Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Homesteading in the Suburbs - A Guest Blog

I am fortunate to be blessed with very talented friends with a wide variety of life experience in many different areas.  One of my friends is passionate about the homesteading arts, and I really admire her persistence, her knowledge, and her skills.  I'm becoming more and more obsessed lately with making the most of our yard, planting edibles and incorporating them into the landscaping, and I often turn to this friend for her opinions and advice.  Urban and suburban chicken coops are becoming kind of a hot topic around here lately, and I know this friend has plenty to say about it, so I asked her to write a guest blog about homesteading in the suburbs, especially raising chickens.  I hope that it will inspire you like she inspires me!

Homesteading in the Suburbs

If you are fortunate enough to own a home in the suburbs, you have a plot of land. Some get acres, some get a fraction of a single acre.  Most are fully covered in sod.  Sod or grass requires mowing. Some homeowners, like myself, choose to edge, spread fertilizer, and treat for weeds to make it look nice.  All of us are given a great opportunity: a plot of land.  A plot of land used to mean opportunity.  Now, to the average homeowner, it means (yard) work.

We all choose how we are going to use our land. We are governed by local laws and homeowners associations, but at the end of the day we have a choice.   We can choose to be slaves to lawn care or lawn care companies, or we can choose to creatively plant low-maintenance perennial or edible gardens.  Yes, our front yards have to conform to some standard. They should be neat and cared for.  standard. Did you know that the average perennial bed takes a few hours a year to care for while the average lawn takes dozens of hours a year to care for?

Vegetable gardens of any size are an opportunity to feed our families. Fruit shrubs and trees provide low maintenance, edible landscaping.  Keeping a reasonable number of chickens in a secure backyard enclosure is another way to produce some of your own food.  That is what I’d like to talk about today : Backyard Chickens.

 A backyard hen can live 8-10 years, and will produce hundreds of eggs in her lifespan without a rooster. Hens are just like women except they release an egg every 25 hours whereas humans only release one a month. In addition to the benefit of fresh eggs, chicken manure is a valuable addition to any compost pile. Chickens eat bugs, aerate the soil, and can eat fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen, reducing landfill usage. The eggs do not have to be trucked and refrigerated for long distances, which reduces our fuel dependency.  Some research has even suggested that fresh, naturally raised eggs have an improved nutrient profile compared to conventional eggs. Raising chickens in an urban or suburban location is quite different from how they are raised on a large poultry farm. Properly cared for and cleaned up after, they would make less noise and smell than most dogs.

Having backyard chickens is a socially and environmentally responsible thing to do.  After World War I our government asked people to do their part to help in the energy crisis of the time.  They urged all residents to keep a small flock of chickens in their backyard.

If you are fortunate enough to own a plot of land, I urge you to use it to feed your family.  Take advantage of all the opportunity land ownership offers.  Reduce the amount of lawn you have to tend each week. Create a large vegetable garden. Plant fruit trees and shrubs.  Raise chickens.*  It is your right as a landowner. 
Step outside today and take a look at your plot of land.  What can you do to become more self sufficient? Maybe you can plant a tomato plant in that empty pot you have in your garage or stop by your local library to find out more about Backyard Chickens.  Whatever you do, start small but dream big.

The Happy (Suburban) Homesteader

*Most major cities in the U.S. allow backyard hens (roosters are usually not welcome, sorry boys you are just too noisy for the suburbs). Naperville, Plainfield, Batavia, and Downers Grove are a few nearby communities that allow it as well.  A petition is being circulated by Bolingbrook residents asking the village council to amend the ordinance against backyard chickens.  If you are interested in signing, please contact From Scratch, we’d love to help you have a say in what you do on your plot of land.

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