The Eugene Backyard Farmer

Backyard Farming. Urban Homesteading Sustainablity
The Eugene Backyard Farmer

Our Annual Pullet Sale is Set for Saturday, October 3rd.

If you missed the last of our chicks or if you just want to skip all the cuteness, you have one more chance this year to get chickens.

One of are staff members is raising a bunch of pullets. They will be available Saturday, October 3rd from 10-2. We will open the gates at 9:30 and pass out tickets as people arrive. This means that the first arrival gets to choose which breeds they want first. Pullets are $20 each and we would prefer if you paid with cash or check. We are only hosting the sale and the person raising the birds is the one who needs to be paid. If you need to use a credit card we can do that but ask if you also buy a bag of feed to help offset our costs of accepting cards. These birds have been raised in a more rural setting so when they are being captured at the store, they may make some noise. Don’t be alarmed as we are committed to raising healthy and well cared for chickens.

She has many dwebmail.eugenebackyardfarmerdifferent breeds and all should make great backyard birds. Breeds include Ameraucana, Barred Rock, Black Australorp, Rhode Island Red, Speckled Sussex, and assorted Wyandottes. Since they will be about three months old, it is most likely you will get hens and all you will need to do is introduce them into your backyard.

If this is your first batch or if you are between flocks, we find it best that when you get home, you place them into the hen house area. This allows them to get their bearings straight so they will know where to go to sleep at dusk. Just toss them into the roosting area and let them discover their new home at their own pace.

If you are introducing these pullets to an established flock you have a few things to consider. Flock dynamics are often changing and the introduction of new birds will throw off the pecking order. You could just place the pullets into the run with the hens and see what happens. Be sure to manage the process because sometimes establishing the pecking order is quick and involves a few pecks but other times it can get ugly.

You could build a small separate run inside the main run for the new girls. This will allow the two flocks to look at each other and get used to each other but not have any physical contact. Of course be sure both flocks have plenty of food and water. If you are concerned about the new birds carrying undetectable disease you could keep them in this separate run for 30 days. Or if you are not concerned about the transmission of disease you can introduce the pullets to the hen house when it is dark. Just wait until the older girls are on the roost bar, be sure it is completely dark, and pick up the pullets and place them on the roost. It is difficult for hens to peck when they can’t see so this will allow the flocks to smell and touch each other and get used to each other. Ideally any pecking the following morning will be mild.

If you don’t want to go through the effort of building a separate run, you can just keep them in the garage all day and then introduce them to the hen house at night when it is dark. Just be sure that they have plenty of food and water and are not destroying your garage or shed.


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Soil Preparation or Winter Garden?

By now our tomato plants are winding down and we have already pulled our summer squash. Winter squash is still a couple weeks away from harvest but the peppers should be ready by the end of next week. Now it’s time to decide what to do with all this garden space.

webmail.eugenebackyardfarmerWe live in a climate that allows for plenty of winter gardening opportunities, and we have plenty of cole crop starts available now with more on the way. Most Brassica crops, such as kale, broccoli, or cauliflower, will do well with little fall and winter maintenance. Just a plant cover should protect them from freezing on extremely cold nights.

Fall is also the perfect time to plant garlic, onions, and shallots. These plants require a freeze so you want to get them in the ground by mid-October so that they can develop enough of a root system to withstand winter temperatures. Our new favorite trick is to plant them along the perimeter of the garden space for pest control and so they won’t take up valuable spring planting space before they are ready to harvest. We have some onion starts available now and garlic, onion sets, and shallots should be available early next week.

But if you don’t want to tend a winter garden, there are still things you can do this fall to help your garden rest for a few months. If you have chickens, consider giving them access to your garden. They will scratch and turn the soil and will leave some fertilizer behind.

If you don’t have chickens but need to restore your garden space over the winter, we have a fresh batch of fertilizer and many soil amendments in stock, including our custom Indigenous Micro Organism blend. These IMOs are cultured and grown at the store and make a great soil amendment or compost accelerator. Turn these amendments into the soil then lay down some newspaper or cardboard and cover the area with leaves or straw.

We also like to plant low-maintenance cover crops by mid-October to fix nitrogen into the soil during the off season. We sell buckwheat, crimson clover, and winter pea by the pound. When you’re ready to turn over your soil or till in your cover crop, remember that we do rent a broadfork to make a tough job so much easier.

While so many of us look forward to spring as the time to garden, the fall offers just another reason to go out and play in the dirt.

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Visit Coop Town, USA on Saturday, June 27th

The Eugene Backyard Farmer will once again host the annual coop tour on Saturday, June 27th from 10-4. EBYF_cooptour_2015

This self guided tour is a great chance for aspiring urban farmers to see what it takes to raise chickens in the back yard. It is also a great opportunity to get ideas on how to improve your own coop. The coops on display represent a wide range of styles and approaches and the coop tour is not meant to be a beauty contest. Some coops are made entirely of reclaimed materials and others are professionally designed and built.

