As the chickens and I spent several hours out on the farm yesterday, I realized that the sisters are really learning their
way around the gardens and woods. When they hear a hawk call out, they run and search for bugs under low growing bushes and trees. Hot sun sends them to the coolness of the native plant shade bed. In general though, they just travel around from flower bed to veggie bed to find insects and nibble plants.
I realize that these fine feather friends have actually eaten far more of the kale than I have, and they’ve trampled some of the seedlings beyond repair, but all in all, they have added more to the farm than they have taken away.
So why chickens for your suburban/urban farm and gardens?
1. They eat bugs. Yes, some of those bugs are beneficial, but they also eat all kinds of caterpillars and beetles that devour delicate squash and tomato plants. They love fleas and ticks that prey on cats and dogs. Plus, they manage to keep any stray spiders from creeping in the house if you let them free range a bit.
2. They fertilize. As they move around the plants, they are eating and pooping, eating and pooping. That muck will eventually age and break down and make for great fertilizer for the area where they range or in their coop/run which can be added to the compost heap.
3. They scatter seed. My girls love to scratch around in the wildflower/veggie mix bed. Yesterday, I realized as they were doing so, the coneflower seeds were being spread around for next spring. Yahoo–less work for me.
4 & 5. And speaking of scattering seed–all that scratching in the ground they’re doing also takes care of two other issues: mulching and aeration. My oak leaves have never looked so good after the sisters have spent 30 minutes scratchin’ and shreddin’.
6. They eat weeds. My girls will eat most anything green growing up in the mulch paths between the beds.
7. They validate that you truly are a “farm,” not just a “yard.” There’s a blog post somewhere in here noting how my daughter decided we weren’t a “farm” until we had “farm animals,” and I will admit, it has added a whole other layer of connection with creation to have these girls.
8. They provide entertainment. Before getting chickens, I had read how people sat around watching the antics of their birds. I was skeptical until I witnessed my girls chasing and vying for a cricket one night–a very good therapeutic laugh after a long day at work.
Now, if I could only teach them how to vacuum and wash dishes, I’d have it made!