Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies book cover

Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies

By: Bonnie Jo Manion and Robert T. Ludlow Published: 07-01-2013

Maintain a beautiful garden with chickens? Easy.

Chickens are great gardening assistants, with lots of benefits for a home garden and landscape—from soil-building to managing pests and weeds. Home gardens can be great chicken habitats if designed well, and Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies provides a plain-English guide with step-by-step guidance for creating a gorgeous chicken-friendly landscape that helps the chickens and the garden thrive.

Gardening with Free-Range Chicken For Dummies offers guidance and step-by-step instructions for designing and implementing a host of different chicken garden plans. Plus, you'll get detailed information on the best plants and landscaping materials for your chicken garden (and the ones to avoid), seasonal considerations, attractive fencing options, predator and pest control, and much more.

  • An excellent supplement to Raising Chickens For Dummies and Building Chicken Coops For Dummies
  • A plain-English guide with step-by-step guidance for creating a chicken garden
  • Advice on how to manage chickens while maintaining a beautiful garden

If you're looking for step-by-step advice on building a chicken garden, Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies has you covered.

Articles From Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies

page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4
page 5
page 6
page 7
67 results
67 results
Gardening with Free-Range Chickens For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-01-2022

Chickens are gaining popularity quickly. Not only are chickens fun and educational, but they're also beneficial to you and your garden. When you free-range your flock, you gain helpful gardeners who aerate the soil, rid plants of insects, provide composting, and, best of all, supply food — their eggs! Here's how to gain insight on good and bad plants for a chicken garden, layer your garden for free-ranging chickens, and guard against chicken predators.

View Cheat Sheet
Anatomy of a Garden Chicken Coop

Article / Updated 12-10-2021

Okay, you’ve picked out the spot. You know where in your garden you want to situate your coop and outside pen. You’ve carefully assessed the size of a chicken flock that is best for you. Chicken coops have many variations. They can be permanent, mobile, new, repurposed, custom, and innovative. Chicken coops can be cheap — as in free — using wood pallets or recycled materials. Or they can be as expensive and fancy as you want. However, chicken coops must have certain features to adequately house chickens. Here are some of the top features a chicken coop should have: Enough space: Chicken coops must follow the suggested square footage-to-bird ratio for the number of chickens it houses. Overcrowding of chickens causes stress and pecking, and it makes them more susceptible to disease and injury. Good ventilation: A well-ventilated coop has windows, doors, and vents that are adjustable to allow air to circulate. Chickens naturally give off ammonia and moisture in their droppings, which build up without removal and adequate air circulation. Excess moisture can cause mold and mildew and a nasty medium for disease organisms. Free from drafts: Drafts are a constant unwanted air blowing that can cause chickens to get sick. Sealing a leak, erecting a barrier wall, and paying attention to the cause of a draft can correct drafts. Proper temperature control: Chicken coop temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day and throughout the year with the different seasons. Access to a chicken coop can help shelter chickens from heat in the summer and cold temperatures in the winter. A chicken’s body operates optimally between the temperatures of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Chickens are however surprisingly adaptable to a wide range of temperatures, from sub-freezing to heat over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It is wise to raise chicken breeds suitable for your climate, especially if you experience high heat or very cold temperatures. Temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees Fahrenheit are considered suitable temperature ranges for chickens. When suitable temperatures are exceeded, either hot or cold, chickens will change their eating habits and stop laying. Chickens don’t have the ability to perspire. In hot weather, chickens keep themselves cool by “pant breathing” with their mouths open and holding their wings out and away from their bodies. Their wattles and combs also help to keep them cool. When temperatures exceed 95 degrees, chickens may start dying. When temperatures approach freezing, chickens will eat more to obtain energy needed to maintain their bodies and to keep themselves warm. In cold winters, it helps to have your chicken coop roof and walls insulated. Consider adding bales of straw for extra insulation and protection on exposed sides of a chicken coop. In freezing temperatures, make sure your chickens have ventilation but no drafts to counter the moisture in their manure. It is critical that their water remain free-running and not freeze. In some instances, a simple red heat lamp carefully placed and safely secured against fire hazard can keep water from freezing and heat a chicken coop. A chicken coop may not need to be heated, and a heated chicken coop may not necessarily be healthy for a flock. It depends on your climate, weather, and circumstance. Sturdy construction: Chicken coops need to protect chickens from extreme weather, hot sun, heavy rain, and snow. They must be sturdy enough to carry weight and withstand blustery winds. Good drainage: Chicken coops shouldn’t be situated in low spots on your property or garden. A chicken coop should be located where drainage is good and not around wet or problem areas of your garden. Elevate a chicken coop off the ground at least 1 foot for many reasons. An elevated coop ensures air can circulate around the coop, can prevent flooding in flood-prone areas, and prevents rats and mice from nesting. An added bonus of an elevated chicken coop is that it can serve as a structure for free-ranging chickens to escape under from predators. Cleanliness: A chicken coop should be easy to keep clean. It needs to be free from dust, dirt, and cobwebs. Its roof should be watertight. Make sure it doesn’t have any holes for mice and other rodents to get in. It shouldn’t have any nails or sharp objects sticking out that could injure a chicken. It should have a solid floor made out of wood or concrete. A layer of bedding — such as pine shavings, rice hulls, or straw — makes a nice cushion for inside nesting boxes and the floor of the coop. In addition to having the proper features for maintaining a healthy flock, chicken coops need to be positioned correctly in your garden. Chickens respond well to sunlight for their egg laying and overall health. Egg production is stimulated by daylight length. Position your chicken coop and outside pen to access natural light, but don’t forget to provide shade during the hottest months of the year with shade cloth or landscaping. Chickens do best with fresh water at all times and a source for formulated laying mash. A chicken coop helps keep their water clean and their feed dry and protected. Wet feed can become moldy, get rancid, and attract unwanted bugs. Don’t give chickens wet or moldy feed. A chicken coop should provide access seamlessly to an outside pen or the outdoors during the day. Chickens need access to their coop for their nesting boxes and laying their eggs. Sand is a nice material that chickens love and is good for drainage in an outside protected pen.

