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Your Take: Would You Raise Your Own Food?

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AppetizerAfter reading a New York Times story about raising your own rabbits and then listening to an NPR show on raising your own chickens in your backyard for food, I jokingly told my lovely wife that I’d be setting up an area in our backyard for our new petting zoo. We’ve been trying to eat more local produce (we like supporting local businesses, we automatically eat only what is in season, and it’s often tastier than buying it from the store) but we’ve never made that leap for meat.

She seemed puzzled at why I’d want an actual petting zoo in our backyard until I mentioned we’d only have rabbits and chickens. She remembered that on our honeymoon to Hawaii, we ate a lot of fresh eggs at the bed and breakfasts we stayed in. Fresh as in they just popped out of the chickens and were still warm (we washed them before we used them). They were delicious and I always joked I’d like to get chickens so we could eat hour old eggs.

She seemed amenable to the idea of eating eggs from chickens but she wasn’t a fan of the rabbit idea. I consoled her by explaining it was easy to kill rabbits, as I had read in the New York Times article, and I didn’t mind doing the hard work. Unfortunately she prevailed mostly because, well, we don’t eat rabbit. :)

I was only half kidding about the rabbits and chickens, we simply don’t have enough space for it (we live in a townhouse), but someday in the future I’d love to give it a try.

Have you ever considered raising your own food? Are you doing so already? I’d love to hear your stories!

(Photo: peet-astn)

{ 38 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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38 Responses to “Your Take: Would You Raise Your Own Food?”

  1. Shirley says:

    We did raise rabbits for food one year and it was a lot of fun for our 6 year old son. When it came time for a ‘freezer refill’ I would take him somewhere else for the day while his dad killed, cleaned and cut up several “4-legged chickens”. ;-) It seemed far too harsh to tell him that we were eating animals that he had played with and helped raise.

    Eventually he asked, “How come we never eat any of the rabbits that Dad raises?” Lesson learned by me… always, in a gentle way, be truthful with children. They WILL catch you if you aren’t. A family catch-phrase after that was “Is that a 4-legged chicken?” meaning “Is that really the whole truth?”

  2. ziglet19 says:

    I’ve never given much though to this, although having fresh eggs straight from my backyard is appealing. Wonder if I could talk the hubby into it…

  3. cdiver says:

    I only wish….wifey is not too keen on eating rabbit.

  4. Marguerite says:

    I’d LOVE to have chickens! Unfortunately my HOA forbids them or any other “farm animals”, though not rabbits specifically. I’ve eaten rabbit before, but I don’t know if I could handle the killing and skinning parts of it.

    • Shana says:

      Many cities across the U.S. do not consider chickens a “Farm Animal” Eugene just lifted a max on the amount of urban chicken you can have. No roosters allowed ! Thankfully they are not needed for eggs!!!!
      You should check into your counties rules on chickens.

  5. I’ve thought about it, but I don’t think there is any way I could kill the animals after they had become pets. I really wanted to raise lambs. First off, I love lamb meat, but they could also maybe even serve as an auto grass cutting feature.

  6. Well, I guess I could mention that this year we did take a step in that direction. We struck a deal with a local farmer. We paid for 2 calfs, and gave them to the farmer to raise. The farmer feeds and takes care of them, and when they are big enough to slaughter, we get one and they get the other.

    I really have 2 major motivations behind that:
    1. It is cheaper in the long run.
    2. I know that the cow was not abused, and lead a relatively good life.

  7. The city where I live is in the midst of decided whether or not to allow urban chickens.

    As someone who grew up on a farm that had chickens, I can’t imagine why anyone would willing live alongside chickens.

  8. Jin6655321 says:

    If you’re interested in raising chickens in you yard you should check out

    http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/

    I don’t think she eats her chickens but she has tips and ideas and stories about raising farm animals in her suburban back yard.

  9. Sheila says:

    Raising urban chickens is a lot more expensive than you think. They need a coop (protection from dogs, cats, raccoons, the weather) with bedding that you change, and they do need veterinary care from time-to-time. Also, if they get in your garden, it’s toast although after your garden is finished, they eat the pests that remain. Plus you have to clean up the poop, which is good for your compost, but not much fun when you’re picking it up. Chickens often don’t lay year around so the dozen eggs you get have an incredibly high cost. With all that said, raising urban chickens can be fun, and a lot of people do it.

    • “they do need veterinary care”

      eh, what? What does a laying hen go for these days? When I was a kid, chickens were the livestock equivalent of a pet goldfish – it wasn’t cost effective to have a vet treat them. If they broke a leg, they ended up on the dinner table.

  10. cdiver says:

    Good NYTimes article. Craving some sliders now.

  11. fairydust says:

    Our town has reached the decision that chicken raising is okay (following specific guidelines), but while the idea greatly appeals to me, I’ve heard the smell is pretty overwhelming. Not sure it’d be worth it for something that costs so little at the store (even though I know the freshness factor is important)… This summer I bought a “half-egg share” from the local CSA (community supported agriculture) farm. So every other week, when I pick up our veggie farm share box, I get a dozen happy-chicken eggs. They’re huge and really beautiful, but honestly, by the time I’m done cooking them in various ways, the taste really isn’t that different to me than that of the eggs I get from the local store during the winter. But maybe that’s just me :)

  12. Youngfye says:

    Only chicken. My parents raised chicken and sold both chicken and eggs when I was a youngster in Jamaica. Having had practice with preparation from the chicken coop to the table, I think I could pull that off. Nothing else, though.

