Rachel and Phil Bruno are what you would call cool Angelino urbanites with a plethora of talents and interests. They both work in the film advertising world, have two beautiful children, love to travel, camp, cook good food and of all things, they raise chickens! Three years ago, Rachel woke up in the middle of the night and had one thing on her mind – chickens. As Rachel describes the desire, “I think it was a hormone/brain miscommunication. My body probably wanted another baby, but my brain swapped one egg for another. So there I was, 3 AM, needing my own chickens with every fiber of my being.” Thus began their foray into urban chicken farming in the middle of Santa Monica, CA.
Number of Years Raising Chickens: 3
Urban Farming Location: Santa Monica, CA
Chicken Advice: Have an exit strategy.
Tips and Tricks?
Getting newly hatched chicks is lots of fun but takes a long time for the pay-off of eggs. If you’re doing it for the eggs, get mature chickens. If you’re doing it for your kids, get chicks.
Are there zoning issues that people need to be aware of if they want to raise chickens?
In Santa Monica, hens are OK, roosters are not. That’s the extent of my knowledge about zoning.
Why did you first start raising your own chickens?
I think my biological clock was confused. Eggs are eggs after all.
What inspired you to do it?
Who knows? I think I read about raising hens on some blog and thought – Must Raise Chickens Now!
How did you get started doing it?
Just like I did with kids – jumped without looking. Knew next to nothing. Learned from mistakes.
What do people need to start their own chicken farm?
Lots of urban chicken farmers say they don’t need a lot of space, but I cant stand looking at animals in a cage. So I would say, you need a yard and a way to contain them, otherwise they will take over. For instance, if you have a garden, they will eat everything in it. (Except sage. For some reason, ours won’t touch sage.) And they will poop everywhere. So a coop with a run is a good idea (the Egloo has a good system). Other than that, just the basics. Feed. A watering can. Your coop should also include a laying box and roosting pole.
What is the best part about raising chickens?
It makes me proud that although we live in a city, my kids have had this really rich experience caring for animals that also give us food to eat. We really appreciate our girls, and the eggs they give us.
What is the most challenging part about raising chickens?
Finding a good system for dealing with the poop. Also, they make traveling a little more challenging. It’s one thing to get a pet sitter – but a chicken sitter is something else.
How many chickens do you have and how many eggs to you get per week?
Currently we have three. One we found another home for because she was loud and we worried she would bother the neighbors. One died mysteriously. Sometimes they do that. We get between 17-21 eggs per week.
What is your favorite egg recipe?
To really taste the goodness of the home grown egg, I think soft boiled is best, especially with some homemade toast soldiers to dip in them. (Since our eggs are much smaller than store bought eggs, we cut the cooking time way down. It takes some experimenting to get it right.)
What advice do you have for beginner chicken farmers?
Begin with an exit strategy. Find someone who will take your chickens if it doesn’t work out. Even if you never need it, you’ll be much more relaxed knowing there is a way out. Also, join a local online chicken community, like Venice Chickens group on Yahoo. It’s a great resource for questions you have along the way.
How many minutes per day?
It only takes a few minutes each day to get the business done. Food, water, cleaning. But the days I like best are the ones where we sit with them a bit, talk to them and watch them, and feed them goodies like kale, watermelon, corn, worms and other things they love.
How much space are you using to raise chickens (in square feet)?
About 80 square feet. We turned our side yard into an enclosed space for them to roam, which also includes their coop.
What supplies do you need to raise chickens?
Coop with roosting pole and laying box, feeder, waterer, some wood chips or other material to absorb the poop. A small rake to clean it out.
How much does it cost to raise chickens per month?
It’s really just the cost of the coop and the food. Our coop cost about $400. We get organic laying pellets for about $40 a month.
How has raising your own chickens affected or changed your life or your perspective?
They make us laugh and they keep us down to earth. Can’t get too uppity when you’re hosing chicken shit off the patio. Plus, having the experience of home-grown eggs has taught us to use less, to value the quality of the few eggs we have, rather than the quantity of a full dozen eggs in the fridge.
Why do you think it’s important that people raise their own chickens, grow their own food or have some form of an urban farm?
Because food tastes better when you grow it yourself. Also, it’s important to have a connection with the food we eat. Whether it’s gardening, raising chickens, or supporting local farmers markets, as a culture we need to take back control of our health and our environment in any way we can. And the best way to teach our children about the interconnectedness of food, health and environment is by example.
What is your most favorite thing about having an urban farm?
It makes us feel good.
Want hear more about Rachel’s chicken fever?
Read her funny essay about the beginnings of raising chicks.