Friday, March 11, 2011

Chickens as Garden Tools

That concentration of chickens are in the raspberry bed, working their magic. In the background, you can see where they cleared last year's summer garden to dirt, where the black irrigation lines are.

Here's another two gals, working in the bed. The upright sticks are the raspberry crowns, and you can see that AAAAALLLLL around them are weeds. That's the white electric fence in the background.

A few months ago, we finally got around to purchasing a moveable, electrified poultry fence for our chickens. This not only expanded their available foraging area, but now allows us to move them around our orchard and garden area to where they might be most useful. Their natural scratching habit lightly cultivates the soil, they find and eat weeds, grass, and bugs, slugs, and snails, and then they poop, fertilizing the area in their wake. It's a pretty cool equation.

Just before we left, we moved the fence to enclose part of last year's garden. It was already overgrown with weeds and grass. In the six weeks we were gone, they brought that entire area down to bare dirt. I don't really recommend this as a general practice, but it's pretty amazing what they did.

So just today, I was pruning back my raspberry canes, since I never quite got to it in the fall, and the crowns were very grown in with our sheep sorrel weed and several types of grass. None of our grass species is very easy to deal with. They are all very difficult to remove, especially once they crop up in the root ball of a plant you want to keep. I was feeling a little overwhelmed with it until I thought, "hey, this is what the chickens are for!" So I enclosed the area, and immediately, the birds went right for the raspberry area, since there is mulch under there. They scratched and scratched down to bare dirt. Once they do that, I can remove them by moving the fence again, and then mulch heavily. Bye bye, weeds and grass. I'll post another photo in a little while so we can see how it's changed.


Andrea said...

I would love to hear more about your chickens. We really want to get some, but we love to travel too. It sounds like you have discovered a way to have chickens and still travel. I would love some details on that!

Amanda said...

Hi Andrea,

The key is to have housesitters/caretakers! We go away and have neighbors come and let out-put in if it's a very short (weekend) absence, or if longer, we have people stay at our house. There are folks who live in our area who don't have great amenity packages in their rentals, and are happy to enjoy living it up for a temporary period. If you'd like to chat more about it, please send me your actual email address.