Suburban, urban, and micro-homesteading is growing by leaps and bounds with many people adding bees, chickens, rabbits and more to their backyards. At our suburban homestead we have so enjoyed our adventures, but we have learned a few things in the past 15 years from our time spent urban and suburban homesteading that we would like to share to help others be successful in their urban and suburban homesteading adventures.
No. 1 – Make sure to befriend your neighbors and include them in your homesteading plans. Send your neighbors over some eggs or some honey; this way they will see the rewards of those chickens and bees in your backyard. Share the wealth from your garden like those delicious tomatoes, and bake your neighbors some fresh zucchini bread. Such gestures that won’t go unnoticed.
No. 2 – Fences make great neighbors. If you are going to have chickens or bees, a fence is going to be extremely helpful. Case in point: Make sure your chickens or goats aren’t getting into your neighbor’s garden. This is not going to bode well at all for good neighborly relations.
No. 3 – Do not discuss culling your chickens or that you might be raising rabbits for meat with your neighbors. Most of them will not understand. This requires really making sure they understand that you are a good steward of the animals you raise and that you really care. Many people will not equate the chicken behind your fence as the same chicken that is in their meat package at the store. Often many don’t understand that there comes a time you may have to cull that chicken from your flock.
No. 4 – Educate your neighbors and your community – take the time to join in on the local “chicken coop tour,” or the local “greenhouse or garden tour.” The more people see what you are doing the more interested and inspired they will be. We have the Viking bring out his beekeeping supplies to show everyone when they visit our homestead, and they love leaving learning something new. He will often offer to help new local beekeepers look through their hives and assist in any way he can.
No. 5 – Be careful and considerate where you place your bees especially if your neighbors have young children, a patio, a pool or any other area where they may congregate. Sometimes this means you may have to place your bees elsewhere if your backyard won’t accommodate it. The good news is many businesses have abandoned fields behind them or you may be surprised to find you have friends who offer to host hives. We have had several people offer to host our bees just because they want to help the bees and maybe give their own gardens a boost!
No. 6 – Educate yourself. Get involved in your local beekeeping and gardening clubs and take classes to ensure you are continually learning about new beekeeping practices and diseases. This also includes reading the latest trends in homesteading and back-to-your-roots publications. There are many blogs and Facebook groups online as well as radio shows to help make this happen, especially if you are in a rural area and do not have local classes. And especially if you can’t get away from your home due to livestock such as in the case if you have what I call a "real" farm or ranch.
No. 7 – You love your chickens, but your neighbors may not have the same admiration for them. We have learned not to keep our chickens directly next to the fence by using a DIY chicken tractor, or you can place your coop more centrally in your yard. Also, most neighbors are not going to appreciate a loud rooster so we do not keep any on our homestead. Many suburban homesteaders become frustrated if they live where a rooster is not allowed because they cannot raise their own chicks. This is where joining clubs or making a friend who lives in the country comes in. You may be able to join forces to raise chicks from afar … where there is a will there is a way. For us, we are happy to add pullets to our flock as needed, and we don’t really miss having a rooster. But everyone’s homesteading journey looks different.
These seven strategies for successful suburban homesteading are to help you on your way to forging great connections with your neighbors and also to educating your community, so when folks see all the great things you are up to, hopefully they will be more supportive of your vision. Wishing you all well on your homesteading journey.