Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest

08
July
2009

Don’t Count Your Chickens…

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It was becoming more and more obvious that one of the chicks Krista & Chris got to raise as laying hens is actually a rooster. He sealed his fate when they heard a cock-a-doodle-do or two early one morning last week. He’s since moved out-of-town to live on a farm where he can make all the noise he wants. You can raise a few hens within the city limits but for obvious reasons, roosters aren’t welcome.

Last spring, Krista & Chris began their urban farming adventure with great enthusiasm. Once a year, around Easter, Grange Supply in Issaquah has “Chick Day.” When you purchase a bag of chicken feed, you receive 5 baby chicks free. For the first month or two, their chicks lived in the basement, first in a cardboard box heated by a light bulb and later in a larger cage intended for rabbits. Once this arrangement became too cramped for everyone and the weather was sufficiently warm, the chickens moved outdoors into a portable run and their newly constructed chicken coop. Their cute coop was built from recycled pallet wood, wrapped in a leftover piece of tyvek and sided in a crazy quilt of salvaged siding painted by the whole family with free paint found on Craigslist. Both the water bowl and feeder were made from recycled plastic tubs and large planter dishes.

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The run is lightweight and can be easily moved to different locations around the yard. At night it’s parked in front of the coop and so the hens can sleep indoors. When the dogs are at the dog park or locked indoors, the chickens like to explore around the yard, never straying too far from the food and water. They’re fairly willing to be corralled back into the run. Sounds pretty easy, huh? Well, not exactly. First of all, it’s 6 months before you’ll ever see an egg. They’re still anxiously awaiting the first egg. The hens are little compost machines, will eat all of your leftovers and are particularly fond of greens and you guessed it, corn on the cob. The poop is one of the best fertilizers you can use, but needs to compost before putting it on the garden. Then there’s the task of replacing the straw lining in the coop and raking out the run if it sits in one place for a day or two. If you have the patience for all this, you can find everything you’ll need for feeding chickens and many of your other urban farming needs at Walt’s Organic Fertilizer Co. in Ballard.

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Teaching kids where their food comes from and introducing them to the healthy practice of eating straight from the garden is one of the most valuable aspects of urban farming. Lily loves to go to her own little vegetable patch to pick pea pods right off the vine. The pods are fun to open and inside are the delicious little sweet peas, ready to pop into her mouth. Getting her to eat greens is no longer a chore as long as they are grown in her garden.

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Having a small house can be challenging with kids, but a large yard makes life easier especially during the warm months of the year. In order to plant more vegetables, Krista & Chris have created lots of small beds throughout the yard stacking broken concrete and rocks to keep their two dogs from running through the crops. They’ve used hanging planters for strawberries and intermingled vegetables with the ornamental plants throughout the edible landscape. The kids enjoy helping with each aspect of food production from planting the seeds to helping with food preparation.

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What better way to help all members of the family feel connected to each other and to the earth they inhabit?

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On a subject akin to urban farming is an article from last week’s NY Times, Organic Farms as Subdivision Amenities describing how developers are creating subdivisions around organic farms in much the same way they used to develop around golf courses. Makes sense to me.


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4 Responses »

  1. Hi,
    I’m planning a canoe-camping trip on Ross Lake in the North Cascades this August. We went last year with some foodie friends and had an incredible time! I’m trying to gather some great food ideas for the trip this year and wonder if you have any suggestions? (Because we’ll be in canoes, it’s basically be like car camping, so we have a lot of flexibility on what we can bring).
    Thanks!
    Brittney

  2. Today we harvested onions! We are going on a vacation and are excited to pack a cooler full of food from our own garden to eat while we are away! Maybe there will be an egg when we get back!

  3. I love your home garden…my friend Carolyn here has been raising chickens at her house for over a year now and has learned a lot! Our garden is coming in and the pumpkins, cantaloupe and watermelons look great, but it is the tomatoes that are making our mouths water! love, BJ

  4. Brittney, I’m going to ask Sally to make some suggestions for you. She has more experience in that realm. One idea I have is to take some meat like bacon or ham that can be used for any meal and a small amount will flavor just about anything. Skagit River Ranch has wonderful bacon. Then there’s smoked salmon from Loki. A little goes a long way.