When grocery store shelves lay bare following last March’s spate of panic-buying, even the most Amazon-dependent Coloradan felt his or her survivalist instincts stir. Thanks to Denver’s relatively tolerant urban farming laws—and this prepper’s primer—you can be ready to feed your family from your own homestead should future disasters arise.
The Critter: Bees
The Rules: In the rear third of your lot, you are allowed up to two hives as long as a six-foot-tall screen (such as a fence or a hedge) surrounds them.
The Goods: Beekeepers as industrious as their insects can harvest up to 90 pounds of honey annually as well as wax for candles or cosmetics.
The Challenges: Startup costs run $250 to $400, and although regular maintenance is fairly minimal, it can be intimidating (see: at least 10,000 stingers per hive).
Local Resource: Littleton’s To Bee or Not To Bee store sells supplies online and offers expertise to customers over the phone.
The Critter: Chickens
The Rules: Eight hens or ducks is your limit, and their coop must be in the back half of your property so your neighbors don’t feel like they’re living next to Noah.
The Goods: You’ll reap richly flavored eggs, possibly in a rainbow of colors, depending on the breeds of your feathered flock of friends.
The Challenges: Behind those brunch frittatas is an arduous workload that includes checking that the hens’ backsides aren’t crusted over with dried droppings.
Local Resource: Through Labor Day (it’s possible to launch your operation in winter, but most people begin in spring and summer), Wardle Feed & Pet Supply in Wheat Ridge stocks chicks and all the equipment you’ll need.
The Critter: Fish
The Rules: You can have as many fish in your sea as you like, as long as you aren’t breeding them for resale.
The Goods: Raise tilapia, trout, catfish, and bass in about five gallons of water per pound.
The Challenges: Whether it’s a Rubbermaid tub in a basement with a pump and grow light or an elaborate passive solar greenhouse, setup may feel daunting.
Local Resource: The Aquaponic Source has an appointment-only warehouse in Wheat Ridge and sells equipment online.
The Critter: Goats
The Rules: Two dwarf goats, plus any offspring younger than six months old, may live on the back 50 percent of your land.
The Goods: Goat milk can be enjoyed fresh or used to make ice cream, yogurt, or cheese.
The Challenges: To keep producing milk, female goats must get pregnant periodically. That means finding your gal a buck once she’s in heat and delivering her kid(s) five months later.
Local Resource: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading, by Coloradan Sundari Elizabeth Kraft, has a thorough chapter about goat care.
The Critter: Worms
The Rules: The first rule of vermicomposting (using worms to help your food scraps and lawn waste decompose) is that there are no rules.
The Goods: Worms eat their weight in organic matter every day and leave behind castings—aka poop—that serve as a robust fertilizer for your garden.
The Challenges: You’ll need to bring your bin indoors should temperatures drop below freezing to prevent the worms from perishing.
Local Resource: If pandemic restrictions allow, Denver Urban Gardens, in partnership with Denver Recycles, will resume free vermicomposting classes in May or June.