#MondayMotivation Inspiration Chicken Mike and Mrs. Nicole, When Life Gets Tough, Get Chickens

Mrs. Nicole and Chicken Mike with Pinecone, The Garden Hen mascot

When working out the schedule of who will be featured each week for our #MondayMotivation Inspiration Series if there isn’t something specific in the person’s calendar they’re wanting to promote business-wise there is an effort to connect the story with a national celebration day that speaks to their purpose or personality. This week DISH is over the moon (50th Moon Landing reference!!) excited to put The Garden Hen founders Chicken Mike and Mrs. Nicole in the spotlight. They were chosen for this specific week because of National BE SOMEONE day. BE SOMEONE Day challenges everyone to take 10 seconds to do something that makes a difference. If it’s watering a plant, telling a joke to make someone smile, or saying a prayer for someone you care about, just take that 10 seconds out of your day to make a difference in the world. It also brings to mind the graffiti over I-45 coming into downtown that has become the tagline of our city. It inspires everyone who drives under it every day to BE SOMEONE right where you are. This is exactly what Chicken Mike and Mrs. Nicole are all about. They embody this saying. They inspire everyone they come in contact with to make a difference in the world around them and to make something exactly where you are. They are proof you can BE SOMEONE. DISH proudly serves up this week’s inspiration… with chicken!

Houston’s iconic sign: BE SOMEONE Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/downsyndromenanny

1. NAME AND COMPANY NAME: Chicken Mike and Mrs. Nicole Graham of The Garden Hen  

2. DISH ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS: We wanted to grow chicken love in our community so we came up with a most unique chicken program that we call “Project Life Cycle: The Chicken”. Its an interactive baby chick hatch with an urban farming influence.  We are so proud to have reached over 16,000 students with our programs so far and growing rapidly!  Just recently signed a partnership with Sprouts Farmers Market.  We are super excited to have their name along side of ours as we educate youth about healthy eating and chickens.  

Chicken Mike and Mrs. Nicole’s first coop with The Fab 5

3. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN YOUR INDUSTRY: So, I have not always donned the name “Chicken” Mike.  About 10 years ago, my wife Nicole brought home 5 chickens. These were “live” chickens, not quartered on a Styrofoam plate chicken like I was used to, (lol).  Like any normal husband, I questioned her purpose to which she replied, “We are going to raise backyard chickens!”  Quite startled I said, “Honey, we live in gated community with a tiny yard and a pit.  How will this work???”   It was at that moment my very determined wife told me exactly how by building and painting her first coop all by herself!  She set the whole thing up inside a 10 x 10 dog run.  We started with 5, which we called The Fab 5, Ronda, Dolly, Violet, Samantha, and April lived in their hot pink coop and laid the best eggs!  These girls are the roots of our passion that we share with so many today.  

Four versions of custom chicken coops designed and build by The Garden Hen that fit every space

4. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO CREATE YOUR OWN: A little over a year after starting this new backyard chicken lifestyle, for various reasons we had far too many chickens in our yard. Nicole was a teaching assistant at a local school where she began to teach each grade level about the life cycle from egg to hatchling. After each hatch, they would let her take all the babies home knowing we already had chickens.  These babies quickly became full grown egg layers.  We were getting over a dozen eggs a week!  At 20 hens, we definitely hit a chicken limit! So we hand painted a sign saying “Chickens, Eggs, Herbs, Coops” and sat on the side of the road across from Traders Village hoping to capitalize on their traffic…  Well, it worked!  We sold out within 6 hours!  Everything we brought! This inadvertently kicked off our custom coop business. Turns out, lots of Houstonians are interested in a similar lifestyle   We, or should I really say SHE was right all along.  Over the past 6 years we have built 122 custom chicken coops all over HTX , from River Oaks, Tanglewood, Memorial, The Heights, and Galveston, all the way to The Woodlands.  Our coops are literally everywhere.  Our prices start around $750.00 and have gone as high as $23,000.00

We annually host a coop tour, called Tour de’ Coop.  Our first year it was in The Heights.  This is an opportunity for others to see their neighbors’ backyard chicken set ups and how each one is individualized. Our journey has been nothing short of amazing!

5. WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF YOUR EXPERIENCE SO FAR: Most challenging aspect of our business is growing the brand we envision and knowing how to do so with little education.  Nicole and I neither have degrees, life happened for us at early ages. Not saying that a degree would fix/answer all our issues, we just may of had more support in certain areas if we had degrees.  Challenges in our growth have been met, fought, and avoided with our “street” sense.  We look forward to more growing pains!  

Classroom Incubator with new hatchlings

6. WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR EXPERIENCE SO FAR: By far our educational programs.   Condit Elementary, like many others, bring us back year after year for the life cycle hatch program.  This creates a fun support system because the babies that hatch out the year before are the layers for next year’s project.  So this year’s 2nd-grade classes’ babies will be the egg layers for next year’s 2nd graders.  Also, being recognized all over town is fun at times.  We have had kids approach us at Rockets games, out at the zoo, or wherever and shout, “Look!! It’s Chicken Mike and Mrs. Nicole!” It’s so special and makes us feel like we are going a great thing.

7. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF OVER THIS JOURNEY: I personally have learned how to be patient and listen to others better.  Nicole says that she truly loves education and that patience is key when working with youth.

8. HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO GIVE UP: NOPE…  Life gets hard.  From losing a parent to suicide to hand to mouth living at times.  We cant stop, wont stop.  Our three daughters are looking at us to be the example of how to fight adversity.  

Mrs. Nicole with Pinecone, The Garden Hen mascot

9. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO POWER THROUGH:   Our Faith carries us.  

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF WHAT YOU DO: Motivating others to do their “one thing”.  We preach to our students and to anyone who will listen to do their “one thing” to be more sustainable.  If that’s an herb box, a small garden, a bee hive, or CHICKENS…  Do your ‘one thing”.  We want people to get back to their roots, understand their food, how it gets here, and what it takes to do so.

11. HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR FREE TIME: Not much free time.  We do love the Houston Zoo, Museum Natural Science, art shows, fashion shows, and finding things to do with our girls.  Maybe an Astros, Rockets, or Texans game every now and again.

12. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT HOUSTON:  Our diversity!  We love the ability to have so many friends, supporters, and future acquaintances from so many different backgrounds and beliefs.  We love those that love back!  Our great city is one that definitely LOVES back!

Chicken Mike’s Rooster Tattoo

13. WHAT IS SOMETHING REALLY NEAT, FUN, OF QUIRKY ABOUT YOU THAT NO ONE WOULD EVER KNOW WITHOUT YOU TELLING THEM: We love tattoos!  Nicole and I have many.  The all have great meaning and are a symbolism to our life, family, and history. 

14. IF YOU WERE TO GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE STARTING OUT OR NEEDING THAT INSPIRATION TO KEEP GOING IN YOUR INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE: Go head and dive in head first!  Get chickens, learn by trial/error, read, and listen to as many folks that have been in this industry.  The backyard chicken industry is a growing yet very young industry.  There are niches everywhere.

15. WHAT IS YOUR WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA SO PEOPLE CAN FOLLOW YOU: Definitely our website for the basics and background the-garden-hen.com. We’d love to consult with you for a custom coop or to help educate you,, your family or your school about chickens and more sustainable living. Our Instagram is loaded with amazing meals. Mrs. Nicole is a fabulous cook and knows how to work a budget within an inch of it’s life! My personal Instagram is fun too @Chickenmikehtx. We look forward to connecting with everyone!

Chicken Mike with Pinecone, The Garden Hen mascot

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