View Article
Farming Other Animals with Free-Range Chickens

Article / Updated 06-22-2021

If you love your chickens and have enjoyed free-ranging them on your property, it’s only natural to think of having other farm animals. What joy to have fresh milk, fresh goat cheese, or farm-raised lamb! Chickens are low-maintenance, leave a small livestock footprint, and are adaptable to many different environments. Other farm animals may not be as easy to take care of as chickens and may require more time to manage. Before you add other animals to your land, you must confirm that your zoning requirements specifically allow farm animals such as horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, geese, ducks, or guinea fowl. Here's where a country homesteader may have an advantage over those in the suburbs or cities. Rural areas are most likely are zoned for other farm animals and have the space and the capabilities for housing them. Always check your city and county ordinances first, just as you did when planning for chickens. Adding large animals to your chicken farm Oddly enough, chickens get along with most farm animals even though they have such a dominant pecking order within their flock. Free-ranging chickens go about their business, happily foraging to their hearts’ content no matter what other farm animals are around. As social creatures, chickens can comingle among larger farm animals such as horses, donkeys, llamas, cows, sheep, and goats. Although these animals are compatible with chickens, you should consider the risk of underfoot injury and unintentional trampling. In a barnyard situation, chickens can add a little companionship and stability for larger farm animals. In return, there is safety in numbers, and having big animals near chickens may discourage predators. Horses and cows A large flock of free-pasturing chickens can cross-graze after cows and horses, eagerly picking through dung and cow patties for larvae, maggots, and parasites. Most parasites are species-specific, and chickens safely interrupt the parasite lifecycle by eating them. Chickens also keep fly populations down by eating maggots, and they helpfully spread manure and mix it back into the soil. Chickens also eat undigested feed and seeds that are passed through manure, thus saving you money by reducing feed waste. Do not let chickens graze with livestock that have been given chemical de-wormers or any medication. Goats and sheep Goats and sheep are becoming almost as popular as chickens on small-farm homesteads. You can keep goats, sheep, and chickens together in one enclosed pen. Chickens can pick up grain the goats and sheep drop. The presence of larger animals discourages predators. Llamas and donkeys are particularly good at protecting sheep and goats against coyotes and dogs, if they are kept in the same pen. Keeping goats, sheep, and chickens together in a pen may also limit diseases and parasites. Goats are great jumpers. They prefer taking chunks out of trees and shrubs and they can be mischievous in their quest to reach delectable landscape. Don't expect goats to replace your lawnmower; goats won’t eat grass. Pigs Pigs won’t work as companion livestock because they’re omnivorous and may injure or eat your chickens. Pigs need their own environment. Adding other fowl to your chicken farm Other farmland birds aren’t as easy to train as chickens, but they require less space than animals like sheep and horses so they may work for suburban and urban settings. If your city zoning permits other fowl, you can consider ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, and peacocks. Ducks Some people prefer duck eggs to chicken eggs because of their size and richness. You can raise ducks for meat, too. But ducks are messier than chickens. Because of their webbed feet, ducks don't aerate soil but instead compact it over time, especially in muddy areas. Ducks need access to a clean source of water to swim in, drink from, cleanse themselves, and mate. Snails and slugs aren’t favorite foods of chickens, but ducks will eat snails in your garden. Ducks really like grass, more than chickens do. But don’t house ducks with chickens; there is potential for disease. Ducks can bond with you if you raise them from ducklings, but they tend to be flighty by nature. Indian Runner ducks are fun to watch in the garden because they run upright like wobbly wine bottles. Ducks can successfully free-range with chickens. Geese There’s something romantic about a pair of geese roaming your garden; for one thing, they stick together as a pair because they mate for life. Your geese would prefer to have water to play in, but it's not an absolutely necessity for them as it is for ducks. Like ducks, geese will compact your soil. Geese are big and can be intimidating as they run at you, honking with open wings. For this, they're great watchdogs. Geese bite sometimes, so you'll want to keep small children away from them. Geese are territorial, and they may bully your chickens from time to time. But geese are generally compatible with chickens in a free-range environment. As far as housing goes, it’s best to keep geese in a separate protected pen of their own. Although big, geese can still fall prey to predators because they’re clumsy and slow on their webbed feet. Geese thrive on grass and are considered weeders. However, they tend to eat everything, not just weeds. Geese like grain, too. Turkeys Turkeys are better for country dwellers than urbanites. They’re big, bossy birds that dominate the barnyard and your chickens. Turkeys will trample your plants; they can be curious and sometimes appear to stalk other animals. Watch young children around turkeys. Turkeys and chickens can comingle in a free-range environment but are best housed separately. Chickens can transmit a disease called blackhead to turkeys, so keep both pens clean. Turkeys can eat either a custom non-medicated feed or chicken feed. If you intend to raise turkeys for meat, you will want to feed them the custom turkey feed because it's higher in protein. Turkeys also enjoy eating corn and oats, sunflower seeds, and many greens such as lettuce, Swiss chard, and cabbage. Guinea fowl Guinea fowl are interesting creatures. They can be wild and loud — you'd be surprised how loud! Like geese, guinea fowl are good watchdogs and will let you know if something is amiss; they won't bite interlopers, though. Guinea fowl are prized for their tender, slightly gamey meat, their delicious eggs, and their decorative plumage. Guinea fowl can live with chickens and even mate with them, producing offspring that are sterile. Guinea fowl prefer to roost in trees, and they have to be trained to come into the coop at night; this takes patience on your part. A guinea hen will make a nest and lay her eggs in random, hard-to-find places. They’re great foragers for bugs, but they don't scratch. They're less destructive to your garden than chickens. Peacocks In some movies, you'll see peacocks on an undulating green lawn in front of a stone fountain with a grand estate in the background. Who wouldn't want one or two on their lawn or perched in the trees? Raising peacocks is rising in popularity, and they can co-exist with chickens in a free-range environment. They forage on grass, bugs, seeds, and insects; and they can eat a commercial poultry feed. As with chickens, peacocks need to have grit in their diet to digest their food. The downsides: Peacocks require 80 square feet per bird in their housing. When breeding, they prefer to be by themselves. Peacocks can become wild in a free-range environment. And then there's their deafeningly loud noise. Their beauty is undeniable, but it’s best to do extensive research before deciding whether raising peacocks is right for you.

