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The Next Step in Urban Homesteading – Keeping Chickens

Call me a control freak, but I like to know where my food comes from.  I started growing my own food to get fresh, healthy produce, to use less water, fewer pesticides and harmful chemicals – but really, to know where my food comes from.  That was great, but I thought, “What else can I do to close the loop here?  To be more self-reliant?”  Composting and vermiculture followed gardening as the next logical step in recycling and reducing waste.  What isn’t used from the garden is used in the compost to generate more soil for the garden.  So now I know where the compost comes from that I use in the garden (instead of some scary sewage-sludge laden stuff from the nursery.)   All good stuff.  But there’s still more I feel that I could do.  So what next?  We catch water when it rains to save on irrigation costs and to help restore water to the aquifers in our dry, drought-stricken Los Angeles.  We cook healthy meals and reduce the use of packaged store-bought items.  Okay, great. What’s next?

How about keeping a few chickens?  I’m a vegetarian who eats eggs.  That means that unless I’m buying eggs that come from chickens who are cage free, free-range, organic, vegetarian fed, I’m participating in a process of industrial agribusiness that I am not fond of.  These days, even companies that claim to be free-range or cage free aren’t all they’ve cracked up to be.  So once again, it’s time for the control freak to take matters into her own hands.

We’re getting chickens – only 3, though I’ve heard that it becomes addictive and once you get a few, you want more.  This is what I hear from the members of the Los Angeles Urban Chicken Enthusiasts Meetup Group that I joined on  Since doing that I’ve learned so much.  I’ve even attended a beginner’s chicken keeping class.  Through this Meetup group, I have met people who are giving chickens away, I’ve found sources for organic chicken feed, great avian veterinarians, and more than I ever thought I needed to know about hatching chickens from Trader Joe’s fertile eggs.

Chickens contribute to the household in many ways.  They give eggs, they produce nitrogen-rich fertilizer for the garden. They eat bugs (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasized about feed green beetle grubs that show up in the compost bin to these chickens).  Plus, they’re darned entertaining to boot.

I’ve started reading books from the library:




It has a nice photo library of many different breeds and their behaviors.




There are so many good stories here as well as solid information about raising your own.

I’ve also consulted many websites like:

Urban – small coops and more cool stuff

I even found a site that shows the laws on keeping chickens for each county across the country:

The City

It’s all so exciting and overwhelming.  There are about 100 more site to list, but I’ll leave it at this for now.

Our next step – to build a coop, then get chickens and all the accoutrement that go with them: feeders, waterers, bedding, nesting boxes, and really good locks.  We don’t have raccoons here but we do have other neighborhood creatures who wouldn’t mind a chicken dinner now and then.  Gotta keep those chickens safe.

There’s so much to come, but we’re on the way.  Stay tuned for more as progress continues…

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for the links. “Living with Chickens” got me started when I was a little overwhelmed on where to begin. I need to check “Keeping Chickens” next.

  2. Christy Wilhelmi

    That’s a great idea Shawn!  Sounds like a new website/community in the making.  There’s Veggie Trader, but I don’t know if there have been any posts about eggs.  Their site was down when I checked just now, but it’s usually up and running fine.

  3. Shawn Burch

    I have a friend in Denver that belongs to an “Egg Share”. It’s kind of like a CSA program for Eggs. I looked out here, but couldn’t find anything similar.

  4. Trish


    We have 13 of our own hens, including a few blue egg layers. They are great. Another very helpful chicken site I use is


  5. Christy Wilhelmi

    Huh, that’s a good idea.  I haven’t run across one yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.  It would look like yard sharing, but people would share the eggs in exchange for putting in time caring for the hens.  What a great idea!  Thanks for sharing.

  6. Eve Reynolds

    Hi Gardenerd,
    I am very happy to read that you’ll be keeping chickens… we have three dogs, two cats, assorted squirrel and rat populations, and the occasional raccoons that roam through our neighborhood. I had half a thought to build a coop, then I thought, what about a chicken co-op instead? Have you run across any chicken co-ops in your research?

  7. Jo Wilhelmi

    GREAT Article. Good luck with the chickens endeaver.

  8. Shawn Burch

    I am staring to look into having my own hens as well. I started looking at some of the web sites you listed, and I picked up my first book. I am targeting the fall for getting my first chickens.

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