Written by: Amanda B.
June 2022 Most people want to save money and these days, let’s be honest, we are pinching our pennies. When it comes to owning your own chickens, many save by free ranging, buying cheaper feed, feeding table scraps, and if you don’t do this last one well, you might want to after this! I always recommend building a garden for your chickens. Let me show you some SUPER SIMPLE ideas that will save you money this year! We will talk about what to plant, how to plant it and what is safe to just grow in the yard where they roam.
It is not as hard as it may sound, you don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of items or plants. Think big but small. Chickens are simple and with our luck they love to eat fruits and vegetables that grow a lot for one plant!
Let’s start with where to put your garden. I know, I know chickens eat everything so many worry about starting plants near the coop. Starting them near the coop though is an amazing idea! If you want to keep things simple and put up a fence just buy some garden t-post and hammer them in. Zip tie some chicken wire to it. Your garden does not have to be big: 6ft x 6ft is what I would consider to be a perfect size for 40+ chickens, but you can be the judge of what you want when we discuss the types of plants. In my opinion, you do not need a fence for this garden. We attempted a pumpkin patch last year with over 50 chickens and 20 ducks and none of them destroyed the plants. They simply ate all the bugs that were merely surviving on them. Which meant, everything blossomed beautifully. To prep the land easily I would:
just find a nice sunny spot near your coop
take some cardboard boxes and open them flat and lay them down to cover the ground you want to grow on
wait about 3 weeks (so many will want to start when the snow melts if you live where you have 4 seasons like me, in Michigan) or start very early spring
once the grass is dead and yellow just throw some mulch and dirt down or nothing. If you really need to save money just dig some holes about 1ft x 1ft and plant your seed according to the description on the seed bag.
if you don’t want to do seed then use your starter plants. I recommend going to your local farmers market for these! They have amazing deals and you will meet some beautiful souls!
Once you have an idea of where to put your little new garden well now it is time to pick the plants!
What Oh What Shall I Plant for Thee?
This, ladies and gentlemen, is where the fun begins! I am so excited to share some of these ideas with you and I know you will be thrilled as well!
Let’s start with my favorite, Sunflowers! Not only will these clean the dirt they are grown in and replenish some of the lost nutrients with rich mineral from its roots, but this plant is so easy to grow and easy to feed to your poultry. Plant as many as you possibly can and each one foot apart. I recommend starting them in solo cups. This works very well and you can just place them outside away from your lovely peckers. Once they are about 3 inches high just plant them in your garden space. This year, I have almost 50 chickens and will be planting about 6 rows 10-12 plants per row. Once they are done flowering the seeds till begin to form on the face of the sunflower. Once the seeds have formed it will not look like the beautiful sunflower at first glance, that is because the beauty is now the whole center/face of the flower. Go ahead and cut those tops off and let them finish drying, Save them in a garbage can for whenever you feel like throwing a few tops into the coop for your flock.
Next are the vines!! My favorites are acorn squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and melons. I recommend 2 spaghetti squash and 2 acorn because these you are able to freeze and when they thaw they are ready to serve to your flock. So, why not get more for less of your time. I do recommend making sure you have a floor freezer or extra freezer top on maybe a refrigerator you don’t use as much. Spaghetti squash do grow large, football size, whereas acorn squash is smaller around baseball to softball size. Melons I would feed as they ripen. Pumpkins you would want to plant in early to mid-June for anyone with Michigan seasons. They will be ready in September to cut and feed. Pumpkins can also be frozen and thawed. This plant as well as your other squashes have special seeds rich in several vitamins such as vitamin K and Zinc. Make sure you either same them and dry them or feed them with the plant. If you dry them/freeze them make sure to use them all winter to add nutrients to your flocks diet. They will truly appreciate you for it.
Butternut Squash is my last one and most favorite! I personally eat this on a regular basis! I recommend Peeling, cutting and bagging it in zip-lock freezer bags if you plan to keep some for winter. But if you grow these vines you can solely feed the plants and veggies provided as a sole meal for them. The larger squashes and melons need to be broken for them. It helps them understand the food is on the inside. After a couple of years of doing this you will no longer have to break open the thinner lined melons and squashes.
I can not express enough how important it is to grow your own food for you and your family. We are raising our animals in different and difficult times. So try your hardest to save where you can. Also, save some for your family too! These chickens wont mind sharing with your beautiful self! After all we do have to survive to care for them!
So feel free to do a row of each herb: thyme, basil, parsley, dill and oregano. Once they are full grown and before they seed trim them down and dry them. I like to dry them and then grind them to add to their food in the winter. If you do not have a grinder just dry the plant and cut it up with scissors and when it is dry the leaves will be so easy to crumple in your hands.
All herbs can also be added to the water to steep like a tea in the winter. Herbs have many healing properties. So I cant push enough on how important they are!
I hope this helps a bit on cutting cost and gives you a sense of love for gardening. So please go, grow, and glow! Because honestly, we all know you’re a shining star! YOU RAISE CHICKENS DUH!
Keep me posted on your likes and dislikes as well as what you add to your flock! We all have ideas and need to share them! Let us know and until next time, HUGS!