Chickens Multi-Task in the Garden
Taking steps toward a more sustainable landscape is rewarding. Caring for your soil and plants naturally adds an intangible layer of beauty to the garden. Another way to crank up the green in your garden with the added bonus of fluffy, feathered fun, is to bring home a few baby chicks. Yes, chickens. Sustainable landscape expert and certified horticulturalist and arborist, Jessi Bloom shares tips on nurturing your garden naturally and explains the role of chickens in our Spring issue of Proven Beauty.
Bloom, (what a great name for a horticulturalist!) explains that mulching with natural materials adding organic matter to the soil, combined with gardening chemical-free, will maintain nature’s balance. This, in turn, provides pest control and natural soil fertility for your garden. Chickens also provide natural pest control and fertility to your garden – with a good top dressing of entertainment thrown in.
Free ranging chickens are moving, living garden art that fertilizes and zaps bugs. Bloom, who has had chickens for over a decade, wanted them both for harvest and to compost their droppings. To Bloom, their eggs and entertainment value were byproducts.
I decided I wanted chickens from the opposite perspective. I’ve always been fond of birds and had grown up in farming communities where I’d seen how much personality and sweetness chickens possess. I decided I wanted organic eggs, soft cooing pets and the experience of raising chicks for my children. I actually worried about the ‘mess’ their droppings might be in the garden.
When I started the process of adding chickens to my garden, I first checked my city's ordinances. It is super important to know ahead of time if chicken keeping is legal in your area. Once I understood the laws and regulations, I constructed a makeshift coop. Next, I ventured to the farm store to purchase three baby chicks. We coddled and spoiled the chicks from the start. Throughout the spring, they followed me about as I gardened and I fell madly in love. I even forgave them when they got into my greenhouse and ate all of my broccoli seedlings that were ready to be transplanted. Yes, broccoli stuffed chicken!
It was later in the summer that I began to notice them snapping gnats from the air and digging in the soil for bugs and grubs. I saw their droppings in my ornamental beds, but it didn’t damage the plants. I added the wood shavings mixed with manure from their coop, to my compost piles.
There’s one sunny spot in the garden that my chickens love. It’s at the base of a huge climbing rose. The second spring I had ‘my girls’, that rose was obscenely covered with blooms to the point of being garish. I chalked it up to all the chicken babysitting (and droppings) it had received the previous summer.
To me, sustainability means working with nature without waste and chemicals. Adding free-range chickens to your garden is akin to welcoming extra nature – similar to attracting pollinators. As Bloom points out, creating a chicken habitat is similar to creating a songbird habitat. It’s sustainable and fun!
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