The Chickens have arrived at the Backyard Farm

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Well, the day has arrived and my phase 2 of the Backyard Farm is starting to take shape. I am keeping my patch ‘Chemical Free’. So no pesticides, the issue is that there are still pests! There are many ways to naturally control pests but I’m looking for the most effective & least maintenance.

One of the biggest issues in the UK, especially in the north is slugs and snails! You can lay slug traps, put down egg shells, coffee grounds and copper pipes but none of those, or combinations of those techniques have stopped them munching my plants…

Too compound the slug issue even further, we have seen an ‘invasion’ of Spanish slugs here in the UK. These slugs are hungry critters and seem impervious to my attempts to keep them away from my crops. This is where the chickens come in. They shall be known as Giblets & Apollo!

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Everyone meet the hens Giblets & Apollo

Where did they come from

Giblets & Apollo have been rescued! They come from a batch of around 15,000 battery, egg laying chickens that were destined for chicken soup and cheap meat. Their story is a lucky one, from the huge batch, around 10 were rescued from certain death, I’ve got 2 of them.

The gentleman who saved these hens runs a greengrocer ‘Colin Lunts‘ in my local area, surely a hero to these lucky chickens. They are not looking great at the moment as you can see. This is where your eggs come from…

I am an animal lover, and I also enjoy eating animal produce. However, I like to think that an animal destined for the dinner plate still deserves a good life. No animal should be kept in conditions that result in the way these poor birds have.

What did I get chickens for?

Giblets & Apollo are in charge of pest control in my foodscaped garden. I will be experimenting with how to control pests effectively without the use of chemicals or pesticides. A truly organic edible garden.

One thing I understand about nature I that it relies on combinations, or ecosystems to maintain environments naturally. This is how I will approach pest control in my garden, using a combination of chickens, wild flowers, eggshells and netting to keep the garden pest free.

Not only will Giblets and Apollo clean my garden of pests and slug populations, they will also turn them into tasty eggs! They will hopefully lay 1 to 2 eggs per day, a good source of food and a good way to keep the neighbours, family and friends happy.

Everyone loves hand reared chicken eggs, the taste is second to none!

Health conditions of battery chickens

As you can see in the photo’s the chickens are not at their best at the moment. Due to the conditions we keep livestock in as a society many animals suffer from ailments.

Feather Loss

When kept in close quarters and in unnatural conditions the chickens usual biological routines and rhythms are knocked out of sync. Chickens usually molt at different times of the year to maintain their plumage.

In artificial conditions, they do the chickens are kept in conditions to maximize energy to egg production, not the production of more feathers. This tends to lead to patches in their feathers.

Added to the issue of molting, chickens will also pluck out each other feathers when organizing a social structure. When so many are kept in cramped conditions, there can be more of this behavior than usual.

Again due to the proximity of the cages, or to each other, the chickens will often develop patches in its plumage due to friction.

Are Chickens good as pest control for your edible garden?

In short, yes Chickens are fantastic pest control for your garden. They are known to be very effective removing pests from the garden and keep the populations under control, eating larvae and eggs of damaging insect species.

Some of the pests chickens are most effective against are:

  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Flies
  • Ticks
  • Fleas
  • Caterpillars
  • Beetles

You will have to manage the chickens in your garden, thy cannot be left to roam free all of the time. They also like vegetables like salad leaves and tomatoes! However, will some simple management like fencing or releasing the chickens into the garden once a day.

By only allowing them a short amount of time in the garden it is likely they will be too busy eating up all the bugs to pay attention to your crops. To aid in my pest control I will be combining chickens with wild flowers and other natural deterrents.

What do chickens need? Can I get some?

Chickens are quite simple creatures and do not require a massive amount of care although they do require daily maintenance. They need food, water, nesting area, roosting area and an outdoor space to roam around in.

The minimum is around 2 to 3 square feet per chicken inside a chicken coop, and 8 to 10 square feet per chicken in an outside chicken run or garden.

Chicken food & bedding

Chickens will eat almost anything! But, it doesn’t mean they should be fed almost anything. It is a goo idea to buy some good quality chicken feed, these feeds will have nearly everything a chicken will need to stay healthy & should be a part of their core diet.

My chickens are going to be ‘egg layer’s so I’ve bought a feed that promotes the growth of good eggs. It’s supplemented with oyster shells, this provides the minerals need to form thick eggs shells.

From there you can supplement their diet with things like:

  • Vegetable peels
  • Bananas
  • Apple cores
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage

Chickens are safe to eat almost any vegetable or fruit, except they should not be given any raw green peels (green potato peel) or any citric fruits like lemons and limes.

The straw and food I purchased

Did you know?

If your vegetarian or vegan and really miss the taste of chicken, today is your lucky day! There is a There’s a wild mushroom called a Laetiporus that tastes nearly the same as chicken, so much so that it’s sometimes called the “fried chicken mushroom”!

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