Disclaimer: This post isn’t intended to persuade you into starting a homestead in your backyard. If you’re deciding whether or not to channel your inner Little House on the Prairie, you may find some inspiration here. However, if you’re looking for some simple guidelines and practical input on what it’s like to keep a garden and chickens in Cincinnati, you’ve landed yourself on the right page.
I currently live in Madisonville with my husband, two daughters, our dog, cat, and eight chickens. I grew up in Vermont literally surrounded by farms. We kept a big garden that, come Fall, my mom would turn into canned pickles, salsa, relish, and jams. During the summer, my siblings and I shared responsibility in weeding, watering, and tending to the garden and in turn, would sell the vegetables in front of our house from the cutest little rolling vegetable cart you’ve ever seen. My husband and I have always dreamt of our children sharing in the same idyllic pastimes, both for the fun of it and for the tangible lessons of work ethic, the relevance of seasons and witnessing the miracle of creation. So although we’ve had to modify it a bit, we’re making an effort to add these elements of homesteading in little by little. If you are looking to get started on this journey as well, there are a few things you’ll need to know.
The City of Cincinnati allows the keeping of most small farm animals; chickens, goats, rabbits, ducks, you name it. The rest of the rules boil down to “Good Neighbor Laws”. There is no specified amount of chickens you’re allowed to keep and no permit required. Keeping the coop cleaned daily and your yard picked up fall under good neighbor laws, which you can get in trouble for if you don’t follow. But as long as you tend to your flock and keep their space fresh and clean, you are well within the law.
However, per the ordinance, roosters are not allowed to live within the city limits. Because they are loud. And also, if you mistakenly get chicks that turn out to be roosters you will need to dispose of them. And although slaughtering animals isn’t allowed within city limits, you may find yourself desperately demanding that your husband kill your two roosters due to both of your neighbors complaining about the newfound crowing and escaping of said roosters. This is a hypothetical situation of course.
Once you decide you can adhere to being a considerate neighbor while raising chickens, you’ll need to gather supplies. We bought everything for our chickens and garden at Home Depot and Tractor Supply Company in Eastgate or on Amazon.
For chickens you’ll need:
A secure coop. Price ranges from about $50 if you make your own, to several $100 if you buy one pre-made.
Pine Shavings. We buy these at Tractor Supply for about $5 for a big bale that lasts us a month if we clean out the whole coop twice a month.
Feed. We also get this at Tractor Supply. You can get the Tractor Supply brand, Dumor, for $10 for a 50-pound bag (which will feed 4 chickens for a month). And if you’re thinking that the brand matters, don’t, because Purina bags all of their food for them anyway. However, if you’re wanting to go full organic, it’s around $27 per 50 lbs.
Water and Feeder. My husband made ours using buckets and PVC. He connected the watering bucket to a rain collection system on the roof of the coop so that its pretty self-sustainable in the warmer months. Again, the range of what you spend can start at the most basic for about $15 and all the way up to more sophisticated systems. Whatever works for your lifestyle and set-up.
The upkeep for 8 chickens and a 4’x6’ raised bed garden takes 20-30 minutes/day. Chickens need to be let out in the morning and closed in their coop at night. You also need to gather eggs and do a quick once-over in the coop to be sure no predators have broken its security. Because of the self-watering and feeding contraptions that my husband has made, we only refill food and water about every 3-4 days. This takes me about 10 minutes. For the garden, we spend about 10 minutes a day on watering it once, picking any ripe vegetables, and upkeep on weeding and pruning. This is 30 minutes well spent. My daughter already enjoys being a part of the daily chores for both the chickens and garden. Last summer not a single strawberry made it inside because she ate them all straight off the vine while I’d be watering or weeding. I mean seriously, how cool is that?
We use our eggs daily and also make enough money selling a couple dozen per week that it covers the cost of food and shavings for the month. So without counting the time we put into it, we get fresh free eggs. Now, that’s a good deal! And as far as the garden is concerned, there is nothing better than being able to use fresh herbs and vegetables picked just minutes before you add them to your recipes. Or opening a jar of pickles in January from your garden the previous summer. It will get you feeling like a pioneer woman in no time.
We’d love to hear what kind of urban homesteads you’ve got going on in our city. Comment below to be local inspiration for us!