West Union School Garden
CHICKENS AT WORK
Posted by Amy Wachsmuth on 3/4/2020
The school garden has six new hard working ladies on loan from Millennial Acres and the Van Dyke family. During their four weeks with us they will be preparing our garden beds for spring planting.
The winterizing activity we did last fall to protect and enrich the soil has left behind thousands of insects, slugs, old leaves, and cover-crop. Many of these critters would gladly hang around and switch from their diet of old leaves and compost to tender young garden plants. Which is exactly what happened to me a few years ago. In my zeal to keep my soil covered, I did not remove the winter cover and every seedling was decimated. The garden was a total loss in less than 48 hours.
Aware of this danger, we sought out experts and they are doing a fantastic job. In about a week, these chickens have:
- Shredded the leftover leaves.
- Lightly tilled the soil.
- Eaten the overburden of slugs and insects.
- Left behind nitrogen rich manure.
- Graced us with eggs.
- Enriched the atmosphere of our garden with their personalities.
Then we moved their custom built chicken coops, called chicken tractors, to new beds to repeat the process.
We were the fortunate beneficiaries of an Eagle Scout project by Dylan Gates, a former West Union student. Based on our requirements, Dylan designed and built two of these temporary coops that fix securely to the beds. One end provides shelter for chickens and we added a roosting pole. The tractors are very lightweight and fold down to conserve space during storage.
Keys to using chickens in the garden:
- Timing: this is an off-growing season activity. Chickens loose in your garden would likely bring about mass destruction because they find garden veggies as tasty as we do.
- They can work soil for new beds or fallow beds.
- Confine them to the space you want them to work with mobile chicken tractors. Many have wheels on one end for easy mobility.
- Move them as soon as the work is complete.
- Bring them kitchen scraps and tell them what a wonderful job they’re doing.