I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!! I know that I did. The girls had a bit of a hard time with all the fireworks, but we made it through to 2016. Now that Christmas is over and I am beginning to get flower and gardening catalogs in the mail for the upcoming planting season. I thought I would take this time and dedicate a post to my little garden helpers, the girls. The girls get excited as I start getting the backyard ready for planting. Not only do they get to forage in the newly tilled soil for worms, but they know that it means lots of good things to snack on as they spend their day hunting and pecking.
Ok, so I guess many of you may be wondering how I turn my girls into little gardeners. As I stated in my first post, the reason that I got my girls is because I wanted to use their natural abilities to help me on my little hobby farm. Most people get chickens because they want a fresh supply of eggs from their backyard. I will have to say I also enjoy the fruits of their labor in that sense. But honestly, chickens can provide for you in more ways than just eggs. I will show you how I put my girls to work all the while keeping them happy and healthy.
First the coop, I have a penthouse coop, this means that it is raised off the ground by at least 2 feet. This discourages rodents from making a home under the coop. It also keep moisture from the heavy rains that soak the ground from seaping into the coop and growing mold and other nasty things. I have an attached covered pen where the girls stay when I am away from home or when the weather is extremely bad. On stormy days I keep them in their covered pen for protection. They will stay nice and dry under the roof of their pen. A few of my smaller girls are flight risks so I have to make sure they are secured in the pen on windy days.
Next to the coop and pen I have something that I call the chicken yard. This is an attached outdoor run (not covered) that resides under a large shade tree which aids in protection. I use this outdoor enclosure mostly in the summer time. This allows me to let the girls out of the coop but also keep them close to the coop where their water and food is. This also insures that they remain cool and comfortable under the large shade tree during the hottest part of the day. I also use this outdoor enclosure when I plant seeds in my gardens. I love their help in tilling the dirt but after I plant the seeds I have to keep them out of the gardens till the seedlings are mature enough to handle a flock of chickens scratching in the gardens.
After the seeds have sprouted and can handle the flock I release the girls and allow them to roam the backyard. When we designed our coop we designed a little “chicken door” in the big door that allows us to enter the pen. This way, we can let them out into the backyard without leaving the large human sized door open. This allows us to let the chickens out but keep the wild birds and other animals from getting in their pen.
They get very excited when I open their little chicken door. They know that fun and bugs await them.
Ok, so after I let the girls out, they get to work doing what chickens do best, hunting and pecking. They are great assets in my garden, they eat all the bugs that would otherwise damage my crops. They only things that they will not eat are squash bugs. I really wish they would eat them but I guess even they are discussing to them. They must not taste all that I good I suppose.
I have several gardens for them to work in. They make their rounds but have their favorite gardens to tend. Roy likes to hang out in the spice garden. I have a few berry bushes planted there that he likes to pick at. Some of the girls like the veggie garden, they gets lots of bugs off the plants and a few of the veggies too. But I think their favorite garden is the corn and pumpkin garden. They love corn! Occasionally I will pick an ear of and throw it on the ground for them to devour. If you have never seen chicken eat an ear of corn, I will tell you that it is a side splitter. They will peck the cob clean, literally nothing will be left. They take their corn eating very seriousally.
People ask me if I loose a lot of my crops to the chickens. The answer is yes and no. Yes they do get their share of the spoil, I will find a ripe tomato with a chicken peck out of it. I just pick it off the plant and throw it on the ground for the girls to finish off. No, because the bugs they keep off the plants are such help and worth them pecking at a tomato or two.
However, The hardest thing to keep them out of are my blueberry bushes. They will eat the berries green before I even get a change to pick a ripe one. One year, they ate all my green berries and I had little to no yield. So I have to make previsions to keep the gang out of my berry rows. After I get what I need off the bushes I let them have at the rest. My blackberries are a bit more chicken proof. They are much taller, the girls can only eat what is near the ground. We share the blackberries much better, I pick from the top of the bushes and they pick from the bottom. I will have to say there is noting funnier than a chicken going berry picking.
But all in all they are more help than not. With my chickens I can pretty much grow organic produce. They serve as pest exterminators on two legs. I do loose some of my yield to the girls but I consider it pay off for all their help and assistance. Additionally, they will eat weeds, weed seeds, and lots of other plants that I find annoying. In particular they will devour clover patches, they absolutely love clover. During the spring when the clover starts to emerges they are busy at work getting rid of it for me. They even weed my gardens for me. As they till in the dirt looking for bugs, worms, and whatever they deem delicious, they also do some weeding for me.
Here is Miss Betsy and Miss Sweet Pea hard at work. They are snacking in my wildflower garden.
I guess the best part of putting them to work in my gardens is that they fertilize as they go. In addition to the shavings from the coop that I use to fertilize my gardens, they leave fresh supplies as they tend. I have hardy plants that give me great yields in return.
Gardening with my girls is both rewarding and fun. I always have company in my backyard when I work. They are always eager to help me till, weed, and keep my plants pest free. Chickens give so much more than eggs. They are agriculture geniuses that allow me to grow organic, pest free, and chemical free food for my family.
For this reason my ladies will live out their lives here on my hobby farm after they no longer lay eggs. You see, just because they are not laying eggs does not make them worthless. They will enter a phase in their lives that I affectionally call “Hen-tirement”. Basically, instead of providing for me in terms of eggs they will assist me in other ways. Tilling, composting, providing fertilizer, and companionship. Chickens are truly a wonderful pet to have. If you take gardening seriously, adding a few chickens will only make the hobby more enjoyable and rewarding.
As the season wanes and fall begins to take my gardens over, they are still hard at work. After I harvest all that I can before frost, they spend the rest of the season and the winter tilling the soil and getting all the leftover that they can. By spring, my soil is well fertilized, tilled, and primed for the next seasons growth. They are always at work for me, doing what chickens do best, hunting and pecking with glee.
Thanks for visiting our farm. Till next time, keep on crowing. The girls and I will be back soon!!
The Kuntry Klucker Crew