Tag Archive: urban homesteading

by Lauren Scheuer and Available Now on Amazon.com!

by Lauren Scheuer and Available Now on Amazon.com!

Lauren Scheuer has written a book called “Once Upon A Flock” about her journey and discoveries in backyard chicken raising, and it is the book I wish I’d had when I was raising chickens.

Lauren is an illustrator, and it is her photographs and whimsical illustrations that gives a third dimension to the book, taking it beyond the world of story telling and information sharing. This is the kind of book that parents and children can enjoy hand in hand as we enter the chicken world.

Lauren and her family went through a chick hatching experience, nursed a sick chicken back to health, and successfully managed adding a new hen to her small flock. We get to go along on all of these important chicken journeys as if we were there, by her side, because of the window she creates with her pictures. Full color, beautifully illustrated pictures.

There were times when I was raising my poultry, before Lauren wrote her book, and usually in the middle of the my coop, in the middle of the night, when all of my pamphlets, and university extension office resources left me feeling very alone.  This was the old way of learning by doing. Lauren’s book is an example of a new age. Books that entertain and warm while they teach and show. Books that show and tell and show some more.

Once Upon A Flock is not only the perfect book to have in hand while starting up a chicken project, it is also a great bedtime story for my daughter… the kind we read while snuggled together, side by side, so that we can see the beautiful pictures! (plus, there’s more to see once we’ve finished the book because Lauren has an excellent blog)

Available on Amazon.com, and in Kindle format, by Atria Books, of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Just A Couple Of Chickens tells about Buff Laced Polish Chickens

This Buff Laced Polish Rooster features in today’s scary Halloween chicken story… he was one of…. “Just a Couple of Chickens” (bwahaha!)

To celebrate October 31st, 2012, which is Halloween, I am going to tell you a story of a very scary chicken.

Only it wasn’t a chicken, was it?
How scary is a chicken?

It was a …………ROOSTER!

Now that’s scary.

By the time this true story took place, I had come to terms with the death of my rooster loving dreams.
I had raised several roosters, due to an unfortunate straight run order from a hatchery, and tried very hard to counsel them out of their brutal, blood-letting ways.

And I’d failed. I’d gotten scratched, pecked, slashed, and ambushed. I’d given up and perfected my rooster mole recipe.

But there was one guy left. My gentle, sweet, bumbling, slightly unsteady Buff Laced Polish.

He was a beauty. With a weird horned comb.

The day that I was down in a crouch, trying to collect eggs from the farthest corner of the hen house, I thought he was coming over to tell me a knock-knock joke.
Or show me a particularly good juicy bug in the straw.

It was therefore a complete surprise to see him, as if in slow motion, leap into the air like a nasty ninja and stretch out his wickedly sharp spurs in a full-out attack.

He could have laid open my face to the bone… if he hadn’t clotheslined himself on the hen house door.

It was kind of funny, but I was shaken. If he hadn’t collapsed in a whomping crunch on the hen house doorstep, I would have been in big trouble.  His spurs were over two inches long.

Pretty scary…

I acknowledge that there are lots of people out there who have good rooster stories, but I haven’t lived them myself. At the end of the day, there’s a reason the rooster is free....

Happy Halloween!


A Chicken In Every Yard by Robert and Hannah Lit

This is a GREAT how to raise chickens book, and I’m pleased to have it in my own urban homesteading library now.

The Urban Farm Store in Portland, Oregon has been a leader in the urban chicken movement and they’ve come out with one of the best, most complete, how to books ever.
It is called A Chicken In Every Yard, and I highly recommend it.

Robert and Hannah Lit started their store on Belmont, right in the middle of the city and have become a resource for the backyard chicken farmers all over Portland. Putting out a book was a natural extension of their work behind the counter, answering every question for every bewildered new urban farmer.

Their advice is uniquely suited for the small flocks that make up backyard chicken flocks, but it goes for big flocks too. The coop section is ideal for city chicken raisers. How to raise chickens is answered by “A Chicken In Every Yard,” and I’d say it is a must for an urban homesteaders library.

This kind of how to book is an essential part of successfully raising chickens. I really enjoy the fact that my book, “Just A Couple Of Chickens” sells well in feed stores across the country, because it’s a fun way to learn a lot about the ups and downs of chicken raising, and while I have a lot of chicken raising in there, my book can’t replace the How To available in the Lit’s book. I own the Lit book myself, because I need the information too.

Stores like The Urban Farm Store are a great place to get chicks for a new, or growing urban flock. They order a variety of breeds and you get to choose one by one. Another way to get chicks is to go to a poultry show, and there’s one coming up nearby, or to contact a local poultry association (like the PNPA) to find a breeder raising the kinds of chickens you are looking for. Portland has all of these resources, and not every place does… it’s a uniquely awesome aspect of this city.

