Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies
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Good soil health is the first key component of a landscape, especially if free-range chickens are about. Watering is the second most critical key component of your landscape. You can have everything right, and still get it wrong with too much or too little watering.

Here are some factors that determine your frequency and intervals of watering:

  • Your climate and weather

  • Your soil texture

  • Your soil structure: How much space is between your soil particles and how well your soil drains.

  • The organic matter in your soil: Organic matter helps retain soil moisture.

  • The amount of mulch around your plants: Mulch slows down evaporation around plants.

  • The type of plants you’re watering: For example, drought-tolerant plants, such as some grasses and succulents, require little water. However, plants like some roses and camellias require regular watering.

  • The age and size of plants: young plants need small amounts of water frequently to establish their root systems, which then allows them to grow to their mature size.

  • How much the plants are growing: Plants can grow more in different seasons. Many plants (not all) slow down their growth in the fall and winter, and therefore need less water.

  • The amount of sun, shade, and wind where a plant is located: a plant growing in a shady spot needs less water than one in a hot sunny spot. A windy spot robs moisture from a plant, and plants can dry out quicker.

Common sense watering tips will further help you in properly watering your landscape. Place plants that have the same water needs together. Water deeply to encourage deep, strong plant roots. Watering deeply means that water is reaching plant roots, not just on the soil surface, and encourages plant roots to grow deeper in the soil for a hearty root structure that can support a healthy mature plant.

This ties back to soil structure and how well your soil drains. Allow time for your soil to dry out before you water again, to prevent plants roots from rotting. Turn off automatic water systems before rain or a storm.

It pays to research best watering practices for the plants you’re growing, and to customize your irrigation system from that information. For instance, you may want to irrigate a vegetable garden by using strips of manual soaker hose, rather than overhead automatic watering.

And you may find that automatic drip irrigation is best for a mature perennial flowerbed, while overhead sprayers, calculated to cover the entire area, may give you great results on a lush green lawn.

Water your landscape in the early morning hours, so roots have time to drink, and there is less water evaporation from the sun. Plant foliage has time to dry during the day, and avoid fungal diseases. In hot weather spells, some landscape might benefit from extra afternoon watering.

Generally, free-range chickens don’t interfere with your water irrigation systems. Usually, it’s best to do landscape watering in the early morning, when your chickens are inside their coop still sleeping, or busy laying their eggs. Avoid irrigation leaks, excess watering, and wet landscape spots.

Chickens don’t do well when their feathers are extremely wet, or when they have wet feet. When chickens are wet or damp, they can get sick. The way chickens clean themselves is with dry dirt baths, which lets dry soil cleanse under their feathers.

Many different types of watering systems are available, from simple to sophisticated, and for every budget. Your ideal system really depends on your type of landscape, size of property, budget, lifestyle, and how much time you spend in the garden. Automatic irrigation systems are the most expensive and require a landscape design plan to follow. Hand watering is the least expensive, the most strenuous, and the most time consuming.

Automated irrigation systems

Automatic irrigations systems can be quite diverse and highly technical. Timers turn an irrigation system on and off automatically, depending on how they’re programmed. They can be programmed for different landscape zones and different days, and they can have moisture sensors.

You can set automatic irrigation systems to use sprays, drip for the base of plants or vegetation, or even soaker hoses. Although these systems are automatic, check them once a month and adjust as you move through different seasons.

Pros and cons of automated irrigation systems: They’re perfect for people with busy lives and large gardens. Automated irrigation systems are dependable. Sometimes overwatering occurs, hitting sidewalks and driveways, and with seasonal changes. Problems can go on for long periods of time because these systems are so automatic, they can be programmed to come on in very early hours, and they may not be routinely checked.

Manual watering methods

Sometimes hand watering is the best watering method when location is an issue, or if you have a small garden. Consider this method if the area you’re watering is hard to reach with irrigation, is a potted container, or is something like a small orchard where hand watering will suffice.

Hand watering can be accomplished with a watering can, a garden hose, and a hose connected with a sprinkler. Hand watering is also a good method if you collect rainwater in a rain barrel. Collected rainwater is stored in the barrel until you want to access it by opening a garden faucet, usually located towards the bottom of the rain barrel.

Use a garden hose connected to a sprinkler that can be moved around a garden for watering specific spots. This method is great for spot watering, or areas where it is difficult to put in automated watering systems. Keep track of your watering with a timer or an alarm, so you don’t forget about it.

Hand watering pros and cons: Hand watering is preferred for plants that don’t require a lot of water, such as succulents, that have the natural ability to store water for a long time. It’s a good method for conserving water when necessary. Hand watering can be inconsistent if you forget to water.

Hand watering isn’t always exact in how much you’re watering. Hand watering can be time consuming, and water can evaporate quickly in heat. If you take a vacation, you may have to enlist someone to water while you’re gone.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Bonnie Jo Manion has been featured in national garden magazines with her gardens, organic practices, chickens, and designs. Follow Bonnie at Rob Ludlow is the owner of, a top source on chicken raising, and the coauthor of Raising Chickens For Dummies.

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