Book Notes: Free-Range Chicken Gardens

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,
Kathryn xoxo

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!

10 Responses to “Book Notes: Free-Range Chicken Gardens”

  1. Cluck! Cluck! How very cute, mom! Love the chicken inspiration, and adorable pictures, too! I remember how creative you got with coups. Is it time for more chickies in the yard?

    Love you.
    Antonia
    xoxo

  2. Hi, Antonia, Could be, could be! :) Aw, yes, creatively tucking my chickens into a kennel at night that popped into the back of my truck. Yes, that happened. ;) Love, Mom xoxo

  3. Great post. Here in centeral Ohio our city councils are discussing the idea of allowing chickens within city limits as there is more interest in sustainable living. I admit Sue & I have talked about it, fairly seriously. When Worthington was settled in 1803, the town lots were 1 acre in size, large enough for a big kitchen garden, chickens, a milk cow, maybe a pig, and a stable for the horses. Each town lot came with a farm lot of 40 to 80 acres as well and some of the families chose to build homes on those, raising more livestock than could be done on the town lots. Some of the full acre lots still exist and you can see a stable here and there now converted into a garage. We have had several families try their hands at raising chickens but there has been great debate among the neighbors and no decision from our council since the birds were killed by “stray dogs” before a vote could be taken. I expect, as Worthington pushes harder to rekindle it’s sustainable roots that chickens will come back to our back yards. I have just the places for them to stay and the back yard is already fenced in. My worry is about cats, ours included, and the hawks that come through using my bird feeding stations as snack shops. We also have coyotes along the Olentangy River now and being so close, I would worry about the chickens being a magnet for them. They were probably the cause of the demise of a friend’s much beloved outdoor rabbit last year. Still, it’s a wonderful post and I plan to share it. Hugs all around from here where it will be 100 degrees today but the drought has finally broken, to downpours, heavy winds and power outages all over central Ohio. Cousin Julie

  4. Hi, Julie, I think I would have liked Worthington in 1803. Yes, chickens do attract predators, so it is critical to think of their safety first and foremost. I have a close friend who lost her entire flock to a bear. Eeek. So how the coop is connected to the ground (cement?) and whether it’s covered (especially at night) and whether they can hide in daytime is all critical. I think your backyard has plenty of hiding spots, right? And, yes, hawks are a consideration. But it can be done if all things are taken into consideration and well worth it, I do believe. Keep us posted! Love, Kathryn xoxo

  5. Chanticleer ! Yes! that brings a smile. My small locally owned market here in San Francisco has chickens in the backyard -right here in the city! They have a nice coop -that was the expensive part, and then they have their run in the garden. There is a deck where you can watch them, and it is so sweet seeing the kids in the neighborhood watching them and volunteering to help out. I cannot think of anything better for these urban kids to get a sense of the natural world. This looks like a great book. :)

  6. Hi, Philip! Yes, Chanticleer! :) How wonderful that San Francisco lets folks have chickens on their property! [Love you, SF!] I know Tiburon was battling it out over permits. They finally allow chickens w/ a case by case permit but you have to put up $1500 deposit. :) Yes, it’s lovely that kids get to see those chickens. Good to hear! Kathryn xoxo

  7. Just wanted to thank you for your continued inspiring and fabulous posts, particularly this one about chickens!

    After reading your post, I went straight to Amazon.com and immediately bought Jessi’s chicken book online!

    I am really looking forward to having my own back yard garden with chickens again and need to start studying up and making my plans! :)

  8. Hi, Brenda, and welcome! Thanks so much for letting me know! You will like the book. And I remember how much you loved your chickens. Looking forward to your having them again. They feed your heart. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  9. I have a note for Cousin Julie about protecting the chickens.
    I have a back yard subjected to several chicken predators. My chickens were always secure. I went to the hardware store and purchased 4 foot wide steel mesh, the mesh is small enough that even rodents cannot squeeze through the openings and since the mesh is made of steel they also cannot chew through it.
    I also bought a roll of wire. I then constructed a wooden frame ( 4 posts 8 feet high) with a “door” in between, and dug a one foot trench between each post from one post to the next. Then I poured cement into the “channel” between each post and laid one edge of the steel mesh into the cement between each post. Then I lifted the mesh and firmly attached the steel mesh to the posts giving me a 4 foot high “wall”.
    After that I attached another round of mesh above that creating an 8 foot “wall” of steel mesh. I used the wire to “sew” a seam between the upper and lower mesh of the “wall”.
    Then I did the same for a steel mesh “roof”, using the wire to “sew” the edges of the roof to the steel mesh “walls” and a second run of “roof” to itself making the chicken yard 8 feet wide.
    I admit the “sewing ” was a little grueling, however, my chicken yard has held up extremely well now for 15 years with no predator ever getting inside the chickens coop or yard! It is a very safe haven for chickens!

    Just to mention I did put the chicken coop inside at the edge of one of the trenches between posts so that the door of the coop opens to the chicken yard (and then worked around that).

  10. Hi, Brenda, Thank you so much for that! If anyone could do it, it would be you. In awe of your construction abilities! Kathryn xoxo

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