If it is an urban homesteader’s dream to have A Chicken In Every Yard, then this book is a step towards making that happen.



Just a Couple of Chickens tells How To Raise Chickens

My unscientific egg tally shows the amazing production of today’s modern hens, but not the amazing collection abilities of today’s modern backyard farmers.

Just how many eggs will I get from my hens, once they start laying?

Well!  I’m glad you asked. Because I happen to have an egg tally from 2005 and 2006 when I was knee-deep in my first flock. My flock adventures are described in my book, “Just A Couple of Chickens,” and because I was learning by doing, it’s pretty funny.

Not every egg that my hens laid made it to my egg collection basket. Sometimes, the hens laid on rocks or while strolling over little cliffs in the pen, so those eggs broke. Sometimes – which gradually became many times – the hens would eat their own eggs, and sometimes, I tripped on my own big plans and fell flat on the egg basket… so,

The actual egg count is probably about 10% greater than these numbers.

I also had not only chicken hens, but also duck, geese, pheasant, and chukar partridge. It was a very interesting adventure, which is why I wrote the book.

I had a flock of over 100 birds, about 80 hens of the various species.

In 2005, my hens laid enough eggs for me to blow 1,527. The following year the total was almost half that, 847 blown eggs.

The chicken hens laid half as many eggs in their second year as they did in their first. The molt was the dividing line between first and second year production.
The duck hens, who laid more eggs than the chicken hens, laid 1/4 as many eggs in their second year as they did in their first.
The geese laid half as many eggs in their second year, but the eggs were bigger. Bigger goose eggs are more valuable, and each year the geese will lay larger and larger eggs.
The pheasant hens were mad egg-eating fiends. Nuff said.
The Chukar Partridge hens laid a tremendous number of eggs but were very very fierce in protecting them. I almost lost a hand. They kept producing well in their second year but died of old age in their third  or fourth years.

Imprecise as it was, it was a big success, and the eggs and feathers from my flocks, and birds raised by good-hearted backyard farmers, are still available for sale at www.TheFeatheredEgg.com.

It was an amazing time, and I miss my flock. I look forward to writing the sequel book… titled “Just a Couple More”… and I’ll keep a more scientific record this time.



Farewell My Subaru by Doug Fine, My Book Review

Doug Fine’s “Farewell My Subaru” is an excellent introduction to the idea of transitioning from a gas based economy to alternate fuels.

I discovered Doug Fine and his book “Farewell My Subaru” when a man who had read my book, “Just A Couple Of Chickens” emailed me through this website to say that he had enjoyed my book and that I reminded him of Doug Fine.

I was totally delighted to get that piece of fan mail, and even more delighted to be compared to Doug Fine… once I had googled him and come up to speed on what Doug Fine is doing.

“Farewell My Subaru” was obviously required reading that I had so far missed, since my urban homesteading curriculum is self-complied. Because i’m self-taught. Which explains my motto “Learning by doing it… the hard way”

“Farewell My Subaru” was published in March, 2009… right about the time we began to dismantle our New Mexican lives because our local economy had not recovered from the Crash of 2008, so I was late to the party. Doug Fine’s story was about his transition to rural New Mexican life, and his effort to get away from a gasoline based lifestyle.

Doug’s homestead was in Southern New Mexico, and I was in the North, but that didn’t change the similarity of the culture, climate, wildlife, and experiences he described. It was like he was writing about our place. Except that he started out with solar panels and he jumped feet first into biofuel, which we didn’t do. And his chicken chapter was very short, and not only because his chickens kept getting carried off by the wildlife… but because he was already in love with his goats. I’ve raised a goat. I’ve felt that love. 100 plus chickens cannot compete.

His book is an excellent read, and I would place it at the beginning of my growing library on urban homesteading. It’s perfect for someone, like me, who is just beginning to explore the idea of biofuel, and who has heard of solar panels, but not experienced them. For someone who is well along that path, I think it would be too light, but those folks are not the intended audience. This adventure was only the beginning for Doug, who is currently behind a new book delving into the world of legal cannabis and it’s economic effects.

“Farewell My Subaru” was an important book to me in two ways that I’m quite sure Doug Fine did not intend. He described, in his year of homesteading struggle, the difficulties of raising enough crops and food sources to support himself from the land he was standing on, and he carefully detailed the cost – and longterm amortization – of the alternative fuel sources he was using.

One of the reasons I decided to leave my beloved New Mexico property in 2010 was that I had done the math on my farming dreams and seen that, so long as I had to pay for my water (even if it was just the electric bill of the well pump) and so long as I had to pay for the feed, I would not be able to make my farming support itself, much less me. My real homesteading dream had failed. My urban homesteading dream has now begun.

