Did you know that gardening and raising chickens go hand in hand? As in, if you really want to power your garden and flowerbeds to incredible new heights, you might want to consider raising a few backyard chickens this year!
When it comes to self-sufficient living, it’s hard to beat having a small flock of birds. Especially when you consider all of the incredible benefits they bring to you and your family.
But, as you will see today, chickens can have a tremendous impact on your garden, flowerbeds, and overall landscape too. And in more ways than you might ever consider or imagine!
Raising Backyard Chickens – So Much More Than Just Eggs!
When most people think of raising chickens, the first thought that comes to mind is fresh eggs. It is certainly true, a few hens will provide a family with a good supply of incredibly delicious eggs.
We have raised chickens for the last 10+ years, and we simply can’t imagine not having the quality, taste and unbelievable freshness of the eggs our little hens produce.
But as gardeners, as amazing as their eggs are, they pale in comparison to the incredible assistance our chickens provide for growing healthy, vibrant plants. With that in mind, here is a look at 6 amazing ways even the smallest flock of chickens can help your garden and flowerbeds to their best year ever.
Gardening With Chickens – How Chickens Help You Grow Big!
#1 Powering Your Compost Pile
There is no faster and more efficient way to heat up a compost pile than with chicken manure. Every time we clean our chicken coop, the shredded straw and mix of dried and fresh manure go right into our compost pile.
Chicken manure is full of nutrients and minerals that can create excellent compost. As a hot “green” component, it is the perfect ingredient to add to help break down leaves, dried grass, and other “brown” materials in a pile. (See: The Secrets To Creating Compost Fast)
And does it ever work fast! Fresh chicken manure contains high levels of nitrogen. When mixed into a pile, it heats the core temperature of the compost up extremely fast.
As the temperature of a compost pile heats up, all kinds of good things begin to happen. First and foremost, a hot pile decomposes quickly, speeding up the time it takes to make finished compost. And with compost, more is always better!
But a compost pile with high heat will also destroy nearly all weed seeds that might exist. That means little worry of spreading weeds into any area where your finished compost is placed.
Insect and Pest Control – Gardening With Chickens
Beyond providing incredible compost ingredients, chickens are the champions of home insect and pest control. Left to roam about, they can decimate populations of beetles, slugs, aphids, ticks, cabbage worms and more.
Although it is not always possible during the garden season, allowing your chickens to forage before and after the season in your garden pays huge dividends.
Every spring and fall, we turn our chickens loose. First, we fence around any overwintering crops such as our garlic and onions. Then they go to work. As they scratch about, they devour all kinds of insects.
They also scratch and feed on larvae laid by insects in the top layer of soil. That helps to reduce and eliminate future insect problems as well.
In fact, ever since doing this in our garden, our issues with everything from grubs to hornworms have been reduced to near zero. The chickens love roaming about in fresh soil, and we love it too!
It really does help control insect populations all over your property. When we first moved to our original farm 10 years back, there were ticks everywhere. Within 5 years, there wasn’t a tick to be found!
Keeping Weeds In Check – Gardening With Chickens
Believe it or not, chickens can be an incredible asset when it comes to controlling weeds too. While in the garden searching for bugs, they also love to eat seeds.
In fact, as a chicken scratches about and roams, it can consume hundreds of weed seeds a day. Seeds that are your garden’s future potential weed problems. And now, those future issues have been eliminated by the chickens.
It is a complete win-win for the garden, the chicken’s diet, and you!
The Magic of Egg Shells In The Garden
We have already covered the delicious eggs that hens can produce. But even though what is inside of the shell of an egg is tasty for humans, the outer shell is loaded with calcium and other trace minerals and nutrients. And can they ever help power and protect plants!
Many vegetable plants need and use calcium to grow strong and healthy. In fact, one of the biggest problems for home gardeners is blossom end rot. And it is directly related to a lack of calcium in the soil.
Blossom rot forms those all too familiar ugly black spots on the end of tomatoes, squash, peppers and zucchini.
But by using a few crushed and pulverized egg shells in every planting hole in the spring, you can help to alleviate and remedy the problem. See : Why To Plant Egg Shells With Tomatoes – How To Keep Your Tomato Plants Healthy!
In addition, you can break up the shells and add them to the compost pile to recycle their nutrients as well. Some gardeners even crush them up and add them to the top layer of their container and hanging basket soil to leach their nutrients down to the roots .
Finally, those same egg shells crushed and placed around the base of flower and vegetable plants can provide protection from slugs too. Slugs simply can’t crawl over the sharp edges without cutting their soft outer layer.
Side Dressing Plants – Gardening With Chickens
Although you can always put the straw and manure into your compost pile, it can also be used as a “hot” side dressing on mature garden plants.
As our vegetable plants begin to grow, we often side dress them with an aged straw manure mix. By simply placing it around the base of plants about six inches from the base, the nutrients seep down into the ground and power the plants.
When used around plants as a mulch, it releases nitrogen and other nutrients back into the soil as the mix breaks down and leaches into the soil. It truly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to mulch and fertilize at the same time.
Manure Tea – Gardening With Chickens
You can also soak that same mixture of manure and straw in a 5 gallon bucket to create a powerful liquid fertilizer. Much like compost tea, the nutrients release into the water and then feed your plant’s roots.
This mixture is known as manure tea and is one of the most potent fertilizers around. It provides a quick boost of nitrogen to plants that can keep them strong and healthy.
You do need to be careful with this one, a little goes a long way. Unlike other teas like compost and worm casting tea, it should be watered around the soil of plants only, and not on the foliage. It is simply too hot and can burn the plant.
Here is to raising a few backyard chickens, and to having them help your gardens and flowerbeds to new heights! Happy Gardening, Jim and Mary.
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