Choosing the agrarian life

When we bought our four little chickens, I inadvertently stumbled into the curious world of the backyard chicken.  One of the most active forums I have ever participated in is about keeping chickens, especially in suburbia.  I guess farmers in rural Nebraska are probably not looking for a support system for their chicken habits, nor tips on dealing with authorities like the renegades I have met online.  One woman lives in a suburban area where the city limits her to three chickens.  She has thirty.  She keeps them in the garage, letting them out in groups of three throughout the day so no one catches on.  Another family is even more daring keeping not only chickens but a rooster in an urban area where chickens are outlawed.  A coop in the basement and strategic eggs delivered to the neighbors have kept this operation under wraps as well.

At first glance, they seem a little nutty.  Worse than the cat hoarders.  But reading the discussion and the linked articles introduced me to a small little social world not so very different from ours as homeschoolers.  Many of the arguments used at city hall sound rather familiar, and the goal of any meeting involving chickens and laws is to bring as many people as possible to speak up for the humble backyard chicken.

After owning chickens for awhile, I’m beginning to understand.  Top on my list of purchases once we move to our little slice of country life is more chickens.  But there are other things we want, too.  Some geese for weeding (and meat), guineas to help with insects (and meat), goats, sheep a large garden and an orchard.  This, too, seems a part of a larger movement, a heavily politicized back-to-the-land movement, seeking independence from Big Oil, Big Business, Big Ag.  When looking for information on a variety of topics, it is Mother Earth News that Google continually delivers me to.  We’re talking hard left there, and it seems that this general philosophy is a driving force among many making the choice to live a more agrarian lifestyle.

It seems odd to me.  In my mind, there is nothing so quintessentially conservative as growing up working the land.  But as I read blogs and websites and magazines and books about returning to the land, I am increasingly aware of my unique position within this countercultural trend as a conservative.  One with no particular disdain for industrial agriculture, even.  I have stumbled across a movement with which I share certain perspectives in common but of which I am not really a part.  That leaves me feeling a little on the outside, though I can’t say I did before reading up on the issue.

I wonder how I’d look in a granny dress?

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You are not alone, I’m a conservative Christian trying to be as independent from government services as possible. Try explaining why we don’t want clean/treated “city” water piped in, instead we’ll dig another well. We just don’t want to be tied in to the “system”. We bought our little piece of earth over 4 years ago, started with steers for meat, and the garden and orchard of course, just added laying hens this year, loving having fresh eggs. My advice is to take it slow adding critters/projects. My husband always says the acreage is for us, we are not for… Read more »
T F Stern

Getting only a glance at the photo prior to reading, my first thought was “The Trouble With Tribbles”; okay, I’ll go sit down and read now. Good luck on your closing.

You’re not alone. We’re planning to get a cow and chickens this spring, on our 1.5 acres. Just as soon as we can sell our house (in about two years, hopefully), we’ll be moving to acreage. I have a bloggy buddy that calls herself a crunch con. I think that is a great description for me. Also, if you want a less liberal source (Mother Earth News is a great source, but some of their info starts to get under my skin because it is so activist), check out Backwoods Home. They’ve got some excellent information.
Dana Hanley

Yes, the little chickie does look a bit like a Tribble. Gives good eggs, though!

Dana Hanley

Thank you, Kristina! I’ve heard of Backwoods Home, but haven’t spent much time there. I’ll check it out more.

The plan for now is garden, orchard and more chickens. And some guinea fowl. 🙂

I would love to live more like that. To have animals and live off the land. We can do that a bit more here in Alaska, there is much in the way of the subsistence lifestyle here (fishing & hunting). We thoroughly enjoy that. Two moves ago I wanted chickens badly, I even had the coop set up all fenced and ready! But we just move too often for it to be feasible for our family right now. Maybe in the future! I have not done much research on the agrarian lifestyle but I have really only seen conservatives live… Read more »

I’m there with you.
I tried Mother Earth News for awhile as well, but could not abide the politics.
We have chickens, hunt, etc. and plan for things like sustaining ourselves in case of emergency.
We don’t “live off the land” as such, but try to be prepared in case we need to. Our attitude is more in rejecting big-government dependence, rather than big energy or big farming dependence. Of course, as they exist today they are interrelated. The difference is where you see the core problem.
Thanks Kristina for the link too, I will check it out.

