With summer coming back from its winter vacation, we gardeners are getting rather excited. It’s time to get scratching in the dirt and those of us with feathers are ready to go! Chickens are the perfect pet for gardeners. It’s fine to have lounging felines and happy pooches staring at your industry as you rake, hoe and mulch. Wouldn’t it be nice to have pets that actually join in? You may also want to interview some of these other gardeners and landscapers as well.
Wanted: feathered landscapers, experience assumed
Your chickens are an all-in-one landscape company. They are cheaper, happier, make less noise and you don’t have to pay for the fertilizer and pest control. AND they don’t cost any more than free, even though they are 100% organic. It is a win-win. They also work pretty near all day and rarely complain. I have yet to meet a landscaper that brought me eggs.
If you have ducks and geese, they do the same thing (get ducks, geese and guinea fowl at eFowl.com). They just won’t spread your mulch. Ducks can munch crops, so be wary, and have no-go areas to prevent unwanted sampling. Ducks will work pest-control, but geese are vegetarian. Geese have been used to weed farms for eons, and many commercial growers employ their services. They are fairly specific eaters, preferring grasses, and usually do not touch crops. You can even range them with berries and tomatoes.
You may want to fence off tender plants or seedlings to prevent trampling. Just like chickens, geese and ducks are wonderful companions as you weed and harvest. Geese make good watchdogs. Their imposing presence and intent deters many invaders and the honking will alert you to a situation in progress!
Guinea fowl are expert pest control individuals. They are “non-toxic” and will even take out rodents (Your chickens will also kill mice, voles and other small critters. You will rarely find mice in coops, as the chickens will attack them during the day)! Guinea fowl have risen to a famous standing for their ability to rid areas of ticks. Consider hiring guineas to work your yard (they fly, and may free-range from small yards. They usually send selfies and postcards which is nice) or farm if hawks and predators are a nuisance. Indigenous to West Africa, these little birds are hard-wired to keep watch and be ready to flee. Keep this in mind if noise is a problem, as they will sound the alarm. Like the beautiful robust call of the male Gallus domesticus, this is a perk or a pain, depending on your situation. Guineas are wonderful guard birds and keepers love their cleverness and endearing mannerisms. If you garden alone, these are excellent bodyguards to alert you to anything trespassing,¦including humans. Like other fowl, these birds recognize faces and will not let a human stranger go unnoticed.
I often read blogs and stories about how dirty chickens are, how they mess up areas, etc. This is a keeping issue. Chickens are integral to maintaining and growing a lively and rich biological ecosystem balancing fauna and flora. You can’t beat the classic combination of chickens and plants.
Many of us have heard the saying chickens are like moving flowers. As you sit back and watch the flock sifting through the leaves and mulch – that is a sight that is hard to match. Listing the attributes and benefits that poultry bring to the agricultural setting is vast.
Here are a few:
,¢ Chickens till the soil and remove insect pests. Their tilling is low-impact and rarely damages sensitive root structures. They provide necessary soil lofting and prevent stagnant, compacted, anaerobic spots. Worms get happy, chickens get happy – it is one fluid circle (well, the worms may not like being eaten, but…)
,¢ Whistling while you work is only paralleled by fertilizing while you work! Chickens love to fertilize as they go. I never worry about burning plants and I never listen to the anti-nature germaphobes. I have had neither issue in my vegetable garden. Nature is clean and beautiful and when it is balanced it maintains equilibrium.
,¢ Companionship is certain if you plan to hit the soil. Your chickens can hear you thinking, I have to hoe the beans. That shovel and hoe has a stronger pull than the Pied Piper’s flute.
,¢ Turning over your compost is a job of the past. Your poultry will take care of that chore and they do a better than job than you.
,¢ The natural food, exercise and beneficial soil nutrients will give your birds vigor and bloom. Don’t forget to add the egg shells to the compost. The hens will eat some of the crushed shell and they will use this calcium to build the next egg shell.
,¢ No ticks.
,¢ Your little pumpkins may eat your strawberries. They will also find favorite places to work. Simply fence off sections or use row cover. Chickens really do not touch most crops. They will prune some young tomato leaves, but you have to do that anyway – well, not any more (refer to “spreading compost).
,¢ Some chickies are seedling assassins. Protect accordingly until the plants mature and can defend themselves.
,¢ Chickens ignore herbs and garlic,¦and onion.
,¢ Do not use chemicals or fertilizer in your garden if the birds are using it. Organic is always safest anyway.
,¢ Garlic and hot pepper are fantastic pest repellents. Use these on your produce and in the garden to prevent pests like groundhogs or deer.
,¢ Spray insects that the birds won’t eat (bean and potato beetles) with hot pepper and try poultry protector (https://www.efowl.com/16_Ounce_Poultry_Protector_Spray_Bottle_p/304-1380.htm). This product kills the insects AND their eggs. Yay! Don’t worry about hot pepper around the chickens, as it does not affect birds.
All of us gardeners are sighing with pleasure feathered or not. This is the time of year we wait for. The cornucopia is soon to come. I will be ahead of the watermelon seedling “decapitators” THIS year.