I think that we can all agree that free-range chickens are happier chickens. The ability to roam the yard and peck to their hearts content is way more mentally stimulating for a chicken, rather than being cooped up all day in a confined area. However, there is a hard-won balance that every passionate gardener tries to achieve when adding their first few chickens to their household. Failing to research the proper chicken garden designs, beforehand, will cause you a headache worth squawking about.
3 Reasons Why You Should Care About Chicken Garden Designs
1) Chickens dig… a lot! This is can be torture when you find out that your cute little chickens have decided to rip up all the grass in your garden that you’ve spent months tending. Fun fact: Chickens will scratch! That’s how they dig for bugs as they roam your backyard. Pre-planning your chicken friendly garden design will help you keep the damage to a minimum.
2) Chickens need cleanup. These cute cluckers can kick up dust, scratch in mulch, and get dirty. As a result, you will need to spend time cleaning your chickens and their coops. Listen, you wouldn’t place a dog house next to a mud puddle, right? The same logic applies here. Trust me, you’re going to want to plan out your chickens roaming areas.
3) Chicken fertilizer comes in the form of poop. I can’t stress this point enough; chickens poop a lot. It’s true that chicken poop makes for a wonderful fertilizer that both your plants and grass will love. However, I promise that you won’t be loving it when you find that same chicken poop on your favorite outdoor chair. Natural fertilizer is great. Having designated poop boundaries are better!
How to Design the Best Chicken Garden Layer-by-Layer:
Level 1: The Ground Level
Gravel: If you’re in a hotter climate, you may not have the luxury of having grass in your yard. However, it’s not all bad. Gravel serves as a good supply of grit to help your chickens digest any fibrous materials from your free-ranging chickens.
Grass: On the other hand, if you do have grass feel free to put your chickens to work. Using a chicken wire fence, you can create a temporary graze area. Chickens act as natural lawn mowers as they graze. Also, you’re gaining the added benefit of building richer soil from the chicken fertilizer. It’s important to note that you’ll want to move your chickens when you see that the grass has become shorter than 2 inches in length.
Level 2: The Herb & Veggie Layer
Chickens will love chowing down on some tasty greens in your garden. The greens on this level are edible and easy to reach. Plus, chickens will eat many of the bugs that attack your herbs and veggies that you don’t want to kill with pesticides. The trick is to make sure you don’t plant all of your herbs and veggies in one place. Otherwise, you will encourage overgrazing. Give your herbs and veggies some space by planting them throughout your chicken garden.
[alert type=”info” close=”false”]Types of greens that can be planted at this level are: lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard, lavender, Swiss chard, and parsley.[/alert]
Level 3: Bushes & Shrubs Layer
Having a well-placed shrub or bush in your backyard will serve two important purposes for your chickens. Firstly, it will provide natural shade and protection to your chickens when they are away from their chicken coop. Secondly, your bushes and shrubs can provide food for your chickens in the form of berries, fruit, and seeds.
[alert type=”info” close=”false”]Types of bushes and shrubs to consider are: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranates, and gooseberries.[/alert]
Level 4: The Top Layer
Your top layer will typically consist of trees that bear fruit. These trees will serve as additional shade and sources of food for your chickens. Unlike your Bushes and Shrubs layer your Top Layer trees will require more sunlight. As a result, you should plant these fruit bearing trees just outside the edge of your new chicken-friendly garden.
[alert type=”info” close=”false”]Assuming that your climate will encourage their growth, these are top layer trees: apple, pear, and peach trees.[/alert]
*HELP* “What if I don’t have any mature plants or trees to shelter my chickens in my garden?”
Answer: If you don’t yet have any plants or trees big enough to shelter your chickens, then you need to consider investing in a larger style chicken coop, that’s up off the ground. That way your chickens can continue to roam around, roost, and lay eggs. Also, having a proper chicken coop can protect your chickens from poor weather conditions and potential predators.
Samples of Finished Chicken Garden Designs
Each layer of your new chicken garden offers a chance to grow beautiful edibles while simultaneously, developing a better harmony between you and your garden. Take advantage of designing a chicken garden, using the different layers method, because it will provide you with a stunning layered landscape, richer soil, and a multitude of good eats for your happy free-range chickens.