Saturday, November 13, 2010

Backyard chickens, fertilizer, organic weed control, Fresh free range eggs, gardening, composting, organic pest control, zombie cows

Its been a while since I waxed poetic about backyard chickens. But yesterday a friend  FB'd that she may be adopting a couple .  Then I remembered the excitement of our first flock. In the beginning it seemed like there was so much to learn and now its old hat.  Chickens integrated into our lives so easily I couldn't figure out why everyone doesn't have them..... especially gardeners. The benefits are many and the  drawbacks are few.   the first benefit of course is the eggs. Nothing tastes better than a fresh egg from a healthy free range  chicken and  the nutrition is very high. Grocery store eggs are an  average of 2 months old by the time you get them home. Many commercially produced eggs are as old as  four months before getting to your fridge. I don't want to eat old eggs. I'm not gonna. You cant make me.
Chickens are great gardeners. They forage through the yard and keep the bugs way down. They dig through garden beds all winter and keep the soil turned over looking for yummy things to snack on.
They dig up and eat your weeds. We have the most beautiful well fertilized lawn in our back yard. And all Jimmy does is mow. When we first moved in here the  lawn was a sea of  waving dandelions. Now after two wintered of free ranging the girls,  their scratching, aerating and pooing have left only the occasional weed popping  up.  And its all organic with no watershed damage. And we get eggs.
They love the compost pile. Year before last they took an  8 foot by 8 foot  area piled up 3 feet high  with organic materials and reduced it to  a stunning  rich garden bed ready for planting in 6 months. They did all the work between October and March while Jimmy and I were sitting warm and toasty in the house in front of a fire. And we get eggs.
They make great pets.  After a while they recognize you as one of their flock and treat you accordingly. They live well with cats. And as long as you have chickens.... crows and blue jays will avoid your yard and sparrows , hummingbirds and other songbirds will visit daily and play with the chickens. They  are a viable part of any backyard ecosystem.
And the poop. You will never buy fertilizer again and everything you pull out of the coop can be composted or used to make  'hot' beds for growing peppers and other vegetables that need warmer soil.

The drawbacks?  They get up at the crack of dawn.  They argue over the nests (even if you provide one nest per bird they will have a favorite and fight over it).  Any unprotected garden greens are just snacks to them. (we fence off the winter  beds when free ranging them.).  They will poop on the patio cuz they don't care. And they will hang out on the back porch  under the dryer vent in the winter to get warm.  And when it snows they will bitch at you like YOU did it to be mean. And when it rains hard they will give you dirty looks.   In the end they are delightful  creatures and provide a grounding  that one can only strive for in yoga class.
Now if I could just talk Jimmy into one of those miniature cows for the front yard! I just have to figure out a way that  mini cows could be useful during the zombie apocalypse

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