“I want there to be no peasant in my kingdom so poor that he cannot have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” ~ Henry IV
I just love my chickens. I’ve had my feathered ladies for almost three years. Gratefully, they have all lived pretty robust lives, not once falling sick or even getting lice. And while I have one chicken that has stopped laying, the other two are still reliably churning out enormous, delicious eggs.
Alas, they are terrible supermodels. Trying to get an un-blurred photo of camera-shy Myrtle for this post was damn near impossible…
I remember when I first got my chickens, the advice I got was to never let them out of the coop into the garden.
“They’ll make a mess and become demanding. They’ll always want out!”
Sure, they can dig up the veggie patch and poop on my deck if left unattended. But I find there is something kind of lovely about pottering around in the garden with a bit of chooky company, so I have ignored that well-intentioned advice to always keep them incarcerated.
Instead, I have planted their own special chicken forage patch, directly opposite their coop.
I have planted linseed (flax), chia, borage and rocket. These seeds were broadcast straight into the soil in late autumn, once the weather had cooled and I could be assured the seedlings wouldn’t falter in the heat. Now it is late winter, I’m going to broadcast some sunflowers, fat hen and buckwheat in the bare patches so they will have another, more drought resistant crop in the warmer months.
Admittedly, I protect the forage patch from the chickens until it is beyond the delicate seedling stage. But once the patch was about 5cm high, it was over to the chickens! The chickens will scratch and poop right in the forage bed, saving me the trouble of tilling and fertilising.
You will also notice, *cough* a number of volunteer chicken forage plants supplementing my cultivated varieties. Otherwise known as weeds, these dandelions, purslane, nasturtium, buckwheat and oats are popular with the chickens. I wait until they are big enough to pull out neatly (before they flower) and chuck them straight into the coop.
This year, the rocket has attracted caterpillars, so the chickens have had some extra protein, while preventing the caterpillars from spreading.
The forage patch thrives all through autumn, winter and spring. Even as the heat escalates into the summer, the flax, chia, buckwheat and sunflower have the added benefit of producing nutritious seeds that my chickens just go crazy for. Theres also plenty for me to collect so I can sow again next year. And if you have any bees within a 3 kilometre radius, you’ll notice they will eagerly appreciate the chia, sunflower and buckwheat.
All these greens on offer will ensure your healthy chickens lay the most delectable, tasty eggs, with beautiful bright yolks bursting with nutritional goodness.
A forage patch is great for the chickens, marvellous for the soil, beneficial to bees and other helpful pollinators and couldn’t be easier for you to plant.
So, if you have 10 minutes, why not plant a forage patch for your chickens today?