I found this book in a garden centre once and delightfully flicked through it, promising myself that if I ever do get chickens for the allotment then I will treat myelf to this beautiful book. That time has arrived and so has the book! It’s called Free-range chicken gardens by Jessi Bloom, it’s american so some parts are invalid to us Brits, like the temperature zone guide, the resources and contacts at the back and I’m pretty sure we don’t have wild racoons running around here! None of the above really matters too much because the rest of the book is just simply beautiful. The photographs are perfect and they are one of the reasons why I brought it, I love a book with lovely photographs inside! However, the main reason why I chose this book is because I’m planning on letting the chickens roam around my allotment when I’m there to keep an eye on them, and Jessi has covered some pretty important details and has some great ideas which appeal to me directly. Here’s what the chapters in the book are called:
- Chickens and gardens – Working together
- Chickens in your garden – Practical considerations
- Designing a chicken friendly garden
- Landscape materials for chicken gardens
- Plants with purpose
- Innovative chicken housing
- Friends and foes of hens in the garden
The start of the book has a few basics on chicken keeping, remember this isn’t a beginners guide to chicken keeping so don’t expect too much information. However, it does have some interesting points like selecting breeds, feeding, seasonal considerations, manure etc. The chapter on keeping your hens safe is particularly interesting and it covers different types of fencing, clipping their wings and even training your chickens!
There’s also a really interesting page on extra elements for the chickens which involve making a dust bath area, a water feature, a bug log hotel and even using mirrors in the garden to entertain. However. one of the most interesting things about this book is the list of plants to use in the garden and which ones to avoid. These include which plants to use for shelter, food, water and nesting. Chickens love to forage and theres plenty of fruit trees, nut trees, vines, shrubs and vegetables that they will find and eat, which explains why I need to fence off my three little vegetable beds on my plot! As well as edible plants for the chickens you can also plant medicinal ones which can be benificial for poultry ailments. There’s also a list of toxic plants, chicken resistant plants, plants for fragrance and plants to use as noise barriers.
The chapter about chicken housing gives examples of some pretty amazing coops! It also covers space requirements, necessities, interior design, optional items, materials used, bedding, and it has some beautiful photographs too. The last chapter is all about friends and foes and this appealed to me the most, I’m very worried about creating a fox proof coop so I am religiously reading this part over and over! There is a list of predators and they include a little detailed descriptions of the animal and their behavior and then goes on to explain some predator control and deterrants. It goes on about poultry diseases and parasites, troubleshooting common chicken problems, injury and what to do when a chicken dies. Jessi also covers how to introduce your new chickens to other fowl, livestock and even your dog!
If you want a complete beginners guide to keeping chickens then this isn’t it. This book isn’t filled with a long list of illnesses and how to treat them, different breeds, how to clean, how to handle etc. However, it stays true to the title and provides interesting and informative text on how to create a safe environment for your free-range chickens. I for one just can’t wait to get my coop finished, get the allotment veg patch fenced off and to finally get my chickens!