Monica @ Paper Bridges

welcome to the chicken club! our numbers grow daily

we’ve had chickens for years on our almost three acres in some of the last bit of country living in NJ (yes, it does exist) and we love it. keeping chickens is a great family activity and an excellent way for kids to learn about homesteading, real food production, etc.



Have you ever read this book?
Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, … America (or at least the Republican Party)

I found it very interesting since it fits exactly what you’re talking about. Conservative organic farmers—what is the world coming to?!?!?

Dana Hanley

I’ve heard it, but haven’t read it yet. They don’t seem as in to blogging, though, because they don’t seem to be very well represented amongst the random sites Google brings me to when I have questions!

Not going with the Birkenstocks, though. I like my Bjorns. 🙂

Dana Hanley

Of course, maybe you are less inclined to start a website about it when you are moving the country as part of a personal choice rather than as a political statement.


When I went to church on Sunday, my former art teacher brought me a box of apples from his orchard. My friend has chickens in her backyard (in town). Another friend has an organic orchard and raises cows for milk and beef.

I’m still not sold on the animal part of our return to country living, but I’ll enjoy the harvest now and reevaluate next year. I do like Birkenstocks, so maybe it’s inevitable. 😉


I expected to find nothing but conservatives as I looked more into going rural, so I’m thrilled to find a booming not-so-conservative group to join.

And the chicks, so cute!!!

I know a couple of conservative homeschooling families who keep animals. One family has a few chickens in a nice coop underneath a high deck out back – and they live in a very ritzy neighborhood. She said the neighbors know they have chickens and they don’t really mind. Another family I know has goats from which they get milk and make cheese. These are both very conservative families. I know another conservative family where the mother became a “naturopathic doctor”. I don’t think getting back to basics is necessarily a “conservative” or “liberal” issue. It’s basically a distrust of… Read more »

Chickens are just the beginning! That’s how we started, and now we have cattle (beef and family milk cows), goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, a hog, a horse, cats, dogs, and we even had a donkey for a few years. And, yes, we have the big garden, too. The orchard is coming along slowly. 😉

We’ve found Nebraska to be a pretty good place for conservative, homeschooling, homesteading folks! 🙂


I know they’re out there. I talk to them sometimes. They just don’t seem to write about it online as much. Maybe that is the difference between someone who is doing it for the lifestyle and someone doing it as a social statement.

“I have stumbled across a movement with which I share certain perspectives in common but of which I am not really a part.” This is how I felt within the homeschooling community 🙂 As for the agrarian life, we love our small little parcel and what we can do and grow on it. We are still as involved in “regular” life as we were before LOL we just gather eggs, prune fruit trees, snip herbs as the cooking dinner calls for them, and harvest many of our own veggies. And family and friends love us for it **shrug** we have… Read more »
John McGeough

You bring back very pleasant memories of my childhood. My parents raised chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. I learned so much from those wonderful animals. Keeping animals are wonderful ways to teach kids biology, animal husbandry, compassion and life. Thanks for a great blog….

We’ve raised chickens for eggs and meat, goats for meat and milk, hogs for meat, and now we have a couple calves. Oh, and ducks, we’ve done ducks. I have observed what you have, and what I find extremely ironic and also sad is that all the values that the Mother Earth types cherish and hold dear that make any level of ‘back to the land’ possible are completely incompatible with the people and positions they vote for and support- It’s like what happened with CPSIA- ‘green’ types, small progressive crafters and artisans were the hardest hit by a bill… Read more »