  13. Frugal says:

    I am a vegeratian. Have no desire / need to raise live stock. :)

  14. As much as I love chicken parm…I can’t see us raising our own chickens.

  15. cubiclegeoff says:

    We can’t, but I’d consider it if I lived elsewhere (chickens only). We have a pet rabbit, so I don’t think having them for food would go over well.

  16. john says:

    last year we started a garden in our backyard (subdivision) This year we expanded it to cover about 1/3 of our yard. We also have a shed that I have converted into a chicken coop. While I have tried to talk the wife into eating the chickens right now we are settling for eggs!

    I also tried to get the rabbits started however that did not go over very well.

    Next year we will be starting Honey bees! We are very excited.

    Also, not sure about others here but we have seen in our area that people are able to get around certain ordinances by having “PETS” rather than “farm animals/livestock”

  17. noWhere says:

    On a financial blog, it would be interesting to see an analysis of the cost and environmental impact of raising veggies vs animals.

    • MikeZ says:

      I’d guess cost for both of them is higher than buying the equivalent from a grocery store, assuming you count labor.

      I don’t know how you’d quantify environmental impact of either activities. Presumably the alternative is to just lay down grass/picnic table/swimming pool in your backyard and have the land produce nothing. Or would it be that your more likely to be putting down chemicals (fertilizer/weedkiller/pestkiller) in a vegetable garden than a chicken coop? That seems like a question that could give you any answer you want depending on what your comparing.

  18. PT says:

    I think the chicken idea is great, if only for the eggs. You can keep the rabbit though. This idea appeals to me mainly because I’d like enough land to have chickens. Just give me the land.

  19. M&M says:

    My grandmother has always had chickens, so I often get eggs from her farm. Farm fresh are so much better than store bought! Someday I would like a few acres and be able to raise chickens for eggs and angora rabbits for wool (I just don’t have it in me to kill my own food, wimpy I know). Anyways, I wouldn’t do it now since I don’t feel I have enough space to keep everyone happy. Also would like to say from experience, that once you get the start up cost out of the way (shelter mainly) chickens are actually quite cheap to raise.

  20. drae says:

    Hamburger Heidi comes to mind

    Picked chicken eggs from the nests as a child (loved to feel the hen feathers!);-)

    Raised a pig from wee up, but gave him to landlord (couldn’t eat him) he thought i was “mom” we would play hide and seek!

    I love to vegetable garden though! Mmm, first crack at it this summer (oh how sweet they are)!

    I would have barnyard pets, chickens for eggs and ducks for decoration, but that is about it a cow for milk maybe…

    Found a domestic rabbit on the way home from a grocery store! In the city! Why me (i did animal rescue)….? who goes to the grocery store and comes home with a pet rabbit…she is wonderful and throws a temper tantrum in the morning to be fed! I couldn’t eat her, but don’t eat rabbit anyway.

  21. zapeta says:

    I’d consider keeping chickens if we had a place to do so. If you don’t want to raise animals, having a garden is always a good idea for a use of your land.

  22. My aunt had chickens for years, and based on my experiences from visiting her, I would never have any:

    Pros:
    + The best eggs
    + The best chicken meat IF you have the stomach to kill, clean and butcher the chickens (something most city slickers lack)

    Cons:
    - Need a lot of space: need a coop (think a small to medium sized tool shed), a yard for the chickens to forage (which you need to chicken-proof – make sure chickens can’t escape), space to grow feed for the chickens
    - Poop everywhere!
    - Need a lot of time: need to let the chickens out in the morning, close the coop at nightfall (so the fox or whatever doesn’t get them), feed them during the day, rescue chickens that end up in stupid places
    - The coop smells real bad and if you have allergies like me, it is a worst-case scenario
    - Your yard will look like a WW I battlefield after a few weeks of chicken foraging
    - You WILL hurt your ankle at least once or twice a year by tripping over some hidden hole the chickens dug in your yard
    - You need to have a chicken-sitter when you aren’t home
    - A dog or fox or hawk or weasel etc could kill all of your chickens in one single attack – happened to my aunt several times
    - You usually end up with way more eggs than you can handle, so need to give them away / sell them

    So in summary, I am all for having a neighbor or relative nearby who owns chickens, not doing so myself. I’d prefer to stick to veggies. My dad is a hobby beekeeper, but bees at least dont poop all over the yard and dig boobie-trap holes…

  23. saladdin says:

    I know this type of stuff may sound cool to “city folks” but this is a pain in the ass. Hell, most people don’t know how baby chicks come about.

    This also reminds me of “northern people” who come down here to work who think it would be cool to have peacocks or ducks for their yard. Funny stuff.

    If you want to “raise” your own food take up hunting. My cousin and I kill 5-10 deer a year and never have trouble finding someone to take them. We hunt squirrels which are tasty too.

    saladdin

    • brian says:

      About those deer> If you are ever coming to South Carolina please bring the deer. I can not hunt any more so I raise chickens. It would be nice to have some deer meat.

    • gangrelchik says:

      I’ve hunted myself, but this is curtailed by tag limits. I don’t know if other states put limits on the number of deer one tag can take. if you like small game though there is often no limit on squirrels and rabbits and such.

  24. Darren says:

    We grow some fruit and vegetables in our backyard. And although I’m a meat eater, I can’t bring myself to actually kill the animal before I eat it!

  25. freeby50 says:

    I would definitely not try raising animals for food. Too much work and hassle as far as I’m concerned.


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