Our son and daughter-in-law have raised chickens for a few years. The quality of fresh eggs can’t be beat. They have found out that chickens are an excellent constant resource for their vegetable garden, which always yields bountiful amounts of fresh produce. Our son loves pickled banana peppers, fresh salsa, and pickled cucumbers, and our grandson loves dilly beans. It’s for these reasons they grow a good-sized garden every year. The cost it would require to nurture the soil would be quite enormous, so, using the chickens to their advantage pays off annually.
Here are three ways chickens help your garden.
Chicken poop is an excellent source of nutrients for your garden’s soil. Fresh manure can burn the plants, so it’s better to stockpile it for at least a year. One idea to think about: when you’re done harvesting in the Fall, clean out your coop and broadcast the manure over your garden bed and rotor-till it into the ground. Over winter, the poop will break down and will still maintain a source of quality nutrients in your soil, as well as provide structure. If you use wood shavings for bedding that you can buy at your local farm store or online, they will act as an excellent compost.
Don’t have any chicken poop? This can be tricky in more urban areas. An alternative you might want to consider is a fertilizer that contains chicken poop.
Eggshells serve as an important function in your garden in three ways: an eggscellent additive to a chickens diet (yes-chickens WILL eat eggshells! The key is to break them up small. You don’t want them to get the impression that it’s okay to break freshly laid eggs so they can eat the shells and insides), pest control, and compost. They provide essential calcium, particularly for tomato and pepper plants.
You can compost eggshells. If you merely put them in your compost bin, they will take longer to break down. A helpful tip is to place them on a paper towel, cover them, and roll over them with a glass or a rolling pin to break them up. This helps as well if you’re feeding some to your flock.
Eggshells deter pests such as slugs and snails. The sharp edges act as a defensive obstacle against pests. They also protect against deer, which can do significant damage to your garden. Deer do not like the smell of eggshells, so spread them all around the plants that deer really love. Can’t get eggshells? You can get them online here.
Chickens Love Rotting vegetables
Do you have a problem of losing tomatoes, squash, or zucchini, because they’re rotting faster than you can harvest? Chickens will devour them! The vegetables are not harmful. In fact, if your family eats a lot of potatoes, divide the skins up: half in the compost bin, and the other half in the chicken coop. Feed them in moderation and don’t make vegetables or other food scraps their main source of food. Chickens can eat cooked or raw vegetables. Some suggestions are broccoli, carrots (cooked or shredded), cabbage, tomatoes, and pumpkins.
When you’re deciding what to plant in your garden, you might just want to get a small flock (most places that sell chicks will not allow you to buy just one or two. That stems back to Easter, where people would buy a chick or two for their kids as “pets”) as the benefits outweigh the hassles. If you reside in an urban or suburban area, there are still ways to provide your garden with quality nutrients that chickens provide. It can be as simple as composting the egg shells you have left from baking to purchasing fertilizers that are rich in chicken manure. Happy gardening!