The book is an exploration, not a solution. It’s not intended to be a solution. Doug makes it very clear that the isolation and climate of his remote ranch were problems to an off-the-grid lifestyle. I add that places where solar panels work beautifully are places where fresh running water is scarce. Places where fresh running water is plentiful are places where solar panels don’t work as well as Doug’s did.

Piece by piece, with prudent combinations and community teamwork, we can make progress on issues like sustainable energy, urban farming, local living, and our impact on our environment. “Farewell My Subaru” is an important piece.

And it’s a super easy, funny, fresh read.


Biosphere2 Is the Ultimate In Urban Homesteading

The ultimate in attempting self-sustainable farming away from farmland!

Despite being born and raised in the city, many cities, I have been fascinated with farming.

I tried my hand at dry-land farming. That’s the basis of my book “Just A Couple Of Chickens”, which is funny because it didn’t really go well. But it also didn’t cure me of the farming itch. I’m back in the city again, having flunked farming 101, and now I’m starting to look to urban homesteading. That’s farming my urban habitat, no matter what it may be, using ingenuity and science and techniques the neighbors probably don’t want to know about.

Recently, I realized that my twenty-year-long fascination with Biosphere2 was because it is the Ultimate in Urban Homesteading.

Biosphere2 was an attempt to test what is required to have a self-sustaining enviroment isolated from the planet earth. While the facility is certainly on our earth, it could be completely sealed away from the ground, air, and water.  Sunlight pours in through glass, but sunlight would pour on to anything out in space as well, so that’s part of the plan.

In the 1990s, two teams of people were sealed inside on a mission to see how well it would go to be totally self-sustained. Like, including air and water and all food. They had chickens and goats and crops and five biomes of wild plants and animals. The general media likes to call the mission a failure, but it wasn’t. An experiment is a test, and if it doesn’t make the goal, that’s still good information. The biosphereians were not able to grow and produce enough food to sustain themselves comfortably, as well as suffering other problems, but they learned a lot. They learned not to bring monkeys next time, for instance.

I claim the Biosphere2 crowd as members of my distinguished crowd of failed farmers, which includes the Laura Ingalls Wilder clan.

As I begin my sequel to my first book… which will probably be titled “Just A Couple More”, I’m turning my thoughts to urban homesteading more and more. I’m in the perfect city to do it. Portland, Oregon has a fan base of sustainable agriculture in the city.

Biosphere2 is in Tucson, Arizona and well worth a visit. I think it’s very much like what I would do with urban homesteading if I had 250 million dollars to spare, and about 50 additional million dollars a year for upkeep. My farming plans are smaller in scope, but not in impact.


There's a reason the rooster is freeMid-summertime in cities with pro-backyard chicken ordinances  is the time when CraigsList, and every third telephone pole, is covered with offers of free roosters…

Because mid-summer is the time everyone finally accepts the fact that the gloriously feathered, proud, loud, non-egg laying, not-a-tiny-chick-anymore, flock member they thought was a hen, is in fact, not a hen.

And because the backyard chicken movement rolling across the United States generally has a uniform caveat no matter what city or state…. that….
Roosters are Not Allowed.

And much as I am a big chicken-fan, I agree with the law.

Because…  there’s a reason the rooster is free.

I have had relations with a large number of roosters.

Well, I should say that I have had relationships with a large number of roosters… but I had to go for the scandalous sizzle.
cuz I don’t get out much.

I have loved roosters. I have cuddled them, encouraged them, cared for them.
And each one, upon coming of age, has stalked me, attacked me, injured me, and caused me to experience real fear.

… and started crowing Really Loudly morning, noon, and night  – including midnight, three a. m., and every twenty minutes after that.

But why, in our omnivorous society, where chicken meat is THE most common dinnertime meat, are there still free roosters on offer?

Because another city ordinance in most states forbids butchering animals for food within city limits, unless you have a ream of permits.
And because the majority of urban chicken farmers see their chooks as pets, and it is in poor taste to eat your friends.
And because butchering is hard work,
But mostly because roosters don’t taste very good.

Personally, I think that’s why Mexico invented mole sauce.

So what are you going to do with that backyard rooster?

I can only tell you what I did, in my book “Just a Couple of Chickens” and point you to my other blog, which will soon be a blook, and is titled www.TheFreeRooster.com.
Spoiler alert, it references a recipe for mole sauce.

(And… many of the urban feed stores that carry supplies for backyard chickens will have connections to farmers outside the city who may take roosters… but unless the rooster is a rare breed, it’s better not to ask what they do with them…)






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