View Article
Greens You Can Plant for Your Chickens

Article / Updated 06-21-2021

Slowing down your chickens from eating your plants in the garden is hard to do. Chickens love tender succulent greens. You can choose to grow these in your vegetable garden for yourself, and hand-feed them to your chickens, or plant them amongst your various chicken runs or zones for your chickens only to graze on. What is key here, is to let greens grow to maturity, before letting your chickens graze on them. If you have pasture or large zones, try planting them in greens. Chicory, for instance, is a green suitable for pasture planting. Here are some great choices for growing greens in your own garden and then hand-feeding to your chickens: Arugula Beet tops and leaves Brussels sprouts Carrot tops and leaves Cauliflower tops and leaves Chicory Collard greens Endive Kale Kohlrabi Lettuce (all types) Mache (corn salad) Mizuna Mustard New Zealand spinach Radicchio Sorrel Spinach Swiss chard Turnip greens Wheatgrass Hand-feeding these greens to your chickens is a way to keep them from gobbling them up too quickly. If chickens have access to greens, they will most likely eat them all at once. You want to allow the plants to grow to maturity, as some like arugula will self sow. Growing greens in your vegetable garden, allows you to harvest greens for yourself whenever you like, and hand-feed them to your chickens in moderate amounts. Some greens can be grown in your chicken garden where your chickens are free to roam. These greens are actually weeds and are great foraging plants that chickens count among their favorites. Chickweed: Stellaria media. Common cool-season annual. A favorite forage plant of chickens that’s also a good tonic plant for their general health. Dandelions: Taraxacum officinale. Common weed. A good forage plant for chickens and a plant that people also eat. It can be found in mixed pasture grasses. Its leaves can be used in salads. Lambsquarters: Chenopodium album. Cool-season annual. Also called giant goosefoot. Another good forage plant for chickens that’s also an edible plant for humans. Similar in taste to spinach, with a little more mineral taste. Plantain: Plantago spp. Perennial herb and common weed. A good forage plant for chickens. Although it shares the same name, it’s dissimilar to the type of banana. It can be found in mixed pasture grasses. Purslane: Portulaca oleracea. Warm-season annual and common weed. Also called pigweed. It is high in Omega-3 fatty acids for eggs. A good forage plant for chickens. It’s an edible plant for humans and is eaten as a leaf vegetable. Although these greens are considered weeds, some are edibles for humans. Properly identify these types of greens before eating them for human consumption.

View Article
How to Turn Orchards into Chicken-Friendly Edible Areas

Article / Updated 06-16-2021

Creating a free-ranging chicken run or zone works well in orchards. Chickens easily forage around the trees, and on fallen fruit in an orchard. Trees are considerably higher in height than chickens, so the fruit doesn’t come into contact with the chickens, making it safe for humans to eat. An orchard is defined as a piece of land intentionally planted with trees for food production. Orchards can have many sizes and varieties of trees, but generally they’re fruit and nut trees. Putting your chickens to work Chickens benefit an orchard by eating falling fruit, bugs, insects, maggots, and caterpillars, and by fertilizing the orchard at the same time. Chickens foraging in an orchard can eat and decrease orchard pests without the use of pesticides. Some common orchard pests are the apple maggot, codling moth, plum curculio, grubs, worms, larvae, and the European earwig. Different types of pests eat different areas of the fruit. Caterpillars gravitate