By Chris Lesley
Smart gardening, reusing materials and other simple tricks integrate your herd into an ecological approach to animal husbandry.
Due to the negative impacts of industrial agriculture on our ecosystems, opting out of this system and keeping your own chickens is an environmentally friendly poultry choice. The breeds of chickens to keep, or if to let them loose, are more or less neutral from an environmental point of view. However, the choices you make with and for your herd can help your small farm be as green as possible.
One of the easiest ways to make a chicken coop as eco-friendly as possible is to combine it with a vegetable garden. This will not only allow you to reuse waste from your chickens, but your hens can also replace some of the worst chemicals used in gardening.
The first and foremost use of chickens in a garden is as non-stop fertilizer producers. Anyone who has ever tried to clean out a chicken coop knows that these birds do nothing all day except produce high-quality nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
By fertilizer, we are of course referring to chicken poop, which can easily be composted and used as a non-toxic, nitrogen-rich fertilizer. This will not only save you money; it will also ensure that you are not adding to the potentially toxic waste created by the commercial fertilizer industry.
To make the most effective fertilizer, you can spread fresh poop over your garden, or you can compost it first, which has the added benefit of speeding up the composting process for anything you might have. in the heap. Because of its high nitrogen content, you won’t need to spread it as thick as other manure-based fertilizers. You’ll also want to research your plants before you get too hard on the chicken poop fertilizer. Some common garden plants, like tomatoes, can easily overdose on nitrogen, and all of your plants will eventually suffer from having too much nitrogen if you overdo it. Fortunately, other common plants like squash, cabbage, and broccoli can remove nitrogen from the soil and thrive in nitrogen-rich chicken feed.
Another huge benefit that chickens can bring to a garden is that they are non-toxic, all-natural pest eaters and weed killers. Chickens love all kinds of plants, and they especially enjoy eating bugs and insects, so they will be more than happy to rid your garden of unwanted intruders of both types.
You should know, however, that chickens eat machines, not born gardeners. They’ll nibble on beneficial worms and ladybugs just as readily as problematic grasshoppers and flies, and they’ll likely eat your ripe tomatoes rather than the weeds around them. I certainly didn’t realize this the first time I let chickens into my garden, but they need to be carefully monitored to ensure their presence is as beneficial as possible. There are many ways to do this, including fencing and human supervision, as well as managing their time in the garden so that they are never among the most mature and tempting plants. Even if you decide not to let the birds directly into the garden, they can still help you reduce waste by munching on the picked weeds or rotting vegetables you give them.
Even with these challenges, using chickens in the garden is generally still a more environmentally friendly option than using the many chemical pesticides, weed killers and fertilizers on the market, which can generate toxic runoff and even be dangerous to the environment. human health.
Reuse of materials
One of the best, easiest and cheapest ways to make your herd as environmentally friendly as possible is to reuse materials wherever you can. It can start before you even get your flock, by building a chicken coop out of recycled or salvaged wood scraps. Old furniture and scrap wood from other projects are great starting points for this. I was very lucky to ask local businesses for old pallets or other scrap wood; they often have no other use for them and are happy to give them away.
Once you’ve finished building your chicken coop, don’t throw away any leftover wood, chicken wire, or mesh. All of this will come in handy later, as you’ll need to patch up and repair the chicken coop and surrounding fences. Scraps of wood can also be used to build a “jungle gym” or other structure that your birds can climb and explore, especially if they are not allowed to roam free and need exercise and additional enrichments.
Another great place to reuse materials is to create predator deterrents and toys for your flock. Old CDs, broken mirrors, and shiny ribbons can all become effective deterrents to birds of prey. cardboard tubes of toilet paper or paper towels can become seed roll treats. Some keepers have even found that their flocks love to peck at their children’s old toy xylophones, so you never know what might entertain your flock!
Just make sure that anything you plan to leave in the coop or run area does not contain toxic paints or varnishes or small parts that the birds could dislodge or swallow. If you’re unsure about this, feel free to skip the DIY — no Pinterest project worth harming your girls.
For all the good recycling and reuse does for the planet, the best thing you can do is reduce the amount of waste you generate in the first place. Luckily, not only are there many easy ways to reduce the amount of waste your flock produces, but a backyard chicken coop also offers you some great opportunities to reduce your family’s level of waste!
One of the biggest ways to reduce waste (and save a lot of money) is to limit the amount of electricity needed to keep your birds comfortable. You can almost always reduce the amount of electricity you use to heat and cool the coop. Reduce your heating needs by making sure the chicken coop is well insulated in winter; a thorough inspection in the fall can help you find all the places drafts can get in, so you can plug them with scrap wood, rags, or other insulation before the cold really hits . Ensuring your coop is well ventilated in the summer will also reduce your need for electric fans or other cooling methods, as well as being better for the respiratory health of the flock.
Use of leftovers
Another major source of waste in most households is food waste. Your chickens will be happy to help you solve this problem! Although there are certain human foods, such as alliums (onions and related plants), citrus fruits, caffeine and alcohol, which should never be fed to your herd, many foods you might never think they would eat, like bones and fish. guts, they will really love it. Just make sure to research everything you feed them and don’t feed them anything that’s highly processed, salty, or spicy. And remember that most of their nutrition should always come from foraging and proper nutrition.
Raising chickens is a great way for everyday people to help make the planet a better place to live, and following just a few of these suggestions can help make that decision more impactful.