side of urban homesteading

As we meet more people,  we hear things like “I am going to quit my job and start urban homesteading” (hearing that I was like “um, first ask your wife because we aren’t going to be responsible for a divorce”).  Then there are those  who , at the spur of the moment,  get some goats, then call us up afterwards with a long list of questions.

Actually, when it comes down to it, urban homesteading is not glamorous and  it’s not all cute baby chicks and homegrown tomatoes

Truth is it’s work – yes, hard work, failures, sickness, diseases, flops, death, pests and a slew of other hardships.  It takes a passionate and dedicated bunch to weather the storms every year and come back again with faith and perseverance.

This week one of our hens (Bella aka “Hells Bells”), who,  as a pullet, was slightly weaker than the rest,  had a mild case of prolapse.   When an animal on the urban homestead gets sick or has problems, city folks have to realize that they, themselves, may be the only ones that can treat their animals.  It’s not like there’s a chicken or goat vet around the corner. You gotta go in and treat them yourselves, so be sure you stock up on books on how to treat sick animals.  And be sure you have the stomach to treat whatever is thrown your way without throwing up!

Having learned to treat our own, we soaked her bottom, smothered her backside in manuka honey to reduce swelling and gently pushed the ovriduct back in.   She’s doing well today, but she’s always been prone to problems.  Like the time she had a crop infection and she spent the night in my bed with my hand holding her infected crop.   Of course, Jordanne’s holistic treatments worked wonders on her infection but you just know she won’t likely live as long as the others.  It’s just one of those gut feelings – which we have found out after so many years of raising animals is pretty darn near accurate.

During the day we continued to check on her – right now, she’s hanging out with Sissy in the sun and having one heck of dust- kicking dirt bath.  Choosing not isolate her completely is contrary to what many poultry experts would have prescribed, but she’s happy.  We are always monitoring her and, after a few hours hanging with the gang, she was brought  in for what we hope is some healing time.  We’ll continue this routine,  monitoring for as long as she needs.

So before jumping feet first into the urban homesteading waters, know this:  the journey will be filled with long hours, little pay, you can forget about long vacations or even vacations, one disease and sickness after another (both plant and animal) failures and frustrations.

Are you up to the challenge?  You aren’t just only digging in your garden, you are digging deep within yourself – wondering “do I really have what it takes to stick it out?”  Heck, you may be surprised what you find out about yourself – sometimes, it ain’t pretty.


  1. Audra says:

    I understand you completely. There are the good times, and the not so good times. Like right now I am having the worst luck with seedlings and my goats have the sniffles from the spring weather. Homesteading is a lot of work and I sometimes chuckle when people tell me I have it easy. Sure I have it easy in some ways, but there are nights I would trade them. Let me sleep and they can walk a colicing horse for hours on end!
    The rewards are always worth it, even in a not so great year.
    I hope all will be well for Bells. I have had a few chickens do that over the years. Some of them have such a rough time compared to the others, but they are still such a delight.
    Happy Gardening.

  2. Ruthie says:

    We have an urban chicken at the standard American vet right now for a broken leg. I laugh when I see our techs worry about being pecked (she’s darling!) but shudder to think of how much the bill is going to be.

    As far as I’m concerned, I would prefer plant diseases and compost problems, aphids and squash vine borer beetles than the “drama” and bologna that goes along with a “real” job.

    I guess I’m lucky that I’m a vegan — none of those farm animal problems sound fun to deal with. 🙂

  3. Paul~ says:

    Ain’t it the truth though! All of it. It is hard work and particulary in the city because you can’t just jump on your tractor and till in a field. You have to physically get in there and do it yourself.
    But that’s where the reward is for me. There’s a direct connection between me and the earth. And with my chickens a direct connection to me and my food.
    There are days when I ask “why again?”, but they are few.
    Thanks for this post. It’s good to remind ourselves that it’s not all pretty post cards!

  4. Anny says:

    I love this post. Thank you so much for posting it.

    I keep chickens and I live in Detroit Michigan. A big city. I also work at a vets office, and one of the vets I work for just happens to be trained in exotics and large animals. So I have a vet for my chickens, but most people don’t even think about taking their chickens to the vet, they just kill them if they get sick. I could never do that (I’m a vegan) I wanted to add some goats to my family soon, but first I asked my vet if they would treat goats and he would so I’m excited.

  5. Jan says:

    Great post! We too are busy with animals that are not feeling well. They are alot of work but worth every sleepless minute. We too have been known to sleep with a goat ( in the past when we had them) or rest all night in the stalls.

  6. Mary Hysong says:

    While I haven’t had any troubles lately in the past I’ve treated lots of different things: bot fly larvae, where this giant fly lays an egg on the animals neck where they can’t lick it off and it becomes a huge maggot that burrows into the skin [now that one stunk bad & I did almost throw up!], clipping a rabbits teeth with wire cutters because they were chewing on their cage and broke off one of their teeth, helping a friend treat a rabbit with a broken absecced jaw, sitting up all night in the barn waiting for a goat to kid, having my arm nearly to the shoulder inside the goat to check if there was another kid [she had 3 and was exhausted-the first one was stuck & I had to turn it and help it out] mmmm, plagues of grasshoppers, quail and cutworms, raids by ‘possums and stray dogs and cats…..too hot too cold, lovely warm spring followed by 6 inches of snow the day after you plant the tomatoes out…. no it’s not all fun, but I agree it’s worth it, there is always something good somewhere, no matter what happens and even after 40 yrs of gardening and 30 years off & on of animal keeping I am still learning, growing and experimenting.

  7. Katebbrowne says:

    The healthiest chickens I ever had were some “retired” hens from a local farm that would not have anything to do with our coop. They roosted in the trees of a heavily forested 52 acre lot bordering National wildlife forest, and nested wherever they deemed a good spot. Abiding by thier instincts nothing ever happened to them, yet this was not the case for all neighboring chickens living in coops and tractors. Who knows?
    The only time they were endangered was by a friends dog. She tore up my dear chicken, Tee Wee. I had to wade up the creek, and combat crawl through the bushes to retrieve her. In the end I had to quickly humanely kill her to put her out of her misery. Ahhh! Sometimes that is the kind of responsibility you carry in being a caretaker to a “pet”, and friend.

  8. Margret says:

    A friend of mine had a favorite chicken named HoneyGold. HG got crop-bound, and we ended up doing surgery on her. Ann poured some brandy down HG’s throat, sterilized the crop and used a scalpel to open her up. With tweezers, she & her husband pulled fermented smelling grass out. I spelled her when she got tired. They made their best guess about when they’d cleared it enough, sutured her up and she lived for at least another year or two—healthy & happy.

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