Which comes first, the garden or the birds?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by HennaRose, Nov 9, 2014.

  1. The Garden

    5 vote(s)
    41.7%
  2. The Birds

    7 vote(s)
    58.3%
  3. Something else (please tell me in your reply!)

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. HennaRose

    HennaRose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I didn't know where else to put this, so if it doesn't belong here, let me know where it should go and I'll move it.

    I have approximately 900 (typo, sorry!) sq ft of space in my back yard that will be designated for a food garden and chickens. Only four - no chicken math for me, because I have a Nosy Ned next door who complains and calls code enforcement on people, so I need to keep everything to the letter, and the letter says I can only have four hens. I had already planned to fence/hardware cloth in the entire thing, plus a ceiling, to keep pests out of it, and was just going to put a coop inside that fence and let the birds have run of the garden. With chickenwire screens around the garden beds, of course, to keep them from destroying my plants. The area designated is sunny with plenty of shade.

    The plan was to build between January and March, plant in April and get the chicks in May. I was going to rent an auto-tiller and pay some friends and relations in food and beer to come help me till up the yard and build the enclosure, planter beds, and chicken coop. But in reading how efficient chickens are at tilling and fertilizing, I'm debating having the enclosure and coop built in December and January, getting the birds as soon as they're available, letting them till the ground for me and building the beds once that's all done. The hatchery I'm using says they'll have day-old chicks available in January for the breeds I want, and I don't need to plant till April, so there would be time to let them get big enough to be out in the yard at least part of the day. I live in Florida and it's only ever "cold" (40 degrees is our usual lowest low) for about a month and a half in January and February, when they'd be inside in the brooder anyway. It starts to warm up again late February/early March, and they'd be a couple of months old then and able to be outdoors. Plus, that way I'd be able to have someone come check on them a few times a day for the couple days I have to be out of town in May for a wedding, rather than either waiting till after that trip to get them or hiring a full-time chicksitter for those few days. (The other house pets will be kenneled at the vet, but the vet doesn't kennel birds.)

    Would it be mean of me to allow them all that space and then suddenly have 2/3 of it taken up by fenced-in garden beds? Should I just go with my original plan and start the garden first and get the babies in May?
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2014
  2. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    I can see the logic of doing the garden firwst to avoid giving them space then taking some of it away. The thing is, you will probably give it right back to them when the season is done, for cleanup and to eat the bugs in the beds.
     
  3. HennaRose

    HennaRose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I hadn't even thought about that; first growing season here ends around mid-to-late June and then the next one starts in September, so they'd have most of the summer with the majority of that space again.
     
  4. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Get your chicks in January. The reason I am thinking is baby chicks will not be strong enough to till up your garden until about 4-5 months old, so if you get chicks in January they would not be strong enough to till until June, which would be the end of your first growing season. They will be bigger, and like the space then.

    Don't worry about penning them up in a smaller space IF the smaller space is bigger enough, they may fret for a day or so, but they quickly adjust, and then a couple months later, they will be unsure of being out of the pen. Mine have been in strict lock up do to predators, so if I let them out , they stick pretty close to the coop/run for a couple of days, each day getting a bit farther out.

    Mrs K
     
  5. Den in Penn

    Den in Penn Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I don't think it will matter which way you chose to go. They will have to get used to the reduction of space during the growing seasons no matter. If you can start both at the same time why not. With only four hens in 900 sq ft. you will have to till the area you want to plant anyway you go. They just don't have enough claws between them to do the whole thing. You also want to mix the soil, and compost (the plant residues and their contributions) once the garden is going deeper they they normally go.
     
  6. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    I'm with Mrs K, get them sooner. They'll be stronger sooner, and start laying sooner. I got chicks in late May this year and still have no eggs from them. If you get them in Jan, you'll have eggs come June.

    The chickens won't have a concept of you being "mean" to them. Yes, they'll likely fuss a little, but you're the boss and it's not hurting them at all. They'll get over it in a few days.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    Remember tho that chicken manure needs to sit and compost for a good 6 months to a year, or be hot composted, before growing food with it because of pathogens and the high nitrogen can burn your plants.

    Agrees that they really can't 'till' deep enough for a new garden plot.
     
  8. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Something I was thinking last night--you may want to build a tractor to fit the size of your beds. I guess I have the idea you're going to have multiple smaller raised beds, not sure if that's correct or not. With a tractor the size of the beds, you could confine the birds to a specific area, to concentrate both their scratching and the droppings where you want them. Four hens in 900 square feet will take a while to get all turned over, but you could confine them to an area for a few days or a week to focus their efforts. A "brown' material like straw, placed in the tractor, would help encourage the hens to scratch and help compost the high nitrogen droppings. Straw breaks down pretty quickly, so do shredded leaves. Wood shavings take longer, not sure on pine needles.
     
  9. HennaRose

    HennaRose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They will be raised beds, but significantly so - about 2 feet tall inside boxes, to make weeding and maintenance a bit easier on my back and to discourage my younger child from trampling around in the beds. And to give the plants as much time as possible in good soil before they get to the sandy stuff that my yard is full of, because not much of what I want to grow will do well in this dirt without help.

    The plan is to put boxes/beds all around the perimeter (except where the doors will be) and some extending toward the center as space permits. I don't know how I'd get a chicken tractor up into beds that high without allowing for ramps, and that would cut into my available walking and/or planting space.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2014
  10. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    If you're already inside an enclosed area, a tractor could easily be light weight enough to lift that high. Chicken wire doesn't weigh much, and you could use something light like PVC for the frame. Anyway, just a thought. I recently read a book about tractoring chickens in the garden and it struck a chord for me [​IMG]
     

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