The idea of keeping chickens in the garden is (frankly) ridiculous. Chickens left to free range in a vegetable garden will decimate it in no time. That said, chickens can be a great asset to the garden.
Raising chickens is great fun and they give you eggs. Not to mention, they provide copious amounts of chicken manure. Egg layers in and of themselves are a great addition to any homestead, large or small. And is there anything better than fresh eggs? But what if, in addition to the eggs, your backyard chickens could provide an extra hand (or foot, as it were) in your gardening efforts?
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Taking advantage of their natural desire to forage is a smart way for gardeners to get a little bit of free labor in the garden, and your chickens will love it!
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Chickens in the garden
While you won’t want your chickens in the garden when it’s newly seeded or actively growing, you can let your hens scratch and peck their way through your garden areas before you plant your crops. They’ll help eliminate pests in the soil and quickly knock down the weeds, making garden prep easier on your back. And if you’re planning to add any natural amendments to the soil—manure, compost, blood meal—sprinkle it on the ground before you move the girls in and they’ll distribute it for you.
Raising chickens = good for your compost
If you’ve had a compost pile for any amount of time, you know how it teems with bugs and grubs (and here in Hawaii, cockroaches — ick). It’s a veritable chicken buffet!
Those creepy crawlers are a great natural source of protein for hens. And in their efforts to find those delicious little nibbles, they’ll scratch through your pile, helping to break it down even faster. Their scratching can help reduce the number of fruit flies in the compost pile, too. If your compost is ready for use and you’ll be spreading it in an area that doesn’t need to be protected from chickens (like a newly planted garden), all you need to do is put the compost in a pile where you want it. In no time flat, the chickens will have it spread out for you.
I’ve written before about how my chickens help me with composting and I just can’t see any down side.
Raising chickens that are confined to one area can still be a big help in your gardening system. When the garden generates lots of leaves and small trimmings, toss some into the chicken pen and let your girls go to town.
Entertainment for them, and nice shredded yard waste mixed with chicken manure for you. (Once it’s all shredded, you’ll need to set this lovely mixture aside for a month or so to age in order to avoid burning your plants with the fresh chicken manure.) Be aware that grass clippings in the chicken coop are a bit of a grey area. Some people think that cut grass can lead to sour crop, but others have had no issue. I’d use caution here.
Let them tackle tough yard areas
We have an area of very aggressive grass with lots of clumping roots that we need to eliminate. I like to move a few of my hens into a portable fenced area, so they can happily scratch and gobble up what’s there, all the while loosening the roots and eliminating a ton of work for us.
Chickens turn kitchen and garden waste into eggs
It’s good to be reminded once in awhile that through the miracle of Mother Nature, they’re transforming waste into something edible in a single step. You could compost those scraps, but by feeding them to the chickens, you save on feed and get an egg for the breakfast table the next morning.
Guide to Keeping Backyard Chickens
I’ve been raising chickens for years. But it wasn’t always so. When we first decided to get chickens, I worried. I’d never raised chicks.
- What would they need?
- Would they stink?
- How long would they fit in a small brooder?
- When would they be big enough to go outside (and would that be before or after they started to stink)?
This was (gasp!) before we owned a computer. Before the “Dummies” guides. I had no choice but to wing it. I asked questions at the feed store, sure. But I didn’t really know anyone who could walk me through the ins and outs of raising chickens in detail. Oh, what I would have given for a copy of Oh Lardy’s Guide to Keeping Backyard Chickens!
The authors start off with the benefits of raising backyard chickens (though I think most of us are clear on that).
They move quickly into important terminology. Knowing their parts (shank, vent, wattle), their designation (pullet, chick, cockerel), and where the heck to keep them (coop, run, henhouse) will help you as you learn more about this idea of raising chickens.
The early portion of the book also tackles chicken behavior and breeds.
For those who have never raised chicks, the detailed information about what they need and what to expect is invaluable.
Trust me: Raising chicks is not hard. But knowing when to do what and what to watch for will offer peace of mind as you care for these cute little critters.
Some guidance for raising chickens
You’ll learn about housing your chickens, feeding your chickens, dealing with predation, keeping your hens healthy, and finally (tada!) details about the egg laying process. The FAQ section answers questions about broody hens, integrating new chickens into the flock, and whether or not chickens can swim. (Hey, somebody had to ask!)
Is this the book for people who have been keeping chickens for years? Absolutely not. It’s a primer for those who are new to raising chickens. Clocking in with slightly more than 50 pages, the information is concise without being overwhelming.
After reading this eBook, you’ll have a very good idea of what you need to do to get started. And how to proceed without fretting over the process. At $9.99 for the eBook, it’s a bargain. (Plus, there’s a money back guarantee – hard to go wrong!)
Originally published in September, 2014.