Thursday, September 26, 2013

Radical Homemaking | Backyard Chickens


Last June, I began writing about shifting our Dallas home from a consuming maw into a home that grows some of its own food and gives back more than it takes away. This desire to step back and operate outside of the box was fostered by reading Shannon Hayes' Radical Homemakers and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Three months have passed since that first post and the process is now well underway. My initial goal is to convert our derelict back yard from a patch of overgrown grass and broken tile to a food producing mini-farm. I'm starting small and working slowly as to not overwhelm myself. I want this transition to be a lasting one that brings our family together rather than another huge project that zaps all our precious energy and time.

My first order of business to was to erect a compost bin. I'm going to have a garden after all. Last week, while driving around my neighborhood during bulk trash pick-up, I spied a set of pallets perfect for making a compost bin. Compost bin, check.

via La Maison Boheme Instagram

I have already written a bit about our backyard plans, but here is the latest: We have a crumbling tile patio that needs to be replaced. With two children in the back yard, one usually barefoot and the other in a wheel chair, I can't have shards of tile jutting out of uneven ground. So, we're laying a new cement patio in October. After all, we have to have a place for people as well as a place for gardens and chickens... but more about chickens in a moment.

I have not started the garden yet, because I'm still in the process of doing a little hardscaping. I am currently procuring livestock water troughs to use as raised vegetable beds. I may have to buy them new, but I'm researching Craigslist and other second hand options. My son, Charlie, is in a wheel chair and will need the garden at a certain height if he is to participate in this family venture. Also, my darling neighbor who is helping me with my garden, has a knee injury and a taller work area will keep her healthy and pain-free.

Yes, we're going to raise chickens! We're holding off on this enterprise until all of the back yard construction is done. But our plan is to have a coop and chicken run in the corner of the back yard. We won't be raising meat birds. These girls will be for eggs only. If our timeline for this transition holds, we'll be welcoming chicks in the new year - maybe February. They'll be in a brooder for the first 6 weeks or so and then we'll move them out to the coop in early spring when Dallas starts to warm up.

Dallas codes allow citizens to own backyard flocks (yay Dallas!) and after a little snooping around, I've discovered a number of my neighbors have chickens. Even our local elementary school has a coop and three laying hens. So this isn't a ground-breaking move on our part. We have lots of reasons for raising hens, some of which are:

1) Chicken waste is a great additive to compost and will keep our garden going strong. Being new to backyard farming, I'll need all the help I can get.

2) I want my children to know where our food comes from and to assist in it's raising and harvesting.

3) My younger son, Charlie, can only eat certain food consistencies because of his stroke and eggs are his main source of protein - up there with dark leafy green smoothies. And since I'll eventually pulling both eggs and greens out of my backyard, I'll be confident in the knowledge that my baby's food isn't full of chemicals and other crap. For a kid recovering from a severe brain injury, he needs his food to be top-notch. (Don't we all?)

4) And finally, chickens are fun to watch. Some folks go so far as to call their coops "Chicken TV".

So that's the plan as it stands. This fall and winter will mostly be about laying the ground work for a garden and chickens in the spring. I'll have a little winter crop of kale, spinach, chard and garlic, but other than that, I'll be moving slowly and deliberately. Follow along with my Radical Homemaker Board on Pinterest if you'd like to see some of my resources.

I'll leave you with some photos I took this summer, while visiting my mother in Eastern Oregon. They are of her neighbor's chicken set-up. The first is an old shed that has been converted in to a coop. Brilliant. The other photo is of the hens - all of whom are named for Civil War era generals.

Do you have backyard chickens?
Let's hear from you!


Connie said...

Can't wait to watch the progress. Great ideas, and a good way to approach your plan.

Rachel Anderson said...

FAB! Can't wait to see the fruits (literally) of your labor!

Peggy said...

That is wonderful and really inspiring! I dream of having a garden and chickens. :)

Shavonda@AHomeFullOfColor said...

We don't have chickens yet, but we will! Here in Sacramento we are allowed three hens and Ive been wanting some since I first realized we could own them. I too believe in giving back more than we take away. Id love to have a front yard garden to grow produce for all our neighbors. Hopefully one day we can see that dream become a reality. Cant wait to see your little flock.

Anonymous said...

You might want to re-think that compost bin made from pallets, the wood is most likely treated with some nasty chemicals. Keep on keepin' on! ~from down the road in Austin :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fantastic plan, Sarah! And Thanks to you, along with "squint job" and "room of shame," "chicken tv" is now a part of my vocabulary. Can't wait to meet your girls this February!