How We Became Backyard Chicken Farmers
Growing up in Mumbai with 20 million People
Born and raised in a concrete jungle of Mumbai, India, the only time we saw chickens is when they were being slaughtered at the local market.
We’re city kids but loved nature.
But most homes, including ours, didn’t have a front or backyard. People stayed in apartment-style buildings and access to nature was generally a luxury. The closest we got to nature was our occasional trips to the neighborhood public gardens or a field trip at school.
In 1997, Kunal had a unique opportunity to be part of a “Garbage to Gold” project. The goal for him and his school friends was to turn food waste to compost. This was the first time Kunal started to get excited about environmental issues, soil development, and gardening.
Falling in Love with a Rural Lifestyle
In 2007, Kunal started a new job in the San Jose, California. His manager at that time was from Tennessee. Through a work trip, Kunal traveled to Nashville, Tennessee. He instantaneously fell in love with the lush greenery, open roads, and country music.
In 2008, shortly after Kunal and Jinal’s wedding, they moved in together in their new home in California.
But Kunal’s love for Tennessee hadn’t faded. In fact, it had grown even more when he learned how his manager was raising a flock of chickens for fresh farm eggs.
Kunal tried to convince his wife to relocate to Tennessee. But as new homeowners, this was not a viable option.
Although moving to Tennessee wasn’t going to work out, Kunal and Jinal were clear on three values they shared and the reasons Kunal were attracted to a rural and natural lifestyle.
1. Relaxing and stress-free home environment
After coming home after a long day at work, there is something magical about a calm and stress-free home environment. You want to unwind and relax. Have a glass of wine, have dinner together with family or play with your pet.
2. Healthy, wholesome food
A healthy and wholesome diet is fuel for your body. Processed foods with gluten, dairy, and sugar drain your energy and in many cases will be the #1 cause of poor health. Growing your own food is also a great way to ensure that what you eat is fresh, organic and pesticide-free.
3. Ethical treatment of animals including chickens
The factory farming practices in the United States and around the world have made Kunal and Jinal cringe.
It is their belief that people can continue to eat meat as long as the animals are treated with respect. Most people don’t want to put food in their mouth that has been subject to torture.
For example, when an egg carton at a grocery store reads, “free range” or “organic”, what does this really mean?
Are the hens free to roam in lush green pastures and eat organic, non-GMO feed?
Do the hens have access to sunlight and fresh, clean, air?
Or are the hens standing in their own feces all day long?
Project Animal Farm: An Accidental Journey into the Secret World of Farming and the Truth About Our Food by Sonia Faruqi further reinforced the idea behind the ethical treatment of animals that we raise for food, including raising hens for eggs.
Sampat Farms is Born: Getting a Flock of Baby Chicks
In 2013, Kunal ordered a box of 15 baby chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery. The baby chicks arrived on a warm May morning. They were delivered in a small box with ventilation holes at the local post office in sunny San Jose, California.
Starting a flock was a fun and humbling experience. Kunal and Jinal had never handled chicks (or adult chickens before). The couple were first-time chicken owners.
The initial setup included a large cardboard box that previously was used to transport a refrigerator. This box was now the baby chick brooder. The chicks were carefully placed in the box and in no time they were warm and toasty under the red heat lamp.
Each of their beaks was dipped in water so they could get a taste of it. When baby chicks are shipped, they don’t have any water or food in the box. Their bodies have the necessary nutrition for the chicks to survive the first 24-48 hours of their life.
The baby chicks spent the first eight weeks in the garage with occasional outdoor trips to get fresh air and sunlight.
Kunal, Jinal and their friends build their own Four Season’s Coop from the ground up. This wasn’t an easy undertaking by any means.
You can check out this video to see the building of their coop.
Benefits of Raising Backyard Chickens
Aside from the obvious benefit of farm fresh eggs, the backyard chickens project allowed Kunal and Jinal to accomplish two important things:
1. Community engagement through backyard chicken farm tours
Since Silicon Valley kids knew a whole lot about technology and very little about backyard chickens, Kunal and Jinal started to offer free farm tours on Sunday afternoons.
