The garden is going to the birds!

Over the last several years there has been a large resurgence in gardening for food in the suburban backyard. Websites, magazines and televisions seem filled with advice on getting the largest harvest from your garden, square foot gardening, converting lawns to gardens and more. Hot on the heels of this growing interest comes a new trend — one that takes the idea of gardening up to the level of farming, even in the middle of a large metropolis like New York City or Los Angeles. Leading the charge in this new trend is the idea of raising your own backyard chickens.

Here in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, I have often seen various types of backyard livestock. Despite the fact that we are a heavily urban area, there are pockets of ranch and equestrian neighborhoods scattered throughout our city. In these areas it wasn’t that unusual to see an occasional chicken, rabbit or even a goat. That said, when our close friends divulged they were building a hen house in urban Woodland Hills, we were a bit taken aback. Then, a few years later, another friend did the same thing. Now it seems to be a national, if not international trend. Surely you couldn’t be allowed to raise chickens just down the street from the latest Chipotle or Jerry’s Famous Deli. Like most metro areas, though, this is exactly the case. Regulations vary from city to city, but most allow you to keep a few hens (no roosters, please) on your property for your own use.

As you might imagine, fresh eggs — the freshest you have ever eaten — are one big draw of backyard chickens, but there are also the benefits of reconnecting your family (especially kids) to nature.

Keri Dearborn says of her backyard chickens, “Beside providing eggs, chickens naturally recycle kitchen scraps into fertilizer. They also do something that I never expected. When they are out foraging in the yard, they create a sense of peacefulness. Just watching them explore and go about their lives had a zen feeling to it.”

Backyard chickens take time and money, though. Feed and bedding, while not overly expensive, do have a cost, but time is probably more critical.

“Chickens are early risers and go to sleep with the sun. If your days are long, you might have trouble feeding them. They prefer to see the food put down, without that visual stimulation they tend to eat less and be less healthy. They need a sturdy coop to keep out predators and just the right amount of sunlight and shade.” says Dearborn.

You won’t save money raising chickens, as feed and maintenance costs mount, but that seems beside the point.

Susie O’Connell, another Valley chicken farmer says, “It’s been a great experience for me and my kids. The jury’s still out on my husband, but even he appreciates the fresh eggs and ample chicken poop fertilizer for our garden.”

You can find extensive information about raising your own chickens on line, including the blog, Back Yard Chickens at http://www.backyardchickens.com/.

3 Responses to “The garden is going to the birds!”

  1. I love raising chickens! It’s such a joy to have them in your garden… minus the poop and when they eat all your lettuce, though!

  2. Pat Foreman says:

    The Chicken Have-More Plan.
    Gardens and chickens go together in so many ways. he “Chicken Have-More Plan” Explained.

    About 60 years ago, Ed and Carolyn Robinson wrote a classic book called:

    “The Have-More” Plan: A Little Land – A Lot of Living

    Their book inspired millions of people recovering from World War II, to be more self-sufficient.

    The new book: City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-recyclers and Local Food Supplies was written in the same spirt as Robinson’s “The Have-More” Plan from over a half-century ago. The City Chicks book has the ambitious intent of exploring three subjects.

    1. Enhancing Backyard Agriculture. Urban gardening and farm-yards are on the verge of a giant leap forward, ushering in a new — and necessary — era of local and home food production. People have a right to grow their own food and chickens have valuable skill-sets that can be employed in food production systems. Some of these “skill-sets” include producers of manure for fertilizer and compost, along with being mobile herbiciders and pesticiderers. And of course, they also provide eggs and meat. City Chicks shows how you can have a good meal of eggs and garden goods that only travel the short distance from your backyard.

    2. Diverting Food and Yard “Waste” Out of Landfills. Chickens can help convert biomass “wastes” into organic assets such as fertilizer, compost, garden soil and eggs. This can save BIG TIME tax payer dollars from being spent solid waste management streams.

    3. Decrease Oil Consumption and Lower Carbon Footprints. Commercial food systems cannot work without oil. Over 17% of America’s oil is used in agricultural production and, about 25% of this oil is used for fertilizer. The total energy input of food production, processing, packaging, transporting and storing is greater than the calories consumed. It is estimated that every person in this country requires about one gallon of oil per day just to bring food to the table. How sustainable is that? Chickens can help America kick the oil habit by decreasing the amount of oil products used in feeding ourselves … and, at the same time, keep landfills from filling up with methane-producing organic matter.

    City Chicks ushers in a new paradigm of how to use chickens in a variety of roles that help decrease carbon footprints, save tax payer dollars and support local food supply production. And all this is done in a way that is biologically sustainable, economically equitable, and serves us, our communities, our Earth and the future generations of all beings.

    How do you become a Chicken Have-More Club member? You already are! Anyone who is participating in the local foods movements, who believes they have a right to produce their own food, and/or who is interested in conservation ways to help restore and preserve our environment is automatically a club member.

    May the flock be with YOU!
    Pat Foreman