In the window of the Main Street gift shop, The Cactus Coven is a 50 square foot farm with four chickens in a coop next to a garden. For the owner Morgan Alynn, the project proves her firm belief that anyone can farm, even if they don’t own land.
“I think when people think ‘farm’ they think you need like several acres and I wanted to kind of show a living display that you can have a working farm in,” Alynn said.
The mini-farm was added to the storefront at 439 Main St in March. Eventually, Alynn wants to sell fresh eggs and produce from the window.
Alynn runs the witchery gift store The Cactus Coven on the ground floor of the building. The shop is filled with oddities, Alynn’s handmade screen printed items, witchcraft tools and consignment clothing. She also owns Thistle Witch Tattoo upstairs where Alynn is a tattoo artist.
Prior to October 2020, both the tattoo shop and gift store operated upstairs but Alynn took over the whole building. The expansion gave space to Alynn’s ambitions and she plans on adding a small library and apothecary section.
Alynn said she planned on the urban farm for a long time. She wanted to open it when the expanded gift shop launched last year, but it took a while to get everything in place. Alynn’s husband built the chicken coop/garden box structure that’s now filled with dirt, cacti and harvestable plants including patchouli, tomatoes, aloe and lavender.
Farming has always been a part of Alynn’s life. She spent most of her life in Boulder County and has a backyard farm at her dad’s home in Lafayette. There they grow produce to feed themselves and raise turkeys, chickens and a quail. The Cactus Coven is decorated with taxidermy inherited from her two grandfathers who were both farmers.
Originally, The Cactus Coven coop had the quail from her farm in it, but Longmont doesn’t allow game birds. She tried housing the turkeys, but later was told that those are also not permitted.
However, an ordinance passed by Longmont City Council in 2011, allows for four hens, but no roosters.
According to the Chicken Hen Permit Application, “No person may own or keep any fowl (except chicken hens), including ducks, quail, geese, turkeys or pigeons, in districts not zoned agricultural.”
Now four Ameraucana hens are in the window, but they are a placeholder for the store’s permanent birds. Alynn purchased chicks of the Silkie breed, a type of chicken that grows fluffy feathers. Right now, they are still too young to be away from a heat lamp but will most likely be at The Cactus Coven in a month.
She said she chose the breed in part because of its reputation of being docile birds and good with kids. Alynn will “diaper train” them so customers can pet the chickens and the store staff can take them on walks down Main Street.
The Silkie chicken breed also interested Alynn because when she visited New Orleans in the past, she was inspired by the witchcraft stores. Locals there told her that Silkies are considered magical and protectors, so the breed fit the Cactus Coven.
Alynn said chickens are often overlooked for pets because people think they need lots of space. But chickens can be happy with a smaller environment as long as they have their necessities, and are low maintenance, Alynn said. She added she loves them because hens offer a meatless protein with their eggs.
“To be able to have their eggs and to be able to have a pet that can nourish you is such a special bond,” Alynn said. “I hope that people see them and either think ‘Maybe I could have chickens’ or at least see that they area viable pet, and that they are a viable animal to own.”
Matured hens lay about an egg each day, Alynn said, and between the four chickens at The Cactus Coven and the 12 at her Lafayette farm, she can offer plenty of farm-fresh egg cartons. Alynn hopes the mini-farm on Main Street will inspire others to get chickens or try urban farming.