There is a common little rhyme that goes " I beg your pardon Mrs Arden, there’s a chicken in your garden” followed by a comical line of chickens devouring melons or cabbages, or having wooden legs, It would seem each family has their own little twist about how it goes, but the general gist is that the fowls are foes not friends in a garden.
The rhyme’s origins appear lost with the era that it came from, when chickens and gardens were an essential part of every household. The joy of a garden and chickens also seemed to be on the decline, with some people favouring minimal to no maintenance yards.
This year, people have been forced back into there homes by government restrictions, and it would seem, that people all over Australia and the world are rediscovering the delights and joys that literally, exist in their own backyard.
Seedlings and seeds of all sorts are hot ticket items and owning of the humble backyard chickens has become more popular that ever, with suppliers struggling to meet the demand.
So why? As we transition into a ‘new normal’, no one really knows what it will look like and it would seem to me that, we are all reflecting on historical knowledge of what great transitions have meant for mankind in the past. Stories of food shortages during the great depression and war times, passed down by those whom survived them, have people clinging to the skills and knowledge that we have told will be necessary. In doing so we have reconnected with our backyards, making them a bigger part of our lives and home.
So, can you have a garden and chickens in the same space?? Absolutely. Councils have different restriction so its always best to check with them first before you buy your flock. As for managing the space, there will need to be boundaries, chickens require a clean safe coop and I like to have a run for them to dust bath and forage in safely. But in my opinion, the garden is where they belong.
Chickens are curious and instinctively scratch, flicking the undergrowth about. Turning decaying foliage can help it break down, which is great for improving soil quality. They gobble up the little critters that hid in the garden, acting like an organic pest management system, applying fertiliser (poo) directly to the garden and in less than 24hours (for most chickens) they turn those garden pests into delicious and nutritious eggs for your consumption. They love food scraps too. A well-established garden can handle the flicking and foraging behaviour of a chicken, but new plots will need boundaries to give the plants a chance to establish themselves.
Fences and wire plant enclosures work, but I find them a bit of a nuisance. A chicken orb is a great alternative, essentially putting the boundary around the chicken, instead of the garden. I pop the chicken in the orb and she rolls it around the established areas of the garden foraging while I work in the garden. The areas I have young or fragile plants that need a bit of protection, without gardens without edging, I place stakes around, stopping the chicken orb from rolling into these areas. my hens collect the bugs but not my veggies. By doing this we both get to enjoy the veggies, when they are fully mature and my garden has become a space that we share and nurture together.
I reckon if the character Mrs Arden was around today, she would have had orbs rolling all around the garden and when told of a chicken invasion she would smile with delight and replied “Right where they should be,”