Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gardening with Chickens

The joyful Jacques Tati film from 1949 Jour de Fete is a celebration of rural life. This near silent film has a soundtrack of chickens clucking and squawking and roosters crowing in nearly every scene. Though not seen, they are LOUD in the post office and in the barber shop.With Tati playing the bumbling postman Francois, he takes every opportunity to peddle his bicycle through a flock of hens just so the sounds can be added to the film. A delighful comedy to be sure. Gardening with chickens is also great fun and they have become a more integral part of gardening especially in Permaculture garden designs. 

Isa-browns in a Greek village. This is a hardy popular breed worldwide.It is a good egg producer but they are a bit flighty and not very intelligent

And roaming the village streets

The Australian Australorp is my favourite breed.They have glossy black feathers with a green sheen. They are quiet, intelligent, loyal and make good eye contact and hold a conversation with you. A dual purpose breed for eggs and meat.

Baby chicks in the straw

If you keep your chickens in a permanent house without access to green feed ,the winter months provide a good selection of weeds with which to supplement their diet. It is not often I photograph weeds but here is a selection which chickens love.

Chickweed (Stellaria media) has soft pale rounded leaves and spreads from a central point .Small white flowers in late winter ripen into capsules containing oil rich brown seeds.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica urens)
The leaves of the stinging nettle are rich in iron .The trick with handling nettles, to avoid the sting, is to grasp the leaves firmly but a better idea is to wear gloves when handling.
Winter grass (Poa annua)
Winter grass has a firm root system and it is difficult to pull out without taking a large clod of soil with you. A better idea is to scythe off the leaves with the seed heads attached.
Milk Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus)

The milk thistle is a soft stemmed weed with yellow flowers which exudes a milky sap when picked. This plant acts as a host for a variety of insects pests such as leaf miner and aphids.It also provides a link in the spread of plant viruses so is best removed as soon as it gets to a reasonable size.The insects and the leaves are much loved by chickens.
2017 update: I no longer have chooks since moving :-(


  1. A great post about the chickens. I love my black australorps, they are all called Angelina, as they are such good girls! They have quite a big run but I still bring them every day in winter a big bucket of Dandelion leaves they love them. I bring them treats, oats mixed with a bit of garlic, vinegar and olive oil.

  2. Forgot to say always enjoy the Tati films!