Turn Your Depressing Backyard Into Your Own Mini Farm With Chicken Coops And Vegetable Gardens

plants growing on chicken coop

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.

 

Vegetable Gardens

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.

 

Chicken Coops

greens for chickensSo 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.

An Unorthodox Use Of Your Backyard: Chicken Coops And Your Own Chicken Flock

country coop

Have you ever wished that your backyard could really stand out from your neighbors? Nothing to do with upstaging them (although that’s alright too), but what we’re talking about here is having a backyard that is truly unique in comparison, not just ‘better’. Well, if you have then you should consider jumping aboard the latest urban movement known as ‘urban farming’, which will have you turning your backyard into a space that can literally feed you and your family. How’s that for standing out?

plants for chickensIn today’s article, we will be talking about starting your own backyard chicken flock and more specifically, how to house your first backyard chicken flock. To give you an idea of the terminology, what you will need is what is known as a ‘chicken coop’ which is basically a hut for your hens to live in and lay eggs. And while the term itself is generic, the chicken coop itself is not, and chicken coops come in a wide variety of designs and sizes.

To start with, there are broadly speaking three types of chicken coops; the traditional chicken coop, the mobile chicken coop, and the chicken tractor. The traditional chicken coop is a fixed chicken coop and because of that is usually the largest and also the most common. The mobile chicken coop is like a traditional chicken coop except that it comes with wheels attached to the bottom for transport. If the traditional chicken coop is a house, then the mobile chicken coop is a mobile home. And finally, we have the chicken tractor, which has actually absolutely nothing to do with tractors at all but is actually a bottomless chicken coop; think of it like a ‘covering’ for your chickens. Smaller ones can be lugged around while larger ones do come attached with small wheels for transport.

However, for the purposes of this article and your backyard, we will be focusing on the traditional chicken coop. While both the mobile chicken coop and the chicken tractor have their uses, they are more ideal for people with large amounts of acreage, including farmers, and the mobile properties of the two allow the coop to be moved so that the chickens have constant access to fresh patches of grass to scratch their feet on. Since most people’s homes are not large enough to necessitate having a portable chicken coop, we will only be talking about the fixed one.

Let’s take a look at the first planning consideration: size. When it comes to sizing your chicken coop for your first flock, go bigger than you think is necessary; this will give you the room to easily expand your flock later without having to make costly modifications and expansions. The ideal size of your chicken coop is of course proportional to the number of chickens; you need 2 to 4 square feet of coop space per chicken, with the range due to the varying sizes of the chicken breeds. And before you build a chicken coop mansion that covers your entire backyard, keep in mind that chickens need outdoor space as well, known as run space, and this will be 6 to 12 square feet per chicken. Take a look at this guide to building a chicken coop which is really useful if it is your first time constructing a coop.

Second important consideration: shelter. And while shelter from the elements is a given, much more important when it comes to chickens is shelter from predators. We advise you get to know the species of local predators in your area, but common chicken predators are dogs, foxes, coyotes, weasels, minks, skunks, and raptors. Surround your coop with either chicken wire or hardware cloth, making sure the gaps are no larger than 1 inch. While both chicken wire and hardware cloth are adequate, hardware cloth is much stronger while chicken wire can be torn through by larger and more determined predators. Also, don’t forget to make a ‘below ground’ fence as well as predators such as foxes can easily dig underneath your fence.

And the third most important consideration is your local climate. Look up something known as ‘US Hardiness Zones’; if yours is a 3 or above, then no external insulation or heating is required as the chickens’ feathers will suffice as protection against the cold. Regardless of climate however, you absolutely must have plenty of ventilation; minimum one ventilation panel on each wall including the roof.

And finally, make things easy for yourself; the convenience factor. The easier the job of maintaining your chicken coop will be, the higher the chances of its success. Some tips to increase convenience: elevated coop to keep out rats, entry door specifically for you, and hanging feeders and automatic water dispensers.

We hope that this article was informative and you are now better prepared to start your first chicken flock!