Guide books will be available the week of the event and will include a map and description of each coop. These guide books allow you to plan your route and look at however many coops you want to and in whatever order you wish.

This year, the coop tour will be implementing higher levels of bio security to avoid spreading any pathogens such as bird flu. Bird flu does not spread as well in warmer months, which is why we moved the tour from May to June. Each stop will also have a shoe bath and you will want to step into the shallow tray of diluted bleach water to keep any germs from spreading between the coops.

Once again part of the proceeds of Visit Coop Town, USA will go to Habitat for Hens. This is a program where we find a family that could benefit from chickens but can not yet afford them and we provide a coop, some hens and some feed.

This year’s coop tour will be sponsored by BRING recycling.

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Bee Swarms


A swarm of bees can be a most powerful thing to witness. Seeing thousands of bees flying in unison and then landing on a tree branch can certainly be considered an awesome experience. It is such an amazing thing so it is understandable how some people can become afraid or intimidated by their presence. But we want to help get these swarms into a safe and welcoming environment and you can help.

A swarm is a sign of a healthy and thriving bee colony. When an active hive becomes too large to be sustainable it will make a new queen and the old queen will take half of the established colony and go out in search of a new home. A swarm could land on a tree branch or the side of a building and they have even been known to land on a locked bike, mail box or any other stationary object. When bees swarm they have no hive, honey, or brood to protect and are for the most part very gentle and rarely sting.

A swarm consists of a few thousand bees with the queen in the middle and will be about the size of a basketball. Just a bunch of bees flying does not make a swarm. Once the bees are in a temporary location, they will then send scout bees in search of a new home. The scout bees can fly up to five miles and when they think they have found a suitable home, they will share that location with other scout bees. This is a highly democratic process as the bees compare all their available options in search of their perfect home. A swarm can stay in this temporary location for as little as five minutes and for as long as two weeks.

When the scout bees have all decided upon a perfect new home, the swarm will move en masse to the new location. Their chosen location could be a vacant hive or a hollow tree but the bees could also move into a place like a shed or a wall where they are not welcome. For this reason, we want to capture the swarms and introduce them to a welcoming and safe vacant hive around town. Capturing a swarm is normally a very easy process assuming it is low to the ground (under 12 feet is ideal).

Most swarms happen between April and early June. If you see a swarm around town, please call our store or a beekeeper friend so that we can reduce the time the bees are exposed and transfer them to a safe place. A honeybee swarm is in a vulnerable state. Considering the plight of the honeybee, we want to everything we can to help them along.

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5 Year Anniversary Sale

Five years ago the store opened up with little more then a hand full of chicks and some straw bales. But urban farming in the area is strong and The Eugene Backyard Farmer was webmail.eugenebackyardfarmerembraced by this community. Our growth is due to people who have a passion for fresh, healthy and local food. We plan to continue to grow and share.

We are thankful and humble that you allow us to do what we do. Our hope is that we continue to be a part of a community that values local food and sustainable spaces.

To celebrate our anniversary we will be having a sale this weekend.  25% off all chicks, veggie starts, seed packets and soil amendments. Sale runs Friday, April 10th through Sunday, April 12th.

Thank you again for all your support.


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Raising Turkeys in an Urban Setting

The more involved we are with urban farming, the more we want to try new things. In addition to our ever changing gardening landscape, we have hens, broilers, ducks, and beehives as well as composting systems to support these activities. Our next goal is to learn how to raise turkeys so we took a few turkey poults from our July hatch and raised them for store use. Here are some of the things we learned.

IMG_1282First check with your local regulations to see if turkeys are allowed. Raising domestic turkeys in the city of Eugene is illegal. We did so anyway not out of disrespect to the city but rather to learn how turkeys behave in an urban setting.

When you talk to large-scale or rural farmers you will find they rarely raise chickens and turkeys together. Indeed both the USDA and ODA recommend raising them separately. Blackhead, a nasty and fatal disease that chickens can pass on to turkeys, is the main reason for separating the species. Of course, urban and small-scale farming is entirely different from rural and large-scale farming and as a result we do not always have the same issues. We raised our two turkeys with three broilers with no ill effects. The broilers were butchered a few days ago and their internal organs looked healthy. Back at the store, our turkeys continue to look healthy and active. Of course the “it worked for us so it isn’t a problem” is a poor argument. If you do raise the two together, do so with caution and monitor for illness.

Turkeys eat a lot and the end product could be a very expensive bird. We started feeding this flock of five a 50-pound bag of turkey starter. When that was finished they were moved outside and they ate another 50-pound bag. We then switched them to a GMO-free turkey grower, then a 5o-pound bag of organic grower. Now that we are down to just two turkeys we will be able to get a better sense of how much they eat. What we do know at this point is this isn’t going to result in some cheap grocery store bird, but isn’t that the point.

