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My Husband Says No

Since I started writing publicly about homesteading, there's been a common question I keep getting. I get it emailed and I get it in hand-written letters. It gets brought up all the time, as soon as someone with a tiniest spark of Barnheart finds out I have a homestead. They want advice on this topic: living with a partner that isn't on board with their homesteading dreams.

Usually, it's not the big picture. These are generally not couples where one partner wants to sell their townhouse and move to the country and the other refuses. It's way more specific. The most common question being: "My partner won't let me have (insert animal here)". The most common being, chickens. I can't tell you how many women have asked me for advice on keeping a backyard flock when their husband gets the final say.

Before I begin, I am well aware that my standing as a childless, pagan, single lesbian involves a worldview very different from other folks. And I understand that some cultures in America heavily center around patriarchal dynamics where the husband is breadwinner/billpayer. I understand that adding more financial responsibility would rest on his income. I am not here to disrespect your lifestyle choices. This is a free country, and if you want to be in this sort of relationship, that's your choice.

I do, however, want to help you convince your husband/wife/spouse/roommates that chickens are a great idea. So here's what I suggest:

There is no downside to homesteading on any scale. None. I don't care where you live, be it an apartment in a city with a few windowsills and roof access or 15 acres of forest adjacent to your second home: any form of homesteading make your life better. ESPECIALLY CHICKENS.

The logic is simple and irrefutable. Growing some of your own food, composting your food scraps, mending and making due, all of it enhances your life. It saves money and it grants a feeling of accomplishment and self reliance that can change your entire mindset for the better.

It is entirely possible for a small city backyard to host a scrap-lumber box with a roost on some cinderblocks for three hens. It is entirely possible to feed those hens on one $15 bag of chicken feed and kitchen scraps a month. In return, those eggs you were paying upwards of $6 a dozen at the store are now completely covered by the animals you're tending in your own backyard. They will earn back whatever you spent on the start up costs in a matter of weeks if you're frugal and smart.

If you let them free-range (or build a tractor that can move around your lawn), they will also fertilize your grass, help with pest control, and provide free entertainment that is not to be minimized. I can't tell you how many nights—15 years into keeping chickens—I still sit outside with a drink and watch their little lives unfold. It's fantastic! You might not think those birds have much going on but within 2 weeks of learning their personalities and flock dynamics you will have a telenovela worth of drama to follow that is better than anything on reality tv.

Usually the person that doesn't want the backyard birds isn't against the birds. They are against the work and time, or another responsibility on top of everything else they are carrying. So if you're the person who wants birds, I'd make it very clear that you're open to a trial period. Explain that you will build the coop for free. That you will use your own money to buy the first three hens off Facebook marketplace or Craigslist or Front Porch Forum. Explain that if after one summer of keeping a flock you are willing to sell the birds and disassemble the coop if anyone in the household still thinks the chickens aren't a good idea. 90% of folks who agree to this perfectly reasonable compromise will see the light.

Once you start eating fresh eggs for free, and seeing how amazing they taste and how much money you're saving (possibly MAKING if you have enough birds to sell eggs) they won't want to return to a silent backyard again. It doesn't make sense. Their partner is clearly happier and that makes their entire Homelife better. The food is local and healthy and saves money. The animals are improving your living space and even adding value if managed right.

The biggest mistake you can make in this situation is getting the green light on birds after years of asking and messing it up by doing a poor job of flock management. Do not go from zero birds on a nice 20x40ft back yard space with a lawn and flowers to 24 birds that have turned it to dust and noise complaints because you took on too much stock and didn't cull your roosters. A used eglu with three hens that are quiet and calm, that have a pen that doesn't allow the neighbors dog to get them or too many birds to disturb your backyard ecosystem, that's key for a small space.

If chickens are still a hard no and divorce isn't an option, then pivot. I would find it hard to find any partner against gardening. Home grown tomatoes aren't something people turn their nose up at, and a pack of seeds is a few dollars. You do not need to spend money on supplies and classes. You have free library acess in your town. Hell, you're reading this on the internet right now so there's endless free resources to learn whatever you need about bringing a habanero or hen from infant to dinner. If animals are out of the question no matter what, start planting. It's a slippery slope from the thrill of growing your own ingredients to wanting to add eggs, milk, wool, bees, foraging, etc.

A younger me would have approached this with a feminist fire rant. That's not going to help a 67-year-old that wants some chickens before she dies. So I urge you, to honestly explain to the partner that loves you, that this is a small desire that would make you incredibly happy and therefore a better partner. That it saves money, gives you a sense of joy and accomplishment, and you're open to selling the birds if members of your household don't see their worth or have complaints. I can't imagine any loving partner denying this simple request, especially if it costs nothing and is on a trial period.

I hope this helps. Good luck, future flockers!


If you appreciate what you read, I encourage you to contribute towards my writing with a tip. To be clear; no one has to pay anything. I will still write here and it's always available for free. But if anyone wants to volunteer to venmo/paypal at least one dollar, it means I will write a post the next day. If no one does, then I'll update when I feel like it. Might be the next day, might be in a month.

Please understand, that I do not mean a dollar for every post or from every reader! I mean, quite literally, if a single person anywhere in the world sends a single US dollar, and that's all the money I earn that day, I'll write tomorrow.

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