GALVESTON — Local chicken farmers Nicole and Mike Graham are truly birds of a feather.
This husband-and-wife duo turned a passion for farm-to-table living into a promising business that custom makes and services backyard chicken coops and provides fresh quail to area restaurants.
The Grahams started the Garden Hen six years ago and made their debut at the 26th annual Galveston Island Home and Garden Show this weekend.
“You won’t find a better-tasting or more-nutritious egg than one from your own backyard,” Nicole Graham said during her demonstration at the Galveston Island Convention Center on Saturday.
Enthusiasts of what they call a “natural lifestyle,” the Grahams held court in a crowded exhibition booth and answered questions about the care, feed and general health of backyard birds.
“It’s easier, less expensive and takes far less room than you think to run your own coop,” Mike Graham said.
Two to three hens will supply a family with enough fresh eggs for many years, as a healthy hen can live to the age of 10 or more, Nicole Graham said, depending on how often and how many eggs she lays.
According to the Grahams, there are three commandments to follow for backyard breeding in Galveston: You cannot own a rooster; you cannot own more than 30 hens at one time and you cannot place your coop within 100 feet of your neighbor’s yard.
The Garden Hen custom makes coops of all sizes and varieties and offers cleaning and maintenance services and regular health checks of animals.
“We also chicken sit for backyard farmers who need to fly their own coop from time to time,” Mike Graham said.
Dennis McNabb is a Garden Hen client and Galveston resident who owns a custom-made coop and six hens.
He was one of many clients who came to see the Grahams’ demonstration.
McNabb grew up on a farm and appreciates the Grahams’ dedication to “living a more sustainable lifestyle.”
He said he is pleased with his custom coop and hopes to qualify for this year’s Galveston Island Chicken Shack Strut to be held during the Easter holiday weekend.
Mike Graham partnered up with Caleb Roberts to form the Texas Quail Project Conservation in May 2013 to raise high-quality quail.
“We wanted to raise the birds from a chef’s perspective,” Mike said.
Through a process they call “live marination,” the quail develop flavors based on a very distinct diet of locally grown fruit and vegetables.
Mike Graham is convinced that “people are better off when they know where their food comes from and how the animals were raised.”
And local chefs agree. Chris Loftis is a sous chef at Number 13 Restaurant in Galveston.
The Texas Quail Project is the sole provider of birds for the restaurant’s signature quail appetizer.
Texas Quail’s “dedication to quality and freshness of product transfers directly to our plates,” Loftis said.
The quail also will be featured at a “pop up” dinner to be held at the Kitchen Chick on March 22, said Daya Myers-Hurt, production chef at Uchi in Houston and former owner of the Lunch Box in Galveston.
For information about The Garden Hen or the Texas Quail Project Conservation, call 832-722-2249.
Home & Garden Show
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today
WHERE: Galveston Island Convention Center, 5600 Seawall Blvd.
ADMISSION: $8, $5 for ages 14-6, and free for nchildren 5 and younger.