In addition to eating a lot, turkeys will eat most anything. Ours gobbled up all the extra tomatoes from the garden as well as most anything else we would toss in for them. For example, we had a couple hybrid volunteer squash on the property. Half of one squash went to the hens and the other half  to the turkeys. The chickens barely touched theirs but the turkeys ate their half down to the stem. The other squash was taken home and baked into what turned out to be a nasty soup. Again the chickens barely touched their serving. The turkeys, however, not only ate the whole serving, they even ate the paper bowl. And since they eat so much, they leave ample droppings. We found ourselves picking up after them twice a day and the compost bin filled up rapidly.

Turkey poults are not sexed so you could end up with toms or hens. We ended up with one of each and were amazed to learn how quiet they are. They rarely made much noise and when they did “gobble” it was at the same level as a person’s normal talking voice. Indeed our turkeys were much quieter then some chickens we have known. Our tom started to strut his feathers at about three and a half months old. It could be that if you get two toms then they might get loud and start to fight at this point. But at this point you would have a good sized bird so you could butcher one tom early and save the other for a Thanksgiving butcher.

We have heard of people using less then flattering words to describe a turkey’s intelligence. We have no evidence to suggest that they are any more or less smart than other poultry. We will say however that they can be rather charming. They came running whenever we delivered treats. Their combs and waddles would turn bright red when they were happy and when the broilers went away one day, they seemed to be sad for a few days.

This being said, we are not looking forward to the butchering process. We do not name our poultry but we do feed them high quality feed and interact with them on a regular basis. As a result they have kind of grown on us and the butchering process could be emotionally difficult. We have embraced urban farming because we feel our food system is broken. Even those expensive turkeys you buy at the natural food store are fed cheap grains and live in less than ideal conditions. Just like veggies, fruit, eggs, and honey, if you want clean fresh food you need to either grow it yourself or know your farmer.

While urban farming is different from traditional farming, there are still some similarities. Butchering poultry is not fun but the rewards are great. This has been a good experience and we will most likely do it again next year. Or next year we might have a vegetarian nut loaf for Thanksgiving instead.

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Visit Coop Town, USA

Coop Town, USA 2014We are once again happy to announce the annual coop tour for the Eugene/Springfield area on Saturday, May 24th.

Visit Coop Town, USA is an annual tradition that allows aspiring urban farmers to see how other people are keeping hens in their backyard.  It is also a great opportunity for current backyard farmers to get ideas for their own coop.

This year’s self guided tour will feature 14 coops throughout the Eugene/Springfield area.  Some coops are simple and made of reclaimed materials. Other coops are professionally built and contain art and efficiency features.  All house healthy and happy backyard hens.

Guide books are just $8.00 and include a qr scan to be used with your smart phone.  Guide books will be available at The Eugene Backyard Farmer the week of the event.

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Year End Reflections.

As we look back at 2013 we have to conclude that we live in a wonderful community. By embracing urban farming you  are supporting food security, promoting self reliance, and strengthening neighborhoods.

Thank you for sharing your ideas and experiences with others.  Thank you for showing others how easy urban farming can be.  Thank you for branching out and trying new things.  And thank you for all the encouragement you give to us.

The staff of The Eugene Backyard Farmer wishes you a wonderful holiday and a bountiful new year.

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3rd Annual Pullet Sale

Feel like getting a jump start on next year’s eggs?  Want to get into chickens but don’t want to raise them from chicks?  If so, we are happy to announce the 3rd annual pullet sale.

This year’s pullet sale will take place on Saturday, October 5th from 10-2 here at The Eugene Backyard Farmer.  Our friends from David’s Country Chickens will be bringing around 80 two to three month old chickens.

These are all standard backyard breeds and cost between $14-$18 each.  Our past experience shows that these are healthy and well raised.  This is a cash/check sale although you can always use a card in the store to buy feed and treats.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

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The cost of backyard eggs.

A July 7th NBC article discussed the down side to backyard chickens.  The quote that stood out to us was, “some hipster farmers discover that hens lay eggs for two years, but can live for a good decade longer, and that actually raising the birds can be noisy, messy, labor-intensive and expensive. ”  You can hear our response here.

For over a year, we have been keeping detailed records to see how cost effective backyard chickens can be. We were pleasantly surprised by the results.

From July 2012 through June 213 we collected 119 dozen eggs. The flock at the store varied from six to 11 and during part of that time frame, not all chickens were to laying age.  The flock ate $315 in feed, $43 in scratch, $15 in calcium, and used $24 in bedding.

This means that a dozen high quality eggs cost $3.34.

We have not done the math to factor in coop, feeder and start up costs.  Yet it is clear that keeping backyard chickens can be affordable.  Of course if you keep backyard hens, you know there are non egg related benefits.  Our chickens provide us with plenty of high quality fertilizer and they are often worth keeping just for the entertainment value.

Need another reason to keep backyard hens?  For every dozen eggs they produce, you are not supporting an industry that is not always kind to chickens.

The store is down to six hens since April and we are planning on keeping that number.  Then next March, we will have another full year of data.  By then we will also have figured out amortization and can factor in the costs of feeders and the coop.

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