Gardening With Chickens
It’s August! What in the world? Where did the summer go? I’m torn between being ready for 2020 to be over (with Covid-19) and really wanting to throw the breaks on because I love this time of year! The mornings are starting to get a bit cooler here in Minnesota, but still warm up in the afternoon. The cicadas are singing their song and the sunsets are stunning. It’s also the time of year where our garden is starting to overflow with an abundance of produce! We’ve already had BLT’s 3 times and green beans until our hearts are content.
I grew up with parents and grandparents who gardened. I have really great memories of eating all that yummy food and not so great memories of pulling weeds for hours. Haha! We would literally eat snap peas out of the garden until our tummies hurt. Those memories from my childhood are exactly what I want for our kids. My husband and I have tried to instill the love of the outdoors and growing/harvesting our own food to our family. Also, our garden helps our kids understand that what you put into your body matters. Having fresh green produce from the garden is about as natural as it gets.
Chickens have become a big part of our gardening success! They can also be a big part of it’s failure if you’re not watching them closely. They love to dig and scratch and eat seeds, so if you don’t want your plants to grow, release the chickens! I will usually allow 1 or 2 out with me while I’m weeding, but I can keep an eye on them pretty easy that way.
Last year, my husband and daughter built 2 really great garden boxes and we have them right next to the coop. We filled them with black dirt and rich chicken poop compost. Our tomatoes have literally never been this tall! We also have a smaller sized ground garden and those plants are doing great as well. We have plans to add to our garden box collection for next year. It sure saves on your back and knees when you’re out there working!
We use the deep litter method for our coop, so we always end up with a wonderful pile of compost. Throwing “hot” chicken poop on your garden will likely burn the plants. However, if you let it decompose, you will be able to throw some on in the spring before planting and throughout the garden season as needed. And, if you’re an avid user of Coop Recuperate, your compost will be that much richer!
You will quickly learn that chickens will love your garden produce as much as you! I love throwing a couple cucumbers or a ripe tomatoes in the run for them. They also love zucchini, pumpkins, watermelons, any type of squash, and the list goes on and on. My chickens go crazy over ripe tomatoes, but avoid green tomatoes and potatoes. They contain toxins that are poisonous to your flock. The toxins found in these green potatoes and tomatoes are called solanin and chaconine. They are both found in the peel, flesh and the sprouts. Avoid onions as well. Chickens are fairly smart little birds and they know what to eat and not eat for the most part. Educating yourself on a healthy diet for your chickens is essential to raising a healthy and flourishing flock!
Don't forget about the eggshells! Provide your flock with Chicken E-Lixer and they will have calcium-rich, strong eggshells. You can crush them and sprinkle them in your garden to provide your plants the calcium they need.
Gardening doesn’t have to be hard and it certainly doesn’t have to overwhelm you. We used to do CSA gardening shares. I literally spent 10 -12 hours a day in our 2 high tunnel greenhouses and our 2 acre garden on a daily basis. It was way too much! Now that we’ve scaled back and are just really growing what we need, I’ve rediscovered the joy of gardening. But honestly, I’m not sure if it’s the gardening I love, or all the extra visiting time I have out there with my girls.
--The Wing Lady