Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chickens, chickens everywhere...

No doubt about it, chickens are in.

With surging interest in home vegetable gardens and the growing sustainability movement, chickens are becoming very popular.

They are moving from the country to the hearts of cities as gardeners everywhere branch out into these "pets with benefits."

That's how Jessi Bloom describes her chickens in her book, Free Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard.

I'm fascinated by chickens. I don't have any chickens, but my husband used to. About 57,000 of them. When he was a small boy growing up in the Midwest, his family raised chickens.

I've heard lots and lots of chicken tales.

Which I why I was eager to read Jessi's book when Timber Press announced its contest to win a chicken garden start-up kit as part of its promotion of Free Range Chicken Gardens. They sent me the book to review and I got to learn everything I always wanted to know about chickens but was afraid to ask my husband!

Right now they are giving away a complete chicken garden start-up kit, including:
  • A $50 gift card for chicken feed or supplies from McMurray Hatchery
  • One chicken coop plan from The Garden Coop (a $20 value)
  • 1 lb. of organic chicken forage blend and seeds for chicken-friendly plants from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (a $20 value)
  • A copy of Free-Range Chicken Gardens
I know my husband would like to have some chickens -- maybe just 56,995 or so less of them than he used to. So I figured I'd better do a little research about the chicken and the egg.

Free Range Chicken Gardens is a fascinating and beautiful photographic journey through the chicken gardens of many families, combined with excellent and honest advice for anyone wanting to raise chickens.

It's practical -- it's chock full of advice about the benefits of raising chickens and how to avoid the pitfalls of having them in a garden.

Bloom outlines the natural soil building capabilities of chickens and how they help to keep weeds and pests under control. In addition to the plants and habitat needed to raise chickens, she provides detailed information and even design plans focused on creating a successful chicken garden and keeping your "other" plants safe. Barriers and fencing and hedgerows are all reviewed with pros and cons. And she recommends a host of diverse plants for the chickens to hide in and browse around.

I had to laugh when I got to the chapter on "The Chicken Infrastructure." It sounds so technical, but it's all common sense advice about the 3 Cs of the chicken garden - the chicken coop, chicken run and chicken paddocks.

It also included specifics about the different breeds, where to get them, what to feed them and how to keep them safe from predators.

Free Range Chicken Gardens is filled with information, creative plans, and inspirational photos and stories of other loving chicken gardeners and their pets.

We have a no-chicken policy in our neighborhood, so I guess I won't be getting any chickens soon.

For now I'll just have to settle for my other dirt-scratching, digging, plant-eating pet.

Miss Dakota.