It's true, you can keep chickens and have a beautiful garden, too. And fresh eggs are just one of the many benefits — chickens can help your garden grow and thrive.
In Free-Range Chicken Gardens, award-winning garden designer Jessi Bloom covers everything a gardener needs to know, including chicken-keeping basics, simple garden plans to get you started, tips on attractive fencing options, the best plants and plants to avoid, and step-by-step instructions for getting your chicken garden up and running. For anyone who wants a fabulous garden where colorful chickens happily roam, this essential handbook is the guide that will bring the dream home to roost.
What about beautiful plants for our gardens that are chicken-resistant? Chickens simply avoid many ornamental plants. Of course, there will always be exceptions with animals, because they have different taste preferences and attitudes.
Chickens usually do much more damage with their feet than with their beaks, and often they ignore plants altogether.
As we do with our children and dogs, we need to supervise our chickens, especially when they are new to our garden, because some plants need protection and we won't always know which plants those will be. If you have a reasonable amount of chickens for your space and a well-designed and managed garden, there are many plants the chickens may ignore.
Read more about chicken-resistant plants on our blog
When adding chicken-resistant plants to your garden space, make sure you start with a good-sized plant and use a barrier protection method while the roots are getting established for at least one season.
Chickens are relatively easy on the land compared to other livestock, thus making them an ideal animal to keep for almost anyone. There are many factors to consider, though, when selecting chickens for your flock.
If you are going to raise the birds for eggs for your own family's use, then think about how many eggs you can eat in one week. A good rule of thumb is to have two birds for each person who eats eggs in your household. One hen can lay anywhere from 50 to 300 eggs per year, depending on breed, age, and environmental factors. Keeping chickens at different ages will ensure more consistent egg production, because when chickens get older, their egg laying slows down.
Read more about choosing chickens on our blog
Chickens with large combs and wattles—the red, fleshy parts on the chicken's head, the comb being on top and the wattle under the chin—are more likely to suffer from frostbite in cold climates. Heavier breeds with denser feathers will do better in the cold.
The contest closed February 17, 2012. Left photo © Kate Baldwin. Right photo © Jessi Bloom.