I’m starting to succumb to the backyard chicken movement. Do you have chickens in your garden? I may soon.
When I started blogging about your home kitchen garden, it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be an enthusiastic gardening community well-established on-line. Moreover, chickens were not in my thinking.
Chickens? As I’ve become familiar with on-line gardening resources, I’ve “met” gardeners of nearly every stripe. Some garden primarily to produce food. Others garden to surround themselves with flowers and ornamental plants. I’ve met people whose gardens are metaphors for their lives, some who relate to gardening spiritually, and others who dig in their gardens simply to escape the grind of corporate jobs or the occasional chaff of family life. I’ve also met gardeners who raise chickens.
One of my new chicken-loving friends, Robin Wedewer, writes Bumblebee Blog and contributes to www.examiner.com where she recently published an article presenting the benefits of raising chickens. Please check it out; it may start you down a new garden path.
I actually got introduced to the backyard chicken movement a few years ago when a poker buddy built a moveable chicken coop and started several birds in his garage. The coop’s design let him move it into the yard where chicken droppings would fall directly onto the lawn. After several days, he could move the coop and fertilize a different patch of grass. Of course, when I met the chickens, I figured my friend had blown a gasket and I got on with my life.
The on-line garden chicken community is changing my thinking. Because of their enthusiasm, I recently visited with hundreds of chickens at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. There, I came to appreciate the charm of these useful animals. They aren’t as cuddly as dogs, but they certainly develop attachments and genuinely seem to enjoy interactions with their human caretakers. Oh, and they lay eggs you can eat.
There are many sources of information about backyard chickens. Of course, check out Robin’s articles, and when you decide to set up your own garden chicken operation, go here: Chicken Coop Plan.
In the meantime, I’ve prepared a video in appreciation of all of my on-line chicken gardening enthusiasts. It’s a collection of intimate portraits of chickens at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. It runs just under three and a half minutes, and I call it Sixty Chickens:
If you get a chance, check out the site Life in the Lost World for some terrific chicken-related humor and further discussion about backyard chickens. Here are a few other articles to help inform you about backyard chickens:
Backyard Chickens Part 2: Housing | Urban Homestead – What kind of coop should you have for your chickens? Let’s take a look at your options.
Backyard Chickens – Five Reasons You MUST Try Them, and Two … – Esther the Chicken. 1. They make charming pets! I love their happy little chortles when they see us, and if you want them to love you forever, a bit of leftover rice or lettuce goes down a treat. They’re great gardening companions, too. …
Never mind the turtles in Aiken, South Carolina. There wasn’t ice on the ponds! I’ve bounced golf balls on ponds in central Pennsylvania. Every winter I develop an urge to travel south as an appetizer for the coming spring.
As you might learn from many web-based “tips” for beginning gardeners: you should put your home kitchen garden where it will get sunlight. I’ve yet to see the following tip in any of those beginning gardening articles: Make sure you put your gardener where he or she will get sun.
I’ve no objection to winter, but I enjoy it much more when I get at least a week of respite some time before the spring thaw. Every gardener in northern climes—and especially those who manage massive kitchen gardens—should try to head south for a break in January or February.
Winter has suspended my own home kitchen garden, and it has slowed me down a bit. Most of that has to do with holidays; the rest of my family lives by the school calendar, and it was a particularly lengthy winter break this year. Thankfully, our break included escape from winter.
My in-laws have recently moved to Aiken, South Carolina, and on the Sunday after Christmas, we piled into the minivan and went for a visit. My mother-in-law, you might recall, introduced me to red pepper relish, one of the many fine foods she has fed me in the years since I met her daughter.
Aiken is nearly 700 miles south of Lewisburg. That’s plenty far enough to put winter out of reach. Some days ran more than 60F degrees, and all days but one were sunny. Of course, I Googled attractions in Aiken, and picked up brochures. The nearest public garden was just a few blocks from my in-laws. So, on an unscheduled afternoon, we were off to Hopelands Gardens.
Even in winter, the gardens were green and gorgeous. There were squirrels, ducks, and turtles about, and there were spring flowers in bloom. Many of the plants at Hopelands Gardens were unfamiliar to me; I suspect they’re not common in central Pennsylvania. And, clearly, no one planted the garden with a kitchen in mind. In fact, given the same space and resources, a kitchen gardener could provide fresh vegetables and fruit for at least a hundred families.
Hopelands Gardens is a tragic misappropriation of gardening space, but it made for a very pleasant afternoon. The garden walk helped to recharge me so I’ll hold up through the next two months of Pennsylvania’s winter. If you can find a way, get out of the winter for a week, and find a nice garden to visit. Now I’m anticipating some warm days in March, pruning and grafting in my apple trees.