Kids loved the farm tours because they enjoyed learning about chickens. Many of them had never seen a live chicken. Kunal is a teacher at heart and enjoyed the interaction with the farm visitors.
During these backyard farm tours, the couple shared information on how chickens roost, what color eggs they lay, the difference between store bought eggs and factory farm eggs, the uses for chicken manure in an organic garden, what chickens like to eat, the difference between chicken breeds and much more.
Most importantly, the kids knew where the eggs were coming from and how the eggs ended up on their plate in the form of omelets, muffins and scrambled eggs.
2. Sharing fresh eggs with friends and neighbors
Within four months, the hens started to lay eggs. Depending on the breed, each hen laid eggs daily or every other day. The eggs started to add up relatively quickly.
Kunal and Jinal couldn’t keep up with the egg consumption. There was more supply than demand. So they started sharing eggs with friends and family. If they visited a friend on his birthday or a social evening dinner with friends, they brought them fresh eggs. The extra eggs that weren’t gifted were sold to locals looking for fresh farm eggs.
Teaching Others How to Raise Backyard Chickens
Raising chickens has been an amazing experience for Kunal and Jinal. They had never imagined that they would have “Live Chicken TV” in their backyard.
In 2016, they wanted to expand this project beyond their own backyard. Two options came to mind:
1. Raising more chickens on a big piece of farmland
Inspired by the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), a nonprofit whose mission to preserve and protect land from development, the couple wanted to lease 35+ acres of land from POST. The goal was to create sustainable ecosystems of plants and animals including 500+ chickens.
But that plan did not pan out as expected. Being vegetarians their whole life, the idea of slaughtering birds for food was a difficult one to accept. Furthermore, they did not have any large scale farming experience.
2. Teaching others to raise their own chickens
Kunal loves to teach others and share his knowledge. Jinal is a landscape designer by training.
In summer 2016, they decided to create an online video course teaching people how to raise backyard chickens.
The goal of this video course was simple: To make it easy for people to raise backyard chickens.
There are many misconceptions or fears about raising chickens. Rather than reading multiple books on this topic or searching for relevant YouTube videos, their on-demand raising chickens’ video course would allow homesteaders to get started quickly.
As a result of this video program, many people are able to enjoy one or more of the following benefits:
Personal enjoyment of raising their own chickens for eggs or meat
According to Mother Earth News, compared to factory farm eggs, pasture-raised eggs to have one-third less cholesterol, one-fourth less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acid, three times more vitamin E and seven times more beta-carotene.
If health is a priority for you and your family, data shows that pasture-raised eggs are your friend.
A small flock of backyard can provide you with nutritious eggs almost daily. You can start your day with homemade scrambled eggs, boiled eggs or an omelet with fresh farm eggs.
Supporting the ethical treatment of animals
If you decide to raise your own flock, chances that are you will take good care of them. Or at least better than factory farms chickens.
We don’t get into any horrific factory farm stories. But if your goal is to support the ethical treatment of animals or feel good about the food you eat, then you can achieve this goal by raising your own backyard flock.
The video course teaches how to create an ideal environment for your backyard chickens. Once you get these basics down, your hens will be a whole lot happy, which means lots of fresh eggs or meat for you to enjoy.
Experience the joy of chickens as pets
When we think about pets, the first thing that comes to mind is cats and dogs. But chickens can be excellent pets as well.
Unlike conventional belief that chickens are dumb birds, they actually are quite expressive, curious and people-friendly. Just like humans, chickens have personalities too.
Aside from food, pet chickens provide rich manure for the garden and keep the backyard insect-free and weed-free.
Did our story inspire you to have your own backyard flock? Well, then what are you waiting for?
You can sign-up for Raising Chickens online video course now or fly solo with your backyard chicken venture. You’ll be glad you did.
And thanks for staying with us till the end 🙂
Jinal and Kunal