Chicken and Gardening: The Perfect Combination
If you grow a vegetable garden, raising chickens makes perfect sense. First of all, chickens will produce fresh eggs for you; secondly, they produce fertilizer that will power your garden; and last but not least, chickens eat kitchen scraps, old foods in your pantry and garden debris, turning them into compost in no time. This small backyard homestead forms a mini ecosystem that is good for you and the environment. Chickens are fun to raise, besides the daily dose of chicken politics and occationally voice their complaints, they are great little workers. If you are considering raising your own chickens in your backyard, here are some chicken basics:
(1) Building a Chicken Coop:
To raise chickens you will need some space and a raccoon-proof chicken coop. Our chicken coop is a 12x9 foot structure with a 10x10 foot covered cyclone wire fence. This way the chickens have a secure shelter to sleep in and lay eggs. and their own "yard" to run around during the day. You will need some straw to line the chicken coop. Chickens make majority of their droppings at night, so set up a few bars where they can roost on at night, and place some straw underneath will make the clean up a lot easier. Have a large garbage can in the chicken coop to collect the soiled straw. Once the garbage can is full, empty it to the composed pile or into the garden. You will also need egg box for the hens to lay their eggs. Sturdy plastic pet food storage bins with the front removed work well. Line the egg box with clean straw. It you have a good comfortable box, the hens will take turns to lay their eggs there.
(2) Useing Straw to Line the Chicken Coop:
Straw is necessary for keeping the chicken coop clean and tidy. Remove soiled straw frequently to avoid a messy buildup. Use wheat straw instead of hey. Hey contains weed seeds, which can be a problem when you spread them in the garden.
(3) Provide Proper Egg Laying Boxes:
Chickens like to lay their eggs in a secluded places. Provide the chickens with a secure place for laying eggs, a large plastic pet feeds box with the front door removed works well. Place plenty of straw inside to make it cushy and comfortable. Chickens like to lay their eggs in the same spot, once they established a laying spot they will go back time and time again.
(4) Watering and Feeding Pans:
Chicken feeds and water feeders are available from feed stores. You can use a large sturdy plastic tub for the watering pan. Any large shallow container is suitable for feeding pan. The feeders are great for regular chicken feeds, which comes in a granuals or pellets. A shallow feeding pan would be good for feeding the chickens table scraps etc.
(5) Chicken Feeds:
Chicken feed is available from feed stores. I use a combination of Triple Duty and cracked corn. Any other assorted leftovers from the pantry are warmly received by the chickens. I also feed my chicken wheat, which can also be purchased from the feed store. Because wheat is hard, I cook it with the kitchen scraps in a spare rice cooker before feeding the chickens.
(6) Oyster Shells and Grits
Chickens don't have teeth, to properly digest the food, they need grits. Chickens grits are small sized rocks that chicks eat. chicken grits comes in two sizes. Size 1 is small sized that is suitable for chicks, size two is larger sized that are suitable for full grown chickens. The oyster shell's main fuction is to restore the calcium chickens loose when they start producing eggs.
(7) Chicken Outdoor Time Management
Chickens like to roam around outside their coop. They eat bugs, weeds and yes, occasionally vegetables you have growing in the garden. Chickens love dirt bath, it's their way of relaxing. They will make a pretty good sized patch where they dirth bathing. Block out access when you have tender seedlings in the garden, otherwise they might go missing. They do not bother grown vegetable plants as much, preferring other things in the soil like weeds and bugs.