to the apple core, while apple maggots feed on fruit flesh. Allow chickens to free-range in your orchard in early spring before adult pests emerge and affect your fruit crop. Return them to the orchard after your crop starts ripening. Pest-ridden fruit usually drops first, leaving the unaffected fruit safe on the trees. Chickens clean up all the dropped fruit and effectively lower the insect pressure for the next year. Planning your orchard You can find fruit trees specific to your region and plant zones. Seek help through local nurseries, clubs that specialize in home orchards, rare fruit tree nurseries, and cooperative extension offices. Fruit trees need plenty of sun and well-drained soil. Planting young fruit trees may mean an investment of three to five years before your first edible crop. Consistent pruning and care throughout the year is always key with these types of trees. As with other plants and trees, research requirements such as size at maturity, chill hours, and recommended pollinators for trees to flourish. What are chill hours and pollinators? Here’s the scoop: Chill hours are a standard measurement of hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit that many types of deciduous trees, shrubs, perennials, and bulbs require to flower well. Chill hours are an especially important measurement for fruit trees to bear fruit. Pollinator is a transfer of pollen from one part of a flower to another or from one plant to flowers of another for fertilization and seed production. Some fruit trees can be self-pollinators, while others require certain desirable varieties to act as pollinators. Plant a chicken-friendly edible cover crop. The cover crop enhances your soil in the orchard and provides more food for your chickens. Remember not to let your chickens overgraze your orchard. Rotate them in and out of this zone throughout the year. Although citrus orchards are common, don’t hand feed your chickens any citrus. Chickens generally aren’t interested in citrus trees or dropped citrus fruit on the ground. Here are some of the many different theories why chickens can’t have citrus: Chickens are one of the few animals that can actually make their own vitamin C. Feeding them citrus would result in excessive vitamin C in their bodies. Citrus contains tannin, limonene, and other natural substances that are toxic to poultry. Eating citrus may interfere with chickens’ calcium absorption, affecting eggshell quality. Examples of fruit trees for a chicken garden If you have orchards full of one of the following fruit trees, consider giving your free-range chickens some time there: Apple: Malus spp. Deciduous trees. Zones vary by species. Some species have showy fruit and flower buds. Many varieties are available. Apricot: Prunus armeniaca. Deciduous trees. Zones vary by species. Have showy fruit and flower buds. Cherry: Prunus spp. Deciduous trees. Zones vary by species. Have showy fruit and flower buds. Come in sweet and sour varieties. Fig: Ficus carica. Deciduous trees. Zones 7–11. Versatile tree for espaliered design, containers, and in the garden. Wonderful fruit and foliage. Mulberry: Morus. Deciduous trees. Zones vary by species. Fruit resembles small blackberries. Chickens love to eat the fruit. Peach and nectarine: Prunus persica. Deciduous trees. Zones vary by species. Beautiful stone fruit. The symbol of summer fruit. Persimmon: Diospyros spp. Deciduous trees. Zones vary by species. Beautiful foliage for the garden. Fuyu Persimmon orange-colored fruit is firm and shaped like a flat tomato. Plum: Prunus spp. Deciduous trees. Zones vary by species. Beautiful stone fruit. Many varieties are available. Pomegranate: Punica granatum. Deciduous shrubs or trees. Zones 7–10. Beautiful ornamental fruit. Fruit can be messy when opened. Chickens love to eat the seeds.

