An Introduction to Keeping Chickens in Your Garden

You may think that keeping livestock of any sort is not relevant to gardening but you would be wrong. In creating a garden you should be working with nature rather than against it and as with any natural system it is important to consider not only the plants in your garden but also all the wildlife that completes the ecosystem. Bees and other insects pollinate your crops, ladybirds keep down the aphid population and birds, frogs and hedgehogs help with slugs and snails. Particularly in a layered permaculture garden, with trees to provide shade, chickens can be a valuable addition to your garden's ecosystem and its ecological cycle.

Keeping a few hens for eggs is easier than you might imagine. Even if you have quite a small garden you can keep a handful of hens to keep you and your household entertained and provided with a plentiful supply of eggs for your kitchen.

What You Need:

  • A hen house or coop. This should have perches for the chickens to roost and nesting boxes where they can lay their eggs. It must be secure to protect chickens from foxes and other predators.
  • A run or chicken tractor. (You will probably want to corral your chickens at some point even if they are free range most of the time.)
  • Food and something to put it in.
  • A Water Container.

It is important that you do your research before getting your chickens and purchasing or constructing the necessary items. Consider carefully how many hens you can keep in the space you have and how much time you will be able to devote to them. Aside from collecting eggs and letting hens out in the morning and putting them in at night, you will also need to clean out your hens and take care of their basic needs as well as giving them some affection and entertainment.

Why Keep Chickens in Your Garden?

  • Eggs (To complement the other food produced in your garden.)
  • Entertainment (They can be a source of endless amusement.)
  • A constant supply of excellent fertiliser
  • To scratch up and prepare garden beds
  • To keep down slugs and some insect pests
  • To enhance the garden ecosystem

Chickens are good friends to a gardener for the above reasons but you will have to keep crops fenced or netted to prevent free-ranging chickens, who can be rather greedy, from eating them all before you get the chance.

There is a lot to learn about keeping chickens but with a little bit of research and some learning on the job, everyone can do it. Children will love helping to look after their feathered friends. With a little help from the chickens, the plants in your garden will thrive.

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