Saturday, August 29, 2020

Corona garden renovations and chicken partnerships

People want nice chickens going bokbok in the backyard but find they are ravenous destroyers.

The chickens often don't get enough room so they end up in a wasteland where they have eaten everything and just have straw shoveled in or even worse live on concrete and get poop shoveled out.

For various reasons I had this classic of garden design to work with over the corona lockdown. A permaculture garden design wants to examine the aspects involved. What they produce and require:

  • Chickens eat green stuff and bugs.
  • Chickens lay eggs. They come from a jungle and want nice sheltered spots to hang out in.
  • Chickens scratch and poop. They kick straw behind them.
  • There may be a lot of predators around. Cats, foxes, hawks. Other birds come in and nick their food.
  • Woody plants about 2 years can get big enough to survive chicken attentions.

Anything else, such as annual grasses, annual vege gardens and bird feeds, needs chicken proof fencing. So basically it all comes down to fence sections off so you can rotate the chickens in different areas and stack over time. Giving the plants time to regenerate and grow. These can be for human annual veges or primarily for the chickens, grains and greens. The chickens in the end will have less space, but the space they have will be much more alive and chickeny nice to live in. A chicken jungle.

In the non fenced sections the chickens have deep litter straw to kick around and poop in and they will gradually kick it into the fenced growing areas. or at least making it near and easy for humans to mulch or compost for later addition to productive gardens.

Was luckily able to make most with various material already at hand. In non corona era would probably go buy-swap-sell or get a few more bits from the hardware store, I'd like a few more star-pickets.
Establishing perennials to give shelter. These need short term, 2 year or so, fenced areas to grow. Tough, chicken medicine and ornamental plants such as salvia, lavender and wormwood, mulberry.

This example is a pretty blue salvia taken from a cutting at a friends place. Hopefully it'll get big enough to remove the fence in time and the chickens can sit under it. Will probably need rocks directly around the base to protect the roots from scratchy attention.
It is growing in used cat litter made from organic scrap wood pellets. As it already has high nitrogen cat wee in it it shouldn't cause nitrogen drawdown and just seems to act as a good top level mulch. The dry material even seeming to reduce slugs.

The perennial basil is very tough and a fast grower but given time the chickens can even eat this super tough plant down. It never grows a woody trunk. It needs a few sheltered areas to regrow from. This mesh fence (old shelves?) might be long term and grown through.

The chickens are also tractored a few at a the time out in the front lawn. Placed in small portable cages and moved to a fresh grass spot daily. They dig up the runner grass so we can add more productive gardens later.

Still a few years to see it come to shape. Once can remove fencing and let the chickens free range in a chicken jungle optimised for their comfort. The annuals veges and other chicken forage plants can be still easily fenced with rotating 6 month time spans until next configuration. Rotating between vege garden, chicken clean out, growing new baby plants, chicken food etc
This season the chickens will be starting to get to the annual plants grown specifically for them to nibble as it grows through the mesh.


Here is how the main area looked in summer. All working nicely.
Even the most ravenous chickens would have trouble wiping that out.