Are you thinking about chicken in your urban backyard? Do you already have them and are wondering how to better integrate them into your yard? Free Range Chicken Gardens, by Jessi Bloom, may just be the book for you!
Free Range Chicken
“Free range chickens” refers to those chickens who are allowed to move with relative freedom around your property. There are a lot of perks to this practice and some serious drawbacks.
On acreage, free ranging your chickens can mean a lot of lost eggs as the hens lay wherever they please. On the other hand, they can forage for much more of their food. Life is give and take.
In an urban backyard, free ranging your chickens can have its benefits and quirks, too. Here to help you sort those out is Jessi Bloom and her book, Free Range Chicken Gardens.
Review Free Range Chicken Gardens
For Urban Chicken Keepers
I really like the coop/garden layouts in this book; the design ideas are perfect for smaller, urban lots. Certainly a novice chicken owner would find great value in this book as it’s clear, concise and interesting.
The information covered is nicely broad under the umbrella of backyard chickens. The topics range from housing, garden designs, suggested plant lists, predator and common chicken complaints. Naturally, since I like the book, it has good graphics – have I mentioned how shallow I am about pretty pictures?
For all Chicken Keepers
I’ve kept chickens for awhile now but I still found several unique ideas in this book that were downright great. Some of them were appropriate for any chicken keeper, not just free rangers.
Feeding Your Chickens
Jessi suggests using a wedge feeder outside the chicken fence onto which you place raw veggies. Really, the set up is just a piece of wood, rigged to lean up against a chain link fence at a slant, with a lip to prevent the food from falling off. The chickens stick their heads through the chain link and not only are they fed, but they’re entertained, too!
Ms. Bloom also instructs us that we can train a chicken to eat slugs by cutting up the slugs with a pair of scissors. Apparently eating whole slugs is something which they wont always do on their own because of the size of most slugs. Ew. But if we’re free ranging your hens in your yard for pest control, this is a good trick to know and, I confess, it never would have occurred to me.
Another feeding tip I didn’t know was that Jerusalem Artichokes can help with broiler (meat bird) growth AND help prevent pathogen build up in your birds. I guess it’s a good thing that my hens got into a patch this year and put quite a dent in it!
A Note on Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem Artichokes are not actually artichokes at all but do have an artichoke flavor. They’re grown for their tuberous roots that have a raw texture a bit like water chestnuts. You can eat them raw in salads, sauté them and even boil and mash them like potatoes (a lot of diabetics use them instead of potatoes since they’re not so carb-y).
Another common name for them is Sunchoke because of the gorgeous Sunflower/Black Eyed Susan type flower stalk they send some six feet into the air. If you need a wind break that’s lovely, consider growing these.
They self propagate like wildfire so be sure you only plant them where you don’t mind have a lot of them. No matter how hard you try, you will NOT get them all out of the ground at harvest time. Look for varieties that claim to be more smooth and less knobby because the knobs are hard to clean around.
More Chicken Facts for Every Chicken Keeper
Many people free range their chickens for best control. Chickens will happily eat bad bugs (sadly, good bugs, too) from the soil and off your plants. However, chickens like eating plants, too. The best way to use the hens as bug killers is in areas that have been plowed under after the season has finished. Or, right before the growing season starts.
Jessi teaches us that we can build a movable run to place over our garden beds to keep the chickens in and safe while they eat bugs out of our veggie boxes. This movable run prevents the chickens from getting into areas where you don’t want them. It also protects them. This is something we really need to do because I desperately need them to clean the cutworms out of my carrot beds!
If you’re having trouble with your hens going where you don’t want them to go in the garden, Ms. Bloom has some suggestions. She says that you can use a motion sensor on a sprinkler to make it turn on automatically if your birds wander into an area where you don’t want them scratching and nibbling.
This and so much more can be found in this useful, little book, Free Range Chicken Gardens, by Jessi Bloom.