Posted by: bullyforme | July 22, 2009

Urban Farmer

I want chickens.

This may be a problem, since although I’ve created the perfect cottage garden (read: blousy, free growing and basically messy), a small vegetable patch, and a menagerie of domestic pets, the fact remains that I live smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

My yard is one of the biggest on my street, and two sides are surrounded by wooded areas, so I have a bit of privacy. I’m partially fencing my yard this summer although it won’t be totally enclosed. Although I’m doing it for “neighborly” reasons, I know this will add to the cottage feel of my property.

My garden is as stated, free and a bit messy. What started as an inherited, neat little patch of peony, daylily and iris has turned into a huge island of those plants plus spider grass, climbing miniature rose, coneflower, aster, coreopsis, globe thistle, sedum, bee balm, mint, baby’s breath, and the requisite clover, creeping charlie and wild strawberry that I have long ago given up on trying to keep out. It’s bordered by huge chunks of granite I found half buried and bordering my property, but there’s no fancy mulch or staking, fencing or whatnot. I also don’t weed it, but introduced some stonecrop which is a beast, and keeps most of the weeds out. I think the effect is gorgeous, but I swore I saw my mom cringe when she saw it a few days ago and said, “Yes, it’s definitely cottage.”

My veggie patch is very small this year, but I have plans for a large one next year. I’m only growing tomatoes, squash, zucchini, onion and corn as well as rosemary and a few other herbs. This year it’s about 4 X 5 feet with a few huge tomato planters, next year I have a 12 X 12 spot mapped out. I have a big compost bin on the side yard too.

So far I haven’t heard any complaints by the neighbors as to the rural effect of my yard. I do get the odd, questioning glance when the grass gets over 6 inches tall, but I try and stay on top of that. I think they don’t really care. I also think that most of us harbor a hidden desire to dabble in farming, to have a rural setting to work, to have a little more wilderness, agriculture and earth in our life. I noticed many of my facebook friends are hooked on “Farm Town” or “Farmville,” both are virtual farming games where one can plant gardens, tend to animals, etc. This is all adorable, but I want the real thing. Selling my house and buying a small farm isn’t very practical for me right now. I’m pretty much stuck in suburbia. But I refuse to conform! I refuse to “Chem Green” my lawn, mulch every plant with chemically treated, bagged wood chips from the big box stores. I work my cottage garden with cottage techniques. I mulch with soy-ink based newspaper and homemade compost. I spray for bugs with soap & water. I ignore the slugs & grubs – that’s what I have robins & bluejays for.

So…lately I’ve been eyeing my son’s play fort. His father started building it a few years ago and never finished the roof. It’s adorable; he made it out of unfinished pine logs (with the bark still on) and cut a little window into it as well. It looks like a little log cabin (minus a roof). And it’s empty save for a few unruly vines, an unused tiny trampoline and a few anthills. My son never used it. I can’t help but think how it’s just the right size for a few chickens… if I surrounded it with chain link and put a roof on it I could easily house a few egglayers in there.

I started doing some research on the internet, and found a great site, backyardchickens.com which encourages my dream. I visit this site often; I love it. The more I do, the more convinced I am that I can keep chickens.

I mean, why shouldn’t I have chickens? In this economy and chemically-altered-food world, personal farming is making more and more sense. I know where my vegetables are coming from. Why not my eggs? Chickens keep the grass groomed and provide excellent bug control. Home-raised chicken eggs have more omega fats and vitamins and less fat and cholesterol. Plus chickens are just so cute!

I mentioned this in the car the other day to my mother. She said something along the lines of, “I think you’re losing it.” My 10 year old in the back seat was only half paying attention but when he asked what she was talking about, and I said, “I want chickens,” he replied, “Okay mom, you are crazy.”

Maybe so. Maybe this would never work. Maybe there’s a town ordinance against back yard chickens. Maybe my neighbors will think this is the last straw. Or maybe I can buy them off with some fresh eggs.

But I want chickens.

Where would you rather get your eggs from?
These hens:

chickens1

Or these?

chickens2

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Responses

  1. Well, to add to that list of “maybe’s” that you posted “Maybe this would never work. Maybe there’s a town ordinance against back yard chickens. Maybe my neighbors will think this is the last straw.” here is another…MAYBE those chickens would not survive the cold northern N.E. winters without a heater?!
    But, I will say this, if there is a way to do it, you will do it…and if there isn’t a way to do it…you will invent one! Good luck!
    ps: after seeing your first picture, I am never eating eggs again…

  2. Ha ha! You will eat my chicken eggs!

  3. I would say go for it!! 🙂

    Check with the town though. I know when we lived in Dover it wasn’t an option.

    As far as where to get them. I would avoid a hatchery. If you look on Craig’s list there are a ton of local farmers who sell their flock. Some even sell them as laying chickens usually around $8 or so. You an recoup (he he he) that cost in a week from their eggs.

    🙂


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