View Article
How to Train Your Chickens

Article / Updated 06-14-2021

Chickens can be trained. They have keen eyesight and are extremely motivated by their desire to eat. Training your chickens is key to effectively managing your chicken flock. By training your flock, you can have them come to you whenever you like, herd them along if necessary, and generally have them respond and behave for you as you wish. Training works better with smaller-sized flocks of fewer than ten chickens. The more chickens in a flock, the harder it is to manage them. You certainly don’t have to train your chickens; however, it will be harder to manage them when you want them to return to the coop, come away from an area, and when there is danger in the garden. Have you heard of the expression “unruly as herding cats?" Herding untrained chickens is like trying to herd cats! It helps to establish a routine with your chicken flock. Your chickens like routine and a set schedule. Open their coop about the same time in the morning, put out their feed bucket, clean their manure box, collect eggs, let them out to free-range, and close them up at night about the same time each day and night. How to teach your chickens to come to you As your chicks grow into full-feathered young pullets, you can introduce them to treats and training. You can choose a distinct whistle, bell, or what we prefer, an inexpensive pet clicker from pet discount stores. Having the ability to call your flock to the chicken coop in a free-ranging situation is invaluable. Training your chickens is simply rewarding their good behavior with food when they do exactly what you ask them to do. They’ll associate the sound of the pet clicker, a certain phrase you repeat, a whistle, or whatever you choose, with a reward or some type of food. Training takes time and requires some patience. You can start the training wherever you’re most comfortable. It can be in the outside pen, in the garden, or while they’re free-ranging. It’s important to note that if your chickens have already had a lot of food or have recently been let out to free-range, they may not be tuned in to training. Here are some steps to teach your chickens to come on command: Stand in view of your flock, holding their favorite treats in your hand at their eye level. Try a treat your chickens like but don’t have all the time — like a warm roll, fresh cranberries, or sunflower seeds. Choose a treat you know they love. Wait for the dominant hen in your flock, or the best forager, to see the treats in your hand and come running to you. The rest of the flock will follow. While your chickens are eating out of your hand, click your pet clicker or make your signal. Click your pet clicker to make a consistent noise or signal, and use that consistent signal. This noise will be the signal for your flock to come to you when they hear it. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 over and over every day and consistently over a period of time. This step re-enforces that the chickens receive a treat for coming to you, and your flock will eventually catch on to come to you when you use your clicker. Eventually, the chickens will come to see you, without hearing a clicker, when you appear in your garden or property. This training makes life much easier for returning them to their chicken coop or just checking on them. You can also train chickens to fly to your arm, walk across elevated ladders, count items, or other fun and easy tricks you may have in mind. It is the same concept of a signal and a reward, repeated over and over. Use a different signal so as not to confuse with the “come” command. How to herd your chickens Herding is another behavior to teach a young flock. Because chickens usually move around in a unit together, herding them is fairly easy. Suppose you forget your clicker and you need to herd your flock back to the coop. Here are the steps you can use: Align yourself behind your flock and gently clap your hands together. A small gentle clap is much more effective than a loud clap. Your flock starts moving in a formation toward the direction or destination you want to go. If your flock starts veering off target, use your arms as guiding rudders; use a single arm stretched out, in the direction they’re veering toward. They’ll see your outstretched arm and adjust to the direction you’re herding them to. This is a very simple method of herding. Increase its effectiveness by starting this herding technique when your flock is young. Be consistent, and they’ll understand the herding concept. Sometimes one member of your flock breaks out of the herd formation and takes another direction quickly. If you’re quick to respond with an arm to adjust the direction, you can usually bring all your chickens into a herd formation moving forward once again. Herding works best in small-size flocks under ten chickens. Dogs are great at herding chickens, too, but make sure you can trust your dog not to harm them.

