I made an omelet this morning with fresh eggs. Not farm-fresh eggs but backyard fresh eggs. My backyard fresh eggs. It’s entirely possible. Here is my story:
My family and I live just outside of Chicago. Three boys and a very energetic 60 pound dog keep us moving at all times. We shopped at the local chain grocer, scouring the organic section for fresh finds. We attempted every year, with limited success, to build a garden. We hit our local farmers markets as often as we could. We tried our best to eat well. Juggling our busy work, school and weekend schedules, we still searched for something more. But, there never seemed to be enough time.
How do we keep our busy and connected lifestyle and also slow down and find a way to live better? Well, an accidental visit to a chicken “farm” pushed this dream into a force of action.
The “farm” was disturbing. I was given a mask and told not to touch anything. I saw chickens. Lots of them. Too many of them, all crammed into this tiny space. I saw eggs. Lots of them. Too many of them, all jumbled together among the feathers, droppings and hay. I thought to myself, “This is what ends up in the grocery store and then, ultimately, on my table?” The thought of feeding the eggs from this farm to my children did not sit well with me.
Egg scrambles, egg sandwiches, omelets, quiches.
Let’s not forget brownies, cookies, bread, pasta… We like eggs!
So I asked myself, “Isn’t there a better way?”
Yes, there was a better way. I decided to raise my own chickens, in my own backyard. My family was excited. Baby chicks! Watching them grow! Each chicken had a name. Each chicken had a personality. The kids learned how to care, water and feed them. The energy in my house was palpable as we waited for that first egg.
This dream ended quickly in a nightmare. After laying their first egg, predators attacked our chickens in the dead of night. My family was devastated.
So, I gave up. We went back to the store and bought a dozen cartoned eggs. We moved forward with our busy lives. My energy once devoted to the care of our chickens refocused to different endeavors. I discovered how much time their upkeep took from my daily life. I felt relieved...or so I thought.
But then, I was hungry again. As I took the eggs out of their styrofoam carton and watched them bubble on the pan, I was hit once again with the sadness from that chicken farm. I dumped the pan into the garbage bin. Then I sat down and, for a long time, I thought about fresh eggs. There must be an easier way. Could I keep my busy life and still enjoy fresh eggs? Could I share my yard with the birds, keep them safe, enjoy their eggs and keep my energy (gained from all the good eggs I will be eating) focused elsewhere?
The answer was yes. And thus, My Connected Coop was born (or should I say hatched). I laid out the guiding principles for My Connected Coop and spent the next 12 months putting them into action.
- Fresh eggs (duh!)
- A low maintenance coop (set it up and forget about it)
- A safe and healthy environment for the chickens
- Housing - a coop that is a focal point, secure but not an eyesore
- Security - placing a camera in the coop so I could see what is going on remotely at any time.
- Security - an automatic door to the coop, controlled remotely (from my mobile phone or computer) anytime
- Coop Health - Temperature - equipment to monitor the temperature and humidity within the coop to support a healthy environment
- Coop Health - Clean water - a water system that would clean/flush itself (I learned cleaning the water is very important!)
- Coop Health - A food level indicator/alarm - time to fill the feed bucket
Now, five chickens are living the life in suburban Chicago. They need only worry about our curious 60-pound dog with whom they share the backyard. They are never in need of food or water. They are tucked in each night through the push of a button on my mobile phone.
It has not been an easy road connecting urban and farm life to create an environment mixing my passions for technology and a healthier breakfast. However, I challenged my basic instincts to find a solution that worked for busy families. It took years to get to this point and now, we are ready to share My Connected Coop with you.