Why Chickens Are the Best Tool for Your Garden
Did you know chickens can be used to help maintain and strengthen the health of your garden? Having a flock of chickens in your backyard is beneficial in several ways.
A single chicken can bio-recycle about 7 pounds of food residuals in a month. If 2,000 households raised three hens, it could divert 252 tons of waste from landfills annually. A flock of hens will also perform most of the labor of having to "turn" your compost pile by scratching at the pile.
Chickens are efficient producers of nutrients for your soil as well. Chicken manure fertilizer is high in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, making it one of the best organic fertilizers for enriching your garden soil. Just one hen will produce about 90 pounds of manure each year.
Chickens also provide great pest control by eating problem-causing insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, snails, and slugs. Chickens have been known to kill, and eat, small snakes too. Because they naturally love to eat a wide variety of the most common garden pests, chickens are a great organic pest control option.
Not only are chickens a valuable addition to your arsenal of garden tools and equipment, but they also provide fresh eggs for the family. In 2007, Mother Earth News did an egg testing project and found that, compared with official USDA nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene.
Chicken Raising Overview
Caring and raising a flock is easy and takes about the same time and effort as raising a dog. With the essentials, you can successfully raise happy chickens in any garden.
There are many resources to help you as you start up your backyard flock. There are several good books on the subject, such as "The Complete Guide to Raising Chickens" by Tara Layman Williams. This will arm you with the knowledge that you need, including which breed you want and what to feed them. Books like this will also give you information on how to tell if your chicken is sick.
A chicken coop is required to provide a safe shelter for your hens to lay eggs and to protect them from predators. You want about 3 or 4 square feet per chicken inside the henhouse. A coop with an open floor will be easier to shovel out manure to use in your garden.
A feeder and waterer can be found at your local feed or lawn and garden store. Your local store will carry a variety of shapes and styles to choose from that will fit any size flock. One of the easiest ways to give your chicken water is to attach a nipple waterer to the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket, hang it in your coop, and fill with fresh clean water.
You must also be prepared to protect some of your more tasty plants with chicken wire, which is easy to install. You want to make sure your chickens have access to the perimeter of your garden to act as a defensive barrier for bugs and insects.
You can use treats to train your flock to perform many different tasks, such as getting them to come to you when called. Get your chickens to scratch and aerate the soil where you spread the treats, or simply reward them for their help.
Source: Happy Hen Treats, happyhentreats.com