View Article
Plants That Are Poisonous to Chickens

Article / Updated 06-10-2021

If you allow your chickens to have free range to forage, be sure to acquaint yourself with the more common ornamentals and edibles that are mildly toxic or poisonous to chickens. You’ll find a variety of plants that fall into these categories. Always err on the side of caution; if you suspect a plant is poisonous to your chickens, rid it from your garden. Many plants have toxic properties that act as a type of innate defense to help the plants survive. Poisonous ornamental plants Even though many ornamental plants are mildly toxic or poisonous to chickens, chickens are highly unlikely to eat them while free-ranging. Although sheep, goats, and other livestock animals will eat toxic plants, chickens rarely do. When chickens eat something poisonous, it’s usually because someone unintentionally fed them something poisonous or underfed them while they were confined and exposed to something poisonous. The following are some of the more common ornamental plants potentially toxic, yet unlikely that chickens would freely eat these. Azalea: Rhododendron spp. Boxwood: Buxus spp. Buttercup family: Ranunculaceae. This family includes anemone, clematis, delphinium, and ranunculus Cherry laurel: Prunus laurocerasus Daffodil: Narcissus spp. Daphne: Daphne spp. Foxglove: Digitalis spp. Honeysuckle: Lonicera spp. Hydrangea: Hydrangea spp. Ivy: Hedera spp. Jasmine: Jasminum spp. Lantana: Lantana spp. Lily of the valley: Convallaria majalis Mexican poppy: Argemone mexicana Monkshood: Aconitum napellus Mountain laurel: Kalmia latifolia Oleander: Nerium oleander Rhododendron: Rhododendron spp. Sweet pea: Lathyrus spp. Tobacco: Nicotiana spp. Tulip: Tulipa Wisteria: Wisteria spp. Yew: Taxus spp. Poisonous edible plants The following list contains suggestions for edibles to avoid with hand-feeding and free-ranging chickens: Avocado skin and pits contain persin, which is toxic to chickens. Avoid citrus juice and skins. Don’t give chickens any edible containing salt, sugar, coffee, or liquor. Uncooked raw or dried beans contain hemaglutin, which is poisonous to chickens. Raw green potato skins contain solanine, which is poisonous to chickens. Onions are a poor food to give to chickens because onions flavor eggs. Large quantities of onions can be harmful to chickens, affecting their red blood cells, causing hemolytic anemia or Heinz anemia. Avoid feeding or free-ranging chickens specific unshelled nuts of walnuts (Juglans spp.), black walnuts (Juglans nigrs), hazelnuts (Corylus), and pecans (Carya illinoinensis). Don’t give your chickens leaves of rhubarb, potato, or tomato plants. Deadly poisonous plants found in pastures These plants are not only extremely poisonous to poultry, but also to many other types of livestock and humans. This is not an inclusive list, and be aware that these plants can be found in other areas besides pastures, such as meadows, wilderness areas, and sometimes in gardens as volunteers. These are the types of plants you absolutely should never expose your chickens to: Black locust: Robinia pseudoacacia Bladderpod: Glottidium vasicarium Death Camas: Zigadenus spp. Castor bean: Ricinus communis European black nightshade: Solanum nigrum Corn cockle: Agrostemma githago Horsenettle: Datura stramonium Milkweed: Asclepias tuberosa, and other varieties Mushrooms: Amanita spp. Death Cap, Destroying Angel, Panther Cap. Extremely deadly and poisonous if ingested. Jimsonweed: Datura stramonium Poison hemlock: Conium maculatum Pokeberry: Phytolacca americana Rosary pea: Arbus precatorius Water Hemlock: Cicuta spp. White snakeroot: Ageratina altissima

