Why Backyard Chickens in Your Garden

backyard chickens freerangeBackyard chickens are all the rage recently. If you have never had chickens before, it might seem overwhelming to think about adding chickens to your garden. Well, you don’t actually want them IN your garden all the time, but adding chickens to your yard has big benefits.

Raising a small flock of backyard chickens is easy. With a little care and some protection from predators, chickens are simple to raise. Each chicken will give you about 45 pounds of free fertilizer each year – and hens will lay 3-7 eggs per week.

Just as important, chickens eat lots of bugs, weeds, kitchen scraps and other ickies. With a little supervision, you can even have the chickens do your garden work for you. Let them loose on the garden at the end of the season and they will eat up the leftovers, till up the soil, add fertilizer, and eat any bugs they can find. How is that for free labor? Their manure can be easily composted into rich compost that will feed your garden.

How many eggs a hen lays will depend on her age and the breed. Some chickens lay more eggs than others. For backyard chickens or small homestead farms, breeds that lay 3-5 eggs a week are usually the best choice. Super-layers are usually bred to grow too fast and produce more eggs than is healthy.

Chickens are available in a huge variety of colors and they can lay eggs from white to brown to green. Some common breeds for backyard flocks include Buff Orpington, Australorp, Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock or Barred Rock. All of these breeds are good layers, tolerate cold well (with good shelter and fresh water), and they are usually pretty friendly. If you like exotics, chickens come in some pretty wild shapes and feather arrangements as well. Silkies, Cresteds, and other chicken breeds can add some amazing conversation pieces to your yard as well!

You do not need a rooster to get fresh eggs. Roosters are loud, and can sometimes be very aggressive, so many home chicken flocks are simply hens. Hens will lay eggs whether a rooster is there or not. If you do have a rooster, the eggs will be fertile but you can still gather them and use them with no problems. Even fertilized eggs won’t turn into chicks without a warm hen on them for 3 weeks.

If your yard is not suitable for free-range chickens, you can use a chicken coop with a small run or exercise area. Even better, use a portable coop and run or a chicken tractor (portable chicken enclosure) that can be moved from place to place. This way your chickens get the fresh ground they love to scour for bugs and weeds, and you don’t have to clean up any mess. Some avid gardeners even size a chicken tractor to fit over their garden beds. Then they can rotate the beds or have the chickens clean up the area for them.

Chickens love to dig and scratch, and they will eat your tomatoes and other garden delights if allowed to do so. So, you’ll want to house the chickens away from your garden – or put a 4 foot fence around the garden and let the chickens run free.

You will need a safe place to lock the chickens up at night – they are sitting ducks – er, sitting chickens for raccoons, foxes, coyotes, neighborhood dogs, and other predators. They will need a nest box for laying eggs – this can be a wooden box or even a plastic bin with an entrance hole. They will need constant access to fresh water and food.

Many chicken breeds are very friendly. With patience and regular handling, many breeds will become docile and happy pets. They like to be held and petted. If you train them to come to you when you call them for food, you can easily lead them back to their coop at night or just to come to you when you want them.

Many cities have passed ordinances in recent years making it possible for even urban families to own chickens in some areas. You’ll need to check into your local laws. Some limit the placement of the coop to a certain number of feet from the house or property line, for instance. Others limit the number of chickens you may have.

There is so much more to know about chickens and raising them. There are several good books available as well as other resources. I’ll be adding more info over the next few weeks. Here is one popular backyard chicken guide.

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5 Responses to “Why Backyard Chickens in Your Garden”

  1. Trine says:

    Love this pst. I never knew it would be this easy. If I had more time, I’d consider this.

  2. Nita says:

    Love all the info about chickens, I miss mine. Not sure I’m going to get them again, I’m on the go too much and hate to ask someone to come to my house twice a day to let the chickens out in the morning and put them up in the evening. Yes, even in their pen, my chickens need to be locked in their house at night to protect them from predators. Looking forward to reading more about your chickens.

  3. I’d love to try raising chickens, but my neighbors would have a fit!

    Found your blog through the Ultimate Blog Challenge FB group. Happy A-Z!

    Could of, would of, should of – Mixed messages and misused words from A to Z

  4. What a fun post! We don’t have a good yard for chickens, the previous owners put in astroturf instead of grass! It’s definitely drought friendly, which is great for where we live in central California. One of my daughter’s friends is getting chickens and I know it will be fun for all the neighborhood kids to watch them grow up. Your article does make it sound simple and beneficial. It’s important to me that my kids know where there food comes from and this is one great way to teach them!

  5. Susasn Levy says:

    This is a very fun and informative article. Thanks for the tips!

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