My love affair with chickens began when I was a small girl living in the undeveloped mountain terrain of Southern California. We lived on a farm, and we had horses, goats and a pen full of chickens, as well as a cat here and there and a cocker spaniel named Cherry. One very early photo of me shows me sporting a large ruffled sunbonnet, carrying a small woven basket, full to the brim with chicken eggs, which I had gathered myself.
I was the keeper of the chickens, the one who cared deeply about them. When they managed to scamper through holes in the fence I was the one who would track them down in the orchard, who caught them gently, and lovingly put them back where they belonged in the safety of their pen and flock.
~from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden
Thus I was delighted when I noticed Timber Press was publishing Jessi Bloom’s book Free-Range Chicken Gardens. While I have had free-range chickens as an adult, and those who have now read my book will recall the story of my finding my rooster Chanticleer roaming on his own through the woods of Sonoma County, I do not have chickens now, and I’m hoping this book will prove to be one more step in that direction. I’m guessing so, as even the photos leave me longing to have chickens gracing my garden again. How charming is this?
I say VERY! If you have not experienced the gentle clucking of companion chickens scurrying about your beds, you are missing a most wonderful experience, and Jessi Bloom does pave the way for the uninitiated. As she points out in her introduction, “When I first got chickens I made a lot of mistakes.” However her intro has a happy ending, having learned “the hard way”: “Fast forward, and now our girls will come when called…Their housing is clean, rodent-proof, and an impenetrable barricade from night predators.” I’m sure we all know someone who has tried their hand at raising chickens who did not have adequate protection for their flock, so I was glad Jessi includes a good chapter called “Friends and Foes of Hens in the Garden” and begins the chapter writing of predators and pests. Discovering your good intentions were scoffed at by a bear or fox or coyote is a painful experience and leaves its mark especially hard on your children. So a good foundation is the best starting point! Different environments have different requirements. Here’s a lovely example of a chicken coop that would work well as long as you don’t have bears. One thing I learned which I never forgot is this: “Chicken wire keeps critters IN, not critters OUT.” Good to take note.
Jessi outlines the “3 c’s for the chicken garden”. They are the COOP, the CHICKEN RUN and the COMPOST AREA. In considering the coop she advises you to check your local laws. Frequently you might be able to have chickens but not a rooster. Each area is different. She points out that exposure and climate are important considerations, as well as easy access. The chicken run is an area that allows your chickens to have fresh air, sunlight and earth. This area can be permanent or rotating. The compost area is where you keep that rich chicken manure you now have access to for fertilization. Jessi uses two bins so she can rotate materials from one bin to the other.
In addressing chicken manure for fertilization one might find a chicken tractor as the one above as a possible choice, for one has the ability to move ones chickens around, to eat your bugs, till your soil and spread their fertilizing gifts, all while being contained. This requires the ability to move such a structure however. But lucky if you can!
For me the ultimate gift of chickens in the garden is the simple pleasure of having them about. I find them infinitely charming. They always bring a smile to my face and open my heart just a bit wider. This is enough reason, surely.
Love and chickie blessings,
Book News: I’ve at last joined the ranks of millions on Facebook, launching a Facebook Fan Page for those who have read Plant Whatever Brings You Joy to be able to reach out, and for those who have not to obtain more information. I’m also in the process of securing pics of my book on shelves around the country, and this one from San Francisco International Airport, in Compass Books in Terminal 3 was a recent highlight, I must admit!
Posted on July 5th, 2012 by Kathryn
Filed under: Book Notes