And if you don’t want to clean up your garden beds by hand, let your chickens do the hard work for you. Create a chook tractor so that your chickens can eat leftover plants, and any pests that may be lurking in the garden bed. They also turn the soil, and fertilise it for you at the same time!
Sometimes, one particular chook stands out from the crowd, providing an endless source of entertainment, fascination and joy. Here, reader JACQUELINE QUALTRO shares her story
Gardening was a daily task when I was growing up, as was attending to the hens that Mum encouraged Dad to purchase. We were a poor family and Mum rarely bought anything other than essentials, such as milk, meat and bread. Everything else we grew – all our vegetables, herbs, fruits and berries.
Dad was not keen on keeping chickens, but Mum wanted to get a rooster and have farm hens and eggs. Within a week of their arrival, Dad strangled a hen by accident – he should have looked before slamming the hen-house door closed! We were all very upset. A couple of weeks later, he had to kill the rooster because it kept attacking me when I went to feed the hens. I was eight years old and it was extremely aggressive, leaping up, scratching me with his claws and attacking with his beak.
After alt the distress, Mum dismissed her farming ambitions, and for the rest of their days the hens had free range of our 0.4ha block, scratching up bugs and worms, and living a fantastic life. Being a latchkey kid, my first task on arriving home from school was to collect the eggs from under the gooseberry, raspberry and blackcurrant bushes. What wonderful tasty, deep orange and sometimes double yolks they had – and they were big!
Three of our hens lived past the age of 12, and Tufty lived for 16 years. But it was Henny Penny, the white leghorn, whom I adored. When I came across a grub while digging, I’d call out, “Henny Penny, come here!” She would lower her neck, spread her wings, and race across the garden, legs flipping out at full speed, then leap into the hole and gobble, gurgling as she did so. No need for pesticides! She would also sit on my knee and eat tiny pieces of walnut from my hand.