When it comes to backyards, there’s definitely a wide variation; some backyard look like cozy, inviting places that you would gladly let your kids play in while you crack open a cold brew over BBQ with the neighbors, while other backyards look like places that you half expect FBI agents in their blue tracksuits to show up one day to dig for bodies.
If your backyard looks like the latter, it doesn’t mean that you’re some sort of serial killer or just a lazy homeowner; we understand very well that it can be hard to justify putting in significant time and energy into improving your backyard if a backyard doesn’t really seem very important to you.
But what if your backyard was literally feeding you and your family? Would it seem important now? In this article, we will introduce you to the concept of urban farming, starting off with vegetable gardens and chicken coops. In no time at all, you will love putting in all that effort into your backyard once you see that you can reap what you sow.
This is how most people get started in the whole urban farming thing. If urban farming is jumping into a pool, then a vegetable garden is dipping your foot into the water. Little investment, but it can generate surprisingly large rewards.
A common misconception when we talk to our friends and acquaintances about starting their own vegetable garden is “My backyard isn’t big enough to make it worthwhile”. That’s only true if you are thinking about the row planting formation that typically comes to one’s mind when you mention the word vegetable garden. Of course, that formation will only work for farms and they only do it because it makes it easier to water and spray pesticides all over their crops. No, for your backyard vegetable garden, you will be using raised vegetable beds instead which is much more efficient use of 3D space.
Here are some simple guidelines: the length of each bed can be whatever you choose but keep the width under four feet (so you don’t have to step into the bed for watering etc.). Also, mulch; lots and lots of mulch. Gather up all those fallen leaves during the fall and turn them into mulch; this will keep the soil in the beds fertile and provide the added benefit of weed protection.
So you’ve dipped your feet into the water with your vegetable garden and you found the temperature was nice and soothing. Well, now it’s time to jump right in by starting your first backyard chicken flock. Unless you’re a vegan of course in which case a vegetable garden is all you need. But if you’re a regular person and want fresh eggs and meat with none of the antibiotics and hormones you’ll get in your factory farmed chickens (not to mention the question of ethics and animal welfare as well) then backyard chickens are the way to go. And since they’re not going to be living indoors, you’ll need to build (or buy) a chicken coop. If you’re thinking of building your very own chicken coop, check out these 2017 top chicken coop plans! Here are the essential functions of a chicken coop.
The first is shelter. They say a man’s home is his castle and likewise a chicken’s coop must protect it from predators. The castle walls in this case will be hardware cloth (you can use the cheaper and weaker chicken wire as well but keep in mind that some predators can tear through them if they really tried). Make sure the gaps are no wider than an inch and also ensure you bury the hardware cloth at least a foot into the ground as well as sneaky predators like foxes will attempt to burrow under.
The second is humane conditions. Ever see those disgusting videos of chickens being locked in cages so small they can’t even turn around? Don’t do that. Each chicken will need about 4 square feet of coop space plus an additional 10 square feet of run space. Your coop also needs to be well ventilated to prevent the buildup of ammonia gases (from the chicken feces of course) which is not good for your flock’s health (makes you wonder how much ammonia there really is in those factory farms and what effect it has on the chickens). One ventilation panel per side of the coop, plus the roof, is the absolute minimum.
And finally, let’s talk about you. The more time and energy you have to put in just to meet the basic needs of your flock, the higher the chance you will eventually become dejected with the whole thing and take the ax to the lot of them in a fit of rage (ok, maybe not). Make things easy with a higher upfront investment in the following items: hanging feeders, automatic water dispensers, roosting perches and nesting boxes.