Backyard Chickens. Now, More Than Ever!

California’s 2014 Proposition 2 carries a potential 40% price increase in eggs.

Back in November I and many other Californians voted YES to Proposition 2 which requires calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that would allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. Beginning January 1, 2015, farmers will have had to make needed changes or face fines and/or imprisonment for up to 180 days.

Chickens huddle together in their egg-processing plant at the Dwight Bell Farm in Atwater, California in 2008. Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press. Via

The proposition was supported by the Humane Society of the United States, The California Medical Association, Consumer Federation of America, The Center for Food Safety, 63.4% of Californians (or 8,009,556 hip voters), and me. Yours truly. James Arthur Gielow, Deputy Director/CEO/COO/DMD of Mind Your Dirt Inc. Ltd LLC etc. In other words, 5 out of 5 James Gielows’ agree; being cool with animals is pretty neat!

Many of the people opposed to this proposition did so based on price increases for a relatively cheap form of protein for those with economic hardships as well as “increased risk of bird flu and salmonella” because the poor chickens are forced to live outside and can be exposed to, well, the world! Now, I agree that the higher prices on eggs may hurt those that could barely get by already, but making any argument that the chickens will suffer from exposure to the outside was and is ludicrous. Just a flailing, last ditch effort to maintain an evil and profitable status quo at the expense of plain and simple compassion.

Here’s some even better news, this proposition comes shortly after California made it that much easier to maintain a backyard flock by decreasing the mandatory lot size and allowing for city zoning to become more lax. It was this change that allowed me to get my own coop up and running. And just in the nick of time! By the time my chickens were getting in full production mode, the new laws went into effect.

So now I hear passing talk about the price of eggs going up and I can’t help but smile to myself. What total providence that all should fall into place so smoothly and timely for your young and intrepid city boy farmer.

In my mind, these enforced safeguards speaks to a much more systemic issue that is becoming more and more prevalent these days. We are running out of real food. I read the other day that about 80% of the food stuffs in the grocery store didn’t exist 100 years ago. That would mean that it’s all processed chemical soup and as the old adage goes, you are what you eat. And we wonder why we are riddled with cancer and dangerously overweight. People as a whole should be finding ways to feed themselves on whatever level of commitment they can reasonably accomplish.

Commercial farming practices are going down a slippery slope. And no one is talking much about the coming second dust bowl to the Midwest. The steps that were taken back in the 30’s to end it were only temporary and here we are again, pushing the soil to produce corn and corn and wheat. With a rotation of corn, then corn. The only thing buying us more time from the coming dust storms is an underground aquifer that is running on fumes. Check out Ken Burns documentary about the dust bowl. Key-razy!

Soon the world will be desperately crying out for real food again and won’t you look dapper if you can rustle up some animal husbandry and agricultural skills! There’s no app on your tablet that makes fresh produce. Yet.

I am absolutely in love with the ever increasing trend of people relearning all the skills and techniques used by our forefathers in order to provide food for their families. If you’ll recall the story of Ugh and his adventures. Gardening and animal husbandry can be done on the smallest scale if only to aid in providing a percentage of real healthy food. Chickens even provide nutrient rich manure, are a great form of weed and pest control and are extremely entertaining as well. My silkie Piper is f*#king hilariously goofy.

Piper Bedtime Routine
Piper Bedtime Routine

I can go on and on about how wicked awesome it is to raise chickens, feed your family and fertilize your veggies all for a few cents a day. If you want to see my coop and the story behind my egg laying empire, go ahead and click on that Ugh link above. If you just wish to peruse the concept a bit more or chat with my fellow bird nerds, check out my favorite chicken themed site, Backyard Chickens! Those cray cray kids are a hoot! And so damn helpful and cute and funny and odd.

If you’re interested in starting your own backyard flock, look no further than here!

So get out there and get back to the basics! Just because you’re considering it, I’m going to give you a special treat tonight. I know, I know, I’ve already given you so much. But tonight is crazy bonus night here at the Gielow household! Seeing as I dragged my ring flash out of the closet to shoot the featured image of my egg surplus at the top of this drivel, I decided to take a few shots of my girl Sasha in all her beautiful glory. Want to see them?

I can’t hear you…alright, twist my arm. Behold! The Cuteness!

Sasha Portrait 01

Sasha Portrait 03

Sasha Portrait 02

Man! That’s a pretty dog! Have a great night gentle readers.

0 Replies to “Backyard Chickens. Now, More Than Ever!”

    1. I wholeheartedly agree boo! I’d need to make some modifications to the paddock first. And build a mini mountain top for them to climb. Can’t have goats without a mini mountain top! They need to feel the sense of accomplishment and yodel.

  1. Thank you for voting for humane treatment for livestock animals James – giving a voice to those who don’t have one. In Australia the Michael Mosley documentary regarding the meat industry has just screened. Really interesting viewing if you ever get the chance to watch the series. Apparently battery hen meat has 25% more fat and no omega 3 oil compared to free range. It is no longer just animal activists that are concerned about the way we treat and raise livestock.

    1. I believe once people begin to see how much poor treatment effects the quality of what’s being put on the table that they’ll begin to see the light. I had some hardboiled eggs last night and the flavor and texture was unlike anything I’ve had before. The yolk was so creamy and smooth!

      I also get pleasure out of knowing how much you can do in such an urban setting. I can clearly see the San Diego skyline from my yard. All while hearing chickens clucking and seeing fruits and vegetables growing all over. This “revolution” is going to be delicious and exciting!

  2. Good shout out James. I started growing potatoes two years ago and loved it! I’ve now a couple more raised beds and plan to grow beans and peas too. Looking forward to a new growing season.

  3. A friend of mine has chickens, and gave me a dozen eggs one time… I was a little haired out, but went for it – and never regretted it! Those eggs were the best ever… and the yolk color – holy crap, brighter than the noonday sun. Good luck with your efforts, and see if you can get Sasha to turn down the charm a little!

    1. I can picture you as a farmer Anth. I’ve seen pics of your backyard before, I think you can start now by the way. All you need is a wee bit of space. Get yourself limbered up for the big farm in the meantime.

  4. I want some eggs and my granddaughter Sasha. Perfection! Oh… too son. I am so proud of all you have done and all I continue to learn from this blog.

  5. Great post! Barren cages were scrapped in the UK for egg layers, but sadly the cages remain. They just have a fancy name (enriched cage) and a few ‘accessories’ (a perch long enough for perhaps 4 out of the 30 or so hens that share that cage….and a scratch pad….). *rolls eyes*

    And those photos…….. wow!!!!

  6. Homegrown eggs are the best! What are the space requirements? I’m assuming our 10′ x 10′ patio in OB wouldnt go over too well with the neighbors on the other side of the fence… One day

    1. In San Diego, you have to have the coop 10′ away from the neighbors property. So, you may have some trouble. Unless you go 10′ up in the air! Like the Jetsons. Just don’t stand under the coop and look up with your mouth open in awe. In the meantime, you and Jason can come by my place and harvest some breakfast.

      As for space requirements, if you only have a few hens, you can get away with a rather small coop. But they’ll take whatever size run you’ll give them. The bigger, the happier.

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