Gardening is the thing I struggle most to find time for alongside parenting. (That’s of the things I actually try to find time for, which feels like a small few right now!) My biggest drive in the past, like cloth diapering, has been a sense of duty to use land well rather than a passion and love for gardening that some people have. But slowly as I’ve got out there more, I’m finding a real joy and therapy in it. I’m also learning more and more about just how far reaching the benefits are – and that will always be my drive above anything else in any pursuit! With the chickens, my biggest drive is cutting out the parts of the food production system I don’t love, bringing food closer to home, and the responsibility for the children.
Here’s what’s happening out there at the moment…
Garden and chickens in August
So much is growing and ready to eat, and the garden looks so full and happy. It’s also full of weeds and my biggest task has been endlessly trying to get rid of them! We’re seeing lots of tomatoes and green beans ready to pick, and in the picture below lots of parsnips growing for the winter too. You can also see my green bean arch dream that just showed us the bad quality of soil in the right hand bed – another task now on the list. Right beside our garden is our chicken run and coop which is my big project at the moment.
Moving our chickens
The space we have them in is well above the amount for EU organic free range chickens (more than 4 square meters per hen.) It’s fully fenced in to protect them from predators, but it just can’t regenerate grass fast enough so the girls end up with dirt. Chickens are naturally foragers, and I want them to be able to peck for bugs for their quality of life, quality of eggs, and to reduce my chicken food bill.
I’m also finding on the space they have, they’re pecking each other a bit and with more space and more to do my hope is this will stop. So we’re moving them to a “chicken tractor.”
The Chicken Tractor Concept
A chicken tractor is a moveable coop that can be moved around on grass giving chickens new space each day. It will give them constant foraging and allow us to use them to fertilize the ground underneath them. Originally I ought $27 plans for a BEAUTIFUL A frame chicken tractor and asked my brother for his help building as a Christmas and birthday gift. When we sat down to buy the materials we realised it was a viable option expense wise. For a more affordable option I bought a dog kennel and we’re turning it into a movable coop.
Using chickens to prep ground
Below is the field space the tractor will use. We’re extending the vegetable garden into this space and the chickens will help prep the land. In the front you can see my first attempt at prepping the land the way we have done before – using cardboard to kill the grass followed by manure and wood chip. It’s a great way to do it without tilling which is my goal. But we decided on this spot to use the chickens first so I paused!
The final prep step
To keep the chickens out there in the tractor all the time they need a safe place to roost and lay eggs. Initially we were going to build a coop inside the tractor but I found this old coop we can fix up instead and attach to the run to save money – it won’t be anything as pretty as the A frame idea we started with, but it will work and that’s what counts.
So stay tuned! Everything takes longer than I plan so a July task will be a September back to school task – but we’ll get there and the garden will get prepped and the chickens will have endless foraging in the end.
To be continued…
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