The key to everything is patience.
You get the chicken by hatching the egg,
not by smashing it open.
Arnold H Glasgow
Chickens have been part of our life here for the past seven years. They have brought us joy, comfort, frustration, and sorrow and we have learned a great deal about life, about ourselves, about our natural environment, and about what it means to have a mutually-agreeable relationship with a chicken. We feed them, provide shelter, and a happy scratching and dirt bath space, and they provide us with antics (better than tv), study buddies, and eggs.
For the first few years our chickens free-ranged all day every day. But as we lost some to cars, pythons, foxes, and crows, and we began to create a garden space that did not promote a happy chicken-gardener paradigm, things had to change. We needed to rethink how we could keep our chickens safe and healthy, and our resident gardener happy. It took awhile and some trial-and-error but we seem to be on a good track to creating a garden and a chicken who can happily work hand in hand.
Early in 2017 I began spending more time around the chook pen because, as my girls got older and busier, more of the chicken care fell to me. I was faced with a decision - to have or not to have chickens. It was a close call, but I chose the chooks.
As parents we implement some lifestyle choices because it is good for our children and our family culture but some of those things are outgrown and we need to let them go. Happily. As for the chickens, they are staying. They keep me grounded. And they give me eggs.
One of my projects in 2018 is to begin creating a garden in our chook pen and chook run that will provide food, flowers, and beauty for us, the chooks, and the birdlife we share our backyard with. And, when I can, I rope any available family members into helping out with some of the heavier duty cleaning, care, and gardening maintenance (for old times sake!).
I planted this chicken-salad-bar about six months ago to trial the idea. Inside I have celery, mint, rosemary, and ornamental chillies. I did have eggplant in there as well, but the eggplant did not like that spot. Lesson learned.
The wire acts as a barrier so the chickens don't dig up the plants, but they can nibble as they wish on the leaves and stalks that peek through. They don't seem like the mint or the chillies, but the celery doesn't get much of a chance to grow through the wiring.
This young lady above is checking out a newly planted vegie patch inside the pen. It doesn't look much now, but the greenery is a lovely addition to the pen once the new plants are established, flowering, and fruiting.
Here we have capsicum, marigolds, passionfruit and tomatoes. The chickens have just finished scratching through what remained of our old tomato plants, helping me prepare for a new round of planting. We harvested the tomatoes for ourselves and when the plants were nearly finished fruiting I took down the wire fencing so the chooks could enjoy their turn.
My feathered friends are wonderful gardening buddies. Now that we are learning how to work together.
So if you ever pop round and cannot find me at my desk, in my library or at my piano, you may just find me here. With dirt under my nails, working with my feathered friends.
Just living is not enough.
One must have sunshine,
freedom, and a little flower.
Hans Christian Anderson