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Seven Easy Steps to Growing Your Own Food - In Your Backyard!

We explore how easy, rewarding and healthy starting your own backyard egg laying masterpiece can be. After all, not too long ago a few backyard egg layers were the norm...

It seems that more and more people are approaching me with their desire to have backyard egg layers and a garden of their own. I find it hard to hide my excitement for their new interest as I explain how easy, rewarding and healthy this undertaking can be. After all, not too long ago a few backyard egg layers were the norm – not some foreign, socially touchy subject that few dare to act on. 

 

“Do it!” is normally my knee-jerk reaction. Today I will once again get excited and share with you some things that we have learned at Grand View Farm, and see if it inspires you to start your own beautiful backyard egg-laying masterpiece.

 

  1. First rule is to keep it ULTRA simple. If having your own eggs is easy and does not consume too much of your time, then not only is it bound to be successful, but dare I say – fun? We’ll keep it simple by introducing a low-cost, high output, self-cleaning, time saving, clean, humane, smart and FUN system.
  2. Low-cost: You can go online and buy a chicken coop that gets shipped to you, but going to your local hardware store is just as easy, much less expensive, more satisfying and a lot more fun. Depending on the number of layers you want to have, the structure will only need to have a ten square foot area of cover – if that. I’d be happy to send you plans and instructions for the watering tubes that we designed at the farm. It keeps the water clean, off the ground and holds enough so that you may only fill it every few days.
  3. High Output: Each layer will produce one egg approximately every 26 hours, so how many eggs per day will you get? Take the number of layers that you have, multiply it by 0.8 (or 80%). Five birds will net you about four fresh, big, beautiful eggs every morning!
  4. Self-cleaning sounds too good to be true! Nope, even our 200 layers at Grand View Farm are self-cleaning so certainly yours can be as well. The coop plans call for it to be on wheels and quickly pulled to a fresh patch of grass as often as needed. Finding a happy medium between coop size and move frequency takes time and experimentation. Joel Salatin has done it and we have worked with the measurements ourselves. For your backyard masterpiece, give each bird three square feet of grass-space and move the coop once every two days. Even with five birds, having three square feet is easy; three feet wide by five feet long gives you a large enough area for the golden egg layers and a coop so easy to move that your kids will enjoy it.
  5. Time Saving: As if we haven’t made it easy enough, there’s more secrets and tricks of the trade to pass along. Keeping the food, water, egg laying boxes and root rails off the ground gives you 100% grass-space in your coop, keeps everything much cleaner, and makes it super easy and quick to move. Hang the feeder, hang the water tube, hang the bamboo roost rail, mount the egg boxes and you are set.
  6. Clean and humane go hand in hand. If it smells, looks or feels undesirable then you are doing something wrong. Your coop should not only be a lawn-greening, egg-making, child-entertaining masterpiece, but it should be the envy of the neighborhood. Moving it frequently, keeping everything off of the ground, and keeping the egg boxes with fresh leaves, sawdust, mulch, grass, hay, etc. will keep everyone and everything happy.
  7. Smart and fun. It’s smart because you dreamed it, built it, care for it, and eat the healthy finished product – an egg so good that you wouldn’t ever want to go back to the grocery store brands. What an incredible learning experience this could be, not only for you, but your family as well. The gift and life lessons of working for something, the responsibility and the care for the animals are all aspects quickly being lost on the next generations. Your kids will want to get up early to go out and gather the eggs before school and pet the friendly, curious and loyal layers. They will appreciate the food that you prepare for them and dare I say they could be inspired to want to participate in healthy, clean, local food beyond their adolescence when they start making their own food choices.

 

 

Let the questions and conversations begin, I’m looking forward to it!

 

Send me an email for detailed plans for your small coop as well as any other design aspects of the project.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

RW Willy December 12, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Very well written. As a new chicken farmer, thank you As you stated raising chickens can be very easy and fun. Or complicated if you let it. Along with your advice people need to check thier zoning and HOA or applicable regulations prior to getting animals. Possibly you could link the county's farm regs with regards to poultry raising. I know trying to find or decipher the langauge of the county laws is difficult to say the least. Thanks again, great read and good luck.
MVF December 12, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Very interesting article. Just a couple of questions. Do chickens need heat in the winter? Also, I really like the idea of the coop being mobile but, with the bottom open, do you have a problem with predators?
Nick Bailey December 12, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Great questions MVF. Fully grown chickens do not necessarily need heat in the winter. More importantly they need to be dry and have a draft-free place to roost. In our experience, giving the birds a place nearly free of wind and precipitation will keep them healthy even with the absence of artificial heat. The open bottom concept allows the birds to dig a bit for bugs in the soil and other minerals. With the frame of the coop coming down flush with the ground, we have never had an issue with predators. The only time that we have seen a problem is when the birds are not roosting and there is a gap greater than a couple of inches between the bottom of the coop and the ground. Remember, these are egg laying hens so they will jump up on a roost rail at night which will keep them warm, dry and for the most part - out of reach of predators.
Jon December 12, 2012 at 03:11 PM
From the picture on your website, your coop is open-air. Do you have any problems with predatory birds?
Nick Bailey December 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Jon, It is an open air coop. To date we have not had any issues with predatory birds. With that said, the design that I propose for backyard use is different and accounts for predators and pets.
Jon December 12, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Thanks for the info Nick - a couple folks at my work have chickens and I've been thinking about it myself. I don't have enough grassland right now (all forest) but always enjoy thinking about how I can be more self sufficient.
Eagle Man December 13, 2012 at 01:22 PM
What part of harford county do you live in where there are no predators. Around rte 155 and 161 area there are plenty. Traps are need to capture and release away from your birds.
Nick Bailey December 13, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Eagle Man - There are certainly predators in Forest Hill, I never suggested the contrary. We have simply worked to minimize or eliminate their impact on our egg layers. Are you asking if we trap predators? If so the answer is, no. The predatory birds simply do not bother our chickens while they are out on the pasture. For the four-legged predators we use three foot electric poultry net fencing as well as a nighttime guard dog to keep them from getting to the birds while they roost at night. I am quite sure that there are plenty of predators around, however through trial-and-error as well as research, we have implemented solutions that are working well for our farm. Our production methods enhance the natural environment, do not disturb the predators, and at the same time keep our animals safe and in a low-stress, natural environment.
RW Willy December 14, 2012 at 02:24 AM
"According to Maryland State regulations FOX, SKUNK, COYOTE AND RACCOON CANNOT BE RELOCATED IN MARYLAND. If these animals have been trapped, they must be humanely euthanized." Do not relocate your problems. They will then become my problems. They are being dropped off in another animals territory, don't know where water and food sources are. You are sending them to a slow painful death. Nick B. stated it perfectly. Research your threats and defend accordingly.

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