Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chickens & SFG?

I've been telling my husband since December that I really want to get a few hens for laying purposes - maybe half a dozen or so. He is an egg eater extraordinaire. I think the man could eat eggs three meals a day, seven days a week. Despite his love for all things eggy, he immediately and emphatically told me no. His dad and stepmom had chickens when he was younger, and that experience has tainted his view of chicken ownership. (He also refuses to own goats or rabbits). I found it very unfair that I had to suffer because of his poor childhood memories of chickens roaming free and pooping on everything, especially given the fact that I don't want free range chickens - just chickens in a large pen. But since he's the brawn behind my brains, I slowly started to accept that I might never own a chicken.

Of course, that didn't make me drop the matter altogether. Especially after I got my June/July issue of Organic Gardening with its cover story of Happy Hens. I once again voiced my desire to have a few laying hens. No dice.

So I had to call in reinforcements. I told his mom that I'd like to have chickens. She always buys yard eggs for her bed and breakfast, and she is forever extolling the benefits of yard eggs vs store eggs. She also told us about a set up her brother had told her about. A farmer who had chickens built large fenced in area. He set up the chicken coop in the middle of the fenced in area and divided it into two halves. He gave the chickens access to 1/2 of the area, and planted his garden on the other half. The next year, he moved his garden to the other side of the enclosure and turned the chickens loose in the old garden site. The chickens ate the bugs, picked at the weeds, kept the soil scratched up and added fertilizer, so the next year when the farmer again switched the chickens and the garden, the garden was good to go. I thought that was a pretty ingenious idea, but The Brawn was still unimpressed.

Last night out of the complete blue, The Brawn told me he'd been looking up chicken setups similar to the one his mom told us about on Google. I almost fell out of bed. I'm not sure what was more shocking - the fact that he was now expressing a willingness to own a few chickens or the fact that he actually Googled it!

He had found this website and accompanying picture of their garden set up:

Gardening “With” Chickens by Self Sufficient Steward

I like the fence that's run around this chicken/garden set up. Click on the link above to check out the photo.

I found this one:

Save time and energy with the fenced chicken coop/garden By John Silveira

I like that the compost pile behind the coop is incorporated into this design.

Now we have a lot of decisions to make. How should we set it up. The two examples above have given us lots of ideas. What kind of chickens should we get? How many should we get. I know I said 6, but now that I've got him on board, maybe I'll add a few more.... How much is it gonna cost to get something like this built.

I'm also wondering if a setup like this will work for the raised beds of square foot gardening. Yeah, the chickens will probably poop in the boxes, but they're also gonna poop on the ground. Of course, I guess it's not that difficult to scoop up the poop and throw it on the compost pile.

Lots of research to do. I'm giddy with excitement. I think I need to get out more...

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