg entrepreneur since she was 6 years old, even though she doesn’t like to eat eggs.

This spring, her father, Bob Coombs, owner of builder R.L. Coombs Inc., was constructing what passing motorists speculated was either a garage or a small house. Turns out it’s the Taj Mahal of chicken coops.

Acadia’s pets now have a spacious 14-by-48-foot area enclosed by chicken wire with an attached modern “barn” that’s not like an old-fashioned red barn. This one, with its mono-slope roof, is adjacent to the entrance to Barnes Point Road, and Acadia can ride her bike from her home on nearby Walini Way to feed her fowl.

Joining the chicken menagerie is Henry, a portly New Zealand rabbit who was raised with the chickens and snuggles with them at night. Three  Rouen ducks are happy paddling in a pond with a fountain on the 1-acre roadside property. On Mother’s Day, the family added twin Nigerian dwarf goats, Ruby and Emerald.

Acadia is named after Maine’s national park, of course, and like any diligent poultry farmer, she has compiled spreadsheets with information about her chickens, including breed, date of birth, name, and the color of its eggs (white, medium brown, dark brown or greenish-blue).

On a recent spring day after the school bus had dropped her off by the chicken coop, Acadia easily rattled off the monikers of her 18 hens, one rooster and 11 chicks. The hens are Midnight, Chickadee, Chirper, Honey, Big Crown, Birdbrain, Buttercup, Hard Pecker, Pumpkin Pie-Peanut, Lilly, Lilac, Miracle, Spotted, Speckle, Wood Chip, Sweet-pea, Pom Pom and Flapper. The baby chicks are Ugg, Cocoa, Oatmeal, Raisin, Sheli, Turken, Willow, Rusty, Amanda, Emma and Poppy. Petey is the rooster, a “gentleman who’s a good guardian” of the hens, said Acadia’s mother, Lisa.

Acadia, an only child who is entering the sixth grade at Harpswell Community School, crosses her arms, puts a finger studiously to her face, and recites the breeds of her chickens. There’s a buttercup, buff Orpingtons, naked neck or turkens, Jersey giants, Araucanas, Wyandottes, white leghorns and an ayam cemani. She can tell if they’re male or female by looking at the shape of their feathers as she gently spreads their wings.

“Turkens are my favorite,” she said, cradling a tiny black turken she had fetched from its heated brooder box, its skinny bald neck looking like that of an ostrich.

Another favorite pet is Wood Chip, an all-white rescue chicken that can’t walk, likely because of frostbite. Acadia babied the hen back to health. She plucks it from the coop and gently sets it down in the dirt. With its legs unable to bend, it sits on its hocks, flaps its wings to move, and glides to safety under Acadia’s legs. “She’s more of a human chicken,” Acadia said.

Why chickens? “It’s kind of a funny story,” Acadia related, her eyes blue as the ocean and her long blonde pigtails swinging from side to side. She told her dad she wanted another animal. “He was like, ‘You can have another animal as long as you can get money out of it.’ I said, ‘A cow?’ Too big. ‘A horse?’ Nope. My dad suggested chickens so I could sell their eggs.”

And so began Chipper Chickens Farm Fresh Eggs, selling for $6 a dozen. At first she sold them to friends and neighbors. Now, with the new barn, she can sell them to passersby.

Her dad scrambled to finish building the chicken coop in May after the family returned from Costa Rica, where Acadia went to school for three months. Her mom, Lisa, grew up in a city but is no stranger to pitching in to help Acadia. “I’m definitely the backup. (Acadia) gives me jobs and I do them,” Lisa said.

Lisa and Bob met when Lisa was his brother’s boxing coach in Portland. Tall and slim, Lisa is a five-time national boxing champion in the welterweight category and was captain of the U.S. women’s boxing team. Because of her efforts, women’s boxing became an Olympic sport in 2012.

Acadia said she prefers basketball to boxing. As far as what she wants to do when she grows up, Acadia said, “It’s complicated. When I’m an adult, I want to live in a small house with one or two kids and a 60-acre farm.” That’s after she becomes a veterinarian.

In the meantime, Acadia, a preteen who one minute seems like a little girl and the next like a seasoned and wise egg farmer, said she has started writing a book for first-time egg farmers.

This summer she’ll also find time to play volleyball and swim. And her mini zoo will keep expanding. Her next pet? A barn cat.

Connie Sage Conner is a former editor of The Virginian-Pilot. She lives in Harpswell and serves on the Harpswell News Board of Directors.


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