The concept of “homesteading” has renewed momentum during the pandemic. The combination of spending more time at home and wanting to feel self-sufficient has resulted in a fury of gardening and baking. Tried to buy yeast or bread flour in the last five months? You’ve probably had to get creative. Need garden supplies? I had to search several stores before finally ordering tomato cages online.
So why are so many people finding so much joy in the simple arts of homesteading? I believe it’s because there is immense satisfaction in getting your hands dirty, either in the earth or in a bowl of dough, then watching the fruits of your labors turn into something not only beautiful, but something your family can enjoy. In addition to gardening and baking, more families find themselves raising chickens; building coops in their backyards and jumping into urban farming. Our own Stagg Design stylist, Melissa, is a pro at urban farming and has quite possibly the cutest modern chicken coop we’ve ever seen. I’m excited to share her outdoor space with you today, and get her best tips on raising your own chicks.
Q: Melissa, you’ve always been a modern day “homesteader” in your own right. What about this concept are you passionate about?
A: I love the idea of reaping the fruits of your labor. Like you said, it’s incredibly satisfying seeing something that you put effort into, tending it and watching it grow. It’s similar to raising a child, haha. And the idea knowing that you have food in your own backyard makes me very happy.
Q: What about raising chickens in your own backyard was appealing to you?
A: I have always known that I wanted chickens when I had my own backyard. As a child I was an animal lover, and as an adult I developed an idyllic notion of living on a farm. It might not be everyone’s dream, but this was a small way of fulfilling those dreams of mine.
Q: I’ve always admired your talent for jumping into an ambitious project and making it beautiful. What was your inspiration for your backyard coop?
A: I wanted my coop in an area that felt completely separate from the rest of my yard. I wanted both my garden and coop to share my designated homesteading space. I had pretty specific requirements for my actual coop. It needed to not only be functional for my chickens but also for myself. It had to be big enough to fit an adult standing up because a chicken coop needs to be cleaned out regularly and for that to happen in my life, I need to feel comfortable inside the coop as well! The style of my coop had to go with the style of my home too. The stars aligned and we actually found this perfect, sturdy coop on a classifieds site. I gave it a fresh coat of black paint and boom, there was my dream coop materialized.
Q: Many people may not know what’s involved with raising chickens. What are your best tips for getting started, and what kind of commitment is caring for a flock?
A: Before jumping into anything, do your research! Talk to people who have had chickens and read books about raising backyard chickens. Surprisingly, once you figure out the details of raising backyard chickens, they are one of the easiest animals/pets to care for!
Q: I’ve loved hearing your stories of your kids’ love for your chickens. What do you think your kids are learning from this experience?
A: My hope is that they realize that food just doesn’t magically appear in grocery stores. There is work involved behind all the food we eat. And if my kids can contribute their bit of work to the foods we are eating, hopefully it will make them better appreciate the food on their plates!
Q: Your yard has been quite the project and the land your home sits on has created some unique challenges. Tell us more about space planning, and how you worked around those challenges.
A: Our yard is not your typical rectangular, flat suburban yard. Our yard has various elevations. Also, our house sits in such a way on the property that most of our “backyard” is actually our front/side yard. Initially, it felt very daunting to landscape, but once we figured out the logistics of the yard with the help of a landscape architect, I have learned to absolutely love it! The unique challenges we had with our yard are now the aspects I love most about it. Our yard is visually interesting and more dynamic with all the different elevations. We have great valley views and amazing mountain backdrops, and I was able to really designate areas of the yard to be completely separate according to their function. I have a family entertaining space on one side of my house, and on the other side, a completely separate homesteading area for my chickens and garden.
Q: What is the investment involved with raising chickens, both to get started and ongoing?
A: The biggest investment starting out will be your coop. I suggest getting/building as high quality of a coop as you can afford. It will pay you back in the long run. Now when it comes to investing your time, it’s just a little time each day to make sure the chickens have their food and water, and to collect the eggs. Be sure to also set aside a little bit of time to clean and freshen up the coop a couple times a month.
Q: What do you find most satisfying about raising chickens and urban farming?
A: Just knowing that right outside my door, I have everything I need to make dinner. Please note: I don’t eat my dear chickens, only their eggs! Ha!
Q: What is your best advice for someone considering chickens?
A: Invest in a solid, large coop. I say one that is big enough for you to stand in. I can’t say enough how that has really made my chicken raising experience so convenient and quite pleasant. It sounds crazy but it’s true! Also, sand for the flooring of your coop, not straw! It’s easier to clean and feels more sanitary.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful coop and yard, Melissa! If this doesn’t make you want to raise chickens, nothing will. Watch for more homesteading tips from our team soon! And be sure to follow us on Pinterest where we pin all of our best ideas and inspiration from far and wide.