View Article
How to Determine Your Chicken Flock Size and Space Needs

Article / Updated 06-10-2021

If you’re planning to keep chickens, it's best to start with a small flock — start with at least three. Chickens like to be active, and they require space for foraging in your garden or yard. They prefer space to roam, rather than confinement, although sometimes they need to be confined. If you have more space, perhaps you want a larger flock. Having chickens is addicting — it's common for people to increase their flocks over time with new breeds, adoption, and the tempting visit to the feed store. Another consideration for chicken flock size is personal egg consumption. Are you a family of eight, all of whom love eggs? Are you not an egg eater at all, but love the idea of chickens in your garden? Are you a bachelor who loves gourmet omelets? Generally speaking, allow two laying hens per person eating eggs. But first pay attention to the space reserved for a chicken coop, an outside pen, and your garden size. The space you can devote to a chicken coop will tell you how many chickens you can have in your flock. Most people don’t think about space requirements and usually err on the side of having too large a flock for their needs and space. In addition to a chicken coop, you need to determine the square footage you can devote to foraging space. The minimum rule of thumb is about 2 to 3 square feet per chicken inside the chicken coop, and 8 to 10 square feet per chicken in an outside run. More square footage is better. Skimping on space requirements for a flock of chickens can cause stress, cannibalism, pecking, and sometimes even death. Cramped living space in a flock invites stress and potential for disease. The best thing you can do to keep a happy and healthy flock is to give it adequate space. Another factor to consider with space requirements is the type of chicken breed you like best. Bantam breeds are considerably smaller chickens than heavy breed chickens, requiring less space than heavy breed or large chickens. Even though Bantam chickens are smaller, they can sometimes lay large eggs relative to their size. Please note that space requirements can vary depending on your flock age and breeds, climate, season, and management of free-range garden time. Suggested Space Requirements for Chicken Coops and Outside Pens Breed Chicken Coop Space Requirement Outside Pen Space Requirement Large Chickens (standard) 2 square feet per bird 8 to 10 square feet per bird Bantam Chickens 1 square foot per bird 4 square feet per bird A rule of thumb for free-range space is 250 to 300 square feet per bird. If you plan to create permanent runs and fencing, use 250 square feet per bird or more. After you determine how much space you have in your garden for a chicken coop, outside pen, and free-ranging, you can figure out how many chickens you can optimally have. Leave yourself some wiggle room for changes in your flock, such as when your favorite feed store is carrying irresistible day-old chicks. You want to provide a healthy environment for your chickens and a nice balance of space or ecosystem, which allows your garden to flourish. If your flock of chickens has too little garden space to roam in, your garden will have bald spots from over-foraging, visible poop on bare ground, a bad odor, and a problem with flies. Needless to say, none of that is desirable.

View Article
How to Transform a Dog Kennel into a Chicken Coop

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

To convert a dog house with kennel into a chicken coop and outside pen, all you need is time, muscle power, a few additional construction materials, and your creativity. Many unique chicken coops have been built with a lot of imagination and a little of re-purposing and recycling materials. Of all the structures that may already exist in a garden, the most common is a dog kennel. In order to transition a dog house into a chicken coop, follow these tips:

View Step by Step
7 Categories of Chicken Breeds

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Chicken breeds, like dog breeds, can be categorized by their different purposes serving humans. Dogs are bred for many purposes, such as physical abilities, appearance, temperament, and show. Chickens have been bred for many purposes, too. Sometimes these purposes overlap, as chicken dual-purpose breeds do. Here are some of the categories:

View Step by Step
page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4
page 5
page 6
page 7