6 Tips to Urban Homesteading in the Hill Country

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Urban homesteading has been a growing trend throughout the United States. It seems more people are looking to add a little self-sufficiency to their lives, and who can blame them? Some cities are not making it easy for their citizens to achieve this goal. However, the cities of the Texas Hill Country are not among those. From community gardens to beekeeping, Texas Hill Country cities have seemingly embraced the notion of urban homesteading. So, if you are thinking of starting up your own little backyard homestead, look no further. Here is a bare-bones guide to get your started!

1. Check your county regulations, city code, Homeowners Association (HOA) rules, and rental lease contract.

This cannot be stressed enough. If you add a couple of goats to your backyard, but the city or the HOA does not allow goats, then you have wasted valuable time and money. Not to mention the attachment you may have for your new critters! Check these rules first, make a list of what is or is not allowed, and go from there. If you are unsure, make a phone call to double check.

urban homesteading goatPhoto: Shannon Salas

2. Be neighborly.

You have done your homework and found you are allowed so many heads of livestock and a certain number of chickens. You know that your livestock or birds will be kept so many feet from the nearest structure. You’ve set up the proper housing and you’ve stocked up on feed. You’re excited now. Great! Keep in mind your neighbor may not be. Regardless of your relationship with your neighbor, you will want to keep complaints to a minimum. Roosters are loud, and so are donkeys. Compost stinks and bees swarm. Keep this in mind when setting up your urban homestead.

3. Check into gardens.

Gardens are the easiest place to start a homesteading adventure. It can be as simple as growing some herbs on your windowsill or as complicated as setting up a small hydroponic vegetable garden. Most urban homesteaders stick with a patio garden or a small raised-bed garden. If you don’t have room for either one, consider getting involved in a community garden project, if your city offers one, or support local farmers through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

chickensWEBPhoto: Shannon Salas

4. Chickens…eggs? Yes!

Chickens are easy to raise and highly amusing to watch. Chicken coops and runs can be purchased together or separate, or you may choose to build your own. The coop should be built to include 2 sq. ft. of space per chicken, two or three nesting boxes, and a roosting bar. The run should be large enough for your chickens to spread out so they don’t peck at each other constantly. If you want eggs right away, start with already laying hens, but if you want to watch them grow, start with chicks. Grown chickens should be fed feed made specifically for layers, and chicks should be fed a starter feed.

5. Get real with goats.

If you are looking to add a couple of goats to your backyard, be sure to have their housing set up and their feed/hay well stocked before you bring them home. Pygmy or Nigerian Dwarf goats are both good options for the urban homesteader. Pygmy goats are usually kept as pets, while Nigerian Dwarf goats are well-known for their milk. Take note that goats will chew on things you may not want them to chew on. They are also masters of jumping up onto everything you own and over fences. Keep your goats fenced off from your vehicles or any trees and plants you wish to keep. Also, make sure your fencing is at least 4′ high. Woven wire fencing is the best option. Hay should be a goats primary source of food, but you may supplement with sweet feed or goat feed as a treat.

urban homesteading beesPhoto: Judy Sturm

6. Learn about beekeeping.

What can be better than fresh honey from your backyard? Setting up a hive is an option in some cities if you have a love for bees. There are several local apiaries you can purchase bees and hives from here in Texas, some of which offer classes and are very useful sources of information. You will need to purchase 3lbs of bees and a queen to get started. Keep in mind the possibility of getting stung is high, bees travel the same ‘bee-line’ path to their job every day, and they swarm. However, beekeeping can be very rewarding if you learn how to best overcome these obstacles. Note: If you or anyone in your house is allergic to bees, do not attempt to start up a bee hive!

Obviously, there is more to urban homesteading than what is listed here. The key is to find what will work for you. Urban homesteading can be as simple or as involved as you make it.