Monday, July 16, 2012

Let the Chickens do the Digging!

Today I have a guest blogger, Debbie Burns.  Debbie is a good friend of mine from way back, although we’ve never met in person (yet). Debbie gardens and homesteads up in north Texas with her husband John, and has an extraordinary wealth of knowledge about farm animals and plants.  She’s also a quilter, and recently gifted me with a wonderful house warming gift that I wrote about on my Two Sisters 1930 Cottage blog.

 Please come back again next week as I publish another article from Debbie on Pollinator Gardens.  

Debbie Burns teaches local school children about herbs


Let the Chickens do the Digging!

by Debbie Burns

I’ll show my age if I ask if anyone remembers the old Yellow Pages advertising quip --- “Let your fingers do the walking.”  OK, maybe not, but I remember it and I think of it as I look out at our chickens doing the digging for our new garden beds. 

Chickens in their chicken tractor do the digging for you! BEFORE

In Gene Logsdon’s book, Homestead Livestock, he states, “Don’t do work nature will do for you.” We took his advice to heart and built our chicken tractors (movable pens that allow chickens to safely free range) to fit the garden space we have along the fence in our yard.

We’re building this garden in stages so one area was planted for the spring/summer garden.  We prepared it last year. The chickens are currently digging up a new area for us that will follow along the fence line, but will lead to a larger square area for a conventional garden site.

The fence garden will grow veggies but will also have flowers and herbs inter-planted. I refer to this as landscape gardening since it’s in our yard instead of a specific, out-of-sight garden area. I found that I can’t ignore the yard garden as easily as I can an out-of-sight garden. Hence, this garden actually gets weeded.

We can place the chicken tractor pieces over garden areas that are through producing. The chickens compost the spent plants and fertilize the soil for the next plantings. It’s a win-win situation; chickens love the green plants and we love the work they do for us!

The chicken tractor garden area, AFTER
 Normally, we only use the chicken tractors for raising meat chickens in the fall but this year we had some ‘free’ roosters sent as extras when we ordered our turkeys. We figure we’ll grow them out, let them work the garden area and then we’ll put them in the freezer as fryers. That’s a win-win-win situation, well, at least for us!

The laying hens are in a secure coop and chicken run. They do our composting work for us in that run where we throw all the goats’ dirty bedding. They turn that bedding over and over each day, digging for the worms and bugs that love the old hay.

Debbie's husband, John, tending to the meat chicken coop

In less than 3 months we have fantastic compost that can be used on the gardens. So much easier than turning compost by hand and the chickens enjoy their job with the wormy benefits.

You may not remember the “Let your fingers do the walking” slogan, but I encourage you to incorporate Gene’s quote, “Don’t do work that nature will do for you” in your garden plans. Even if you don’t have or want chickens, there’s always something you can use to help ease your garden work. Just think outside of the box.

Copyright 2012 by Debbie Burns, Beulah Land Homestead

Debbie's husband, John, with baby goats

Debbie's Bio:
“I'm a wife who married her high school sweetheart 39 years ago, also a substitute teacher, homesteader, quilter, gardener, and goat-herder who loves God and the country. I always wanted to grow up to be a writer but just never got around to writing that great American novel so instead I blog and bore people with lengthy emails. Feel free to visit our website/blogs at:

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