Chickens: God's Gift to Gardeners

For a change, in this post I want to talk about a practical example of using God’s design to redeem the land, and show how it can bring amazing results. Perhaps it might be useful to some of you.

By the way, I am very grateful to Mr. Herrick Kimball over at The Deliberate Agrarian for mentioning me in his blogazine issue this month. It has really boosted my readership! Welcome to all you newcomers.

For the previous several years the garden operation on our farm hasn’t been the most successful. We still were blessed with many veggies to eat and sell, but the two acres of plantable ground was far from being fully utilized. Especially since I am the primary labor.

However this year was a HUGE improvement because the Lord helped me to implement a small piece of His design early in the season.

This spring our egg operation expanded from one flock, to two. With an additional flock to move around the farm I was faced with a dilemma. Our newly cleared pasture had baby grass coming up that would be decimated by foraging chickens and our small amount of established pastured needed some serious rest. To go along with this challenge, our garden needed to be planted soon but was grown up in crabgrass and other weeds.
Then, somewhere along the way the Lord helped me to see the previously unseen, obvious solution. Put the chickens in the garden!

It was not the first time I had heard or thought of the concept (or even used it), but I had been hesitant before because our garden is further away from our buildings than seemed safe. It seemed more tempting to the critters who consider chicken meat a delicacy around here: coyotes, opossums, raccoons, hawks, owls, etc. However, I knew it would be a good way to turn the chicken’s scratching from a liability in the pasture, to an asset in the garden. So I hooked the tractor to the portable coop of one of the flocks and hauled them down there.

I parked the coop over an area of basically crabgrass sod and surrounded it with electric netting. The chickens were released, and I threw their feed out on the ground. Several weeks later the grass had all been turned into eggs and fertilizer and I had bare soil with a very even dressing of manure. I then moved them to another area, and prepared and planted the spot where they had been. This went on throughout the season and the results I saw were amazing.

In the above picture you can see some of our fall crops. Broccoli, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, and tomatoes. In this plot I first got a demonstration of the amazing impact the chickens have on the plants. This was because part of the plot was in an earlier planting of tomatoes and the chickens never got a chance to be on it. The contrast between the part where the chickens had been and where they hadn’t was astounding. See the examples below.

Broccoli plants on ground not worked by the chickens.

Broccoli plants on ground worked by the chickens.

Cabbage plants on ‘un-chickened’ dirt.

Cabbage on ‘chickened’ dirt.

Tomatoes in ‘un-redeemed dirt’.

Tomatoes in ‘redeemed’ dirt!

In Luke 6:38 Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given to you.” I believe this is an excellent example of this principle being displayed in the preparation of soil for planting. And it didn’t require more work from me. It just required me caring for and working God’s creation in a way that honors His design. His wisdom is far superior than anything man can come up with. I mean, just consider a few of the benefits of utilizing the design of chickens in the garden:

-The chickens turn one of the garden’s greatest liabilities, weeds, into one of the garden’s greatest assets, fertilizer.
-Instead of having to work to clean up weeds and crop residue, the chickens do it for me and turn them into eggs, which we then eat and sell!
-Tillage is minimized to preparing a seed bed and shallow cultivation of weeds. Earthworm population has increased.
-Bug population is kept under control.
-Spoiled produce can be fed to chickens to be converted into eggs and fertilizer.
-No time spent applying manure
-No time spent cleaning out coops.
-Organic matter can be incorporated into the soil without the danger of losing nitrogen because of the manure.
-The cost of production of eggs is decreased because feed bill doubles as fertilizer bill as well!

The wisdom of the Lord is limitless, and he offers it to those of us who will ask (James 1:5). What a blessing it is to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe, who instructs us in the way to walk, and grants us success. Imagine what the fruits and benefits could be as we continue to seek to redeem our dirt!

11 thoughts on “Chickens: God's Gift to Gardeners

  1. I love the focus of your blog. I, too, believe this calling to work the land is from the Lord. I am trying to grow as much food as possible in my small town backyard, and I’m also very blessed to have a flock of 5 laying hens.

    My question is…I heard that fresh chicken manure will burn the plants and needs to cure for about a year before using it. Yet, it seems that you are planting on soil that has been freshly manured by the chickens. It’s working amazingly well for you. Can you explain why the fresh manure doesn’t harm your plants?

    • Brenda,

      I knew someone was going to ask about that! I plan to talk about it in my second post about chickens. I believe the reason the manure doesn’t burn the plants is because:
      1. The manure is scratched and mixed into the organic matter on top of the soil so fresh droppings quickly turn into compost.
      2. The layer of manure is a very thin, even layer except in some spots.
      3. When I prepare my beds, I till them shallowly to prepare a seedbed and that helps distribute the manure so it’s not a high concentration.

  2. I am enjoying reading these posts and look forward to more. I have always cleaned my coop in spring tilled it in right away and planted and never have trouble with burning I always figured it was because my soil is so starved ,it was a cornfield for many years before we bought it The chicken manure always makes a huge positive difference,

  3. Hi Noah,
    Loving your blog. I’m one of the newcomers courtesy of Herrick’s blogsite. What you’re describing here with the chickens (or chooks as we affectionately refer to them here in Australia) has been studied and refined within the permaculture movement for a long time now. I’m not sure how big or how well known permaculture is in the US, but it was invented here in Australia in the 1970s and it’s been growing internationally since then. I use a smaller version of what you’re doing on my place. You can check it out by googling “Linda Woodrow chookdome”. Basically, you build a 4m diameter dome cage for your chickens (holds about 10-12) and you setup your garden with round beds in a large “mandala” circle. Incorporating a frogpond at the centre for frogs, lizards etc helps keep pests under control. You intensively plant each bed after you move the chickens off it. The chickens stay on each bed for 2 weeks, twice a year. So you need 12 beds per chookdome. Maximum garden bed to path ratio is obtained and chooks dont peck each other as much in a round pen.

    Anyway, love your work and be encouraged that Christian Agrarians downunder are reading your work and taking inspiration from your wisdom beyond your years.
    God bless you!

    • Nathan,
      I love permaculture and recommend several permaculture books in the resource section of Born-Again Dirt. The wisdom of God displayed in permaculture is astounding, and I am saddened that few of it’s promoters are followers of Christ. It was reading about permaculture that helped me start thinking, “Hey, we Christians need to be the one discovering this wisdom of God’s, and giving him the glory instead of Gaia!.”
      The mandala idea with the ‘chook’ dome is great! I have never actually heard of that exact application but will be looking for ways to implement it on my farm.
      God bless you ‘Down Under’.

  4. I loved both the video and article on this. We just got chicks and ducks and are in the process of trying to set up something similar. We are using permanent garden beds, however, and I amtrying to figure out if it is worth leaving a given bed dormant once it has been made to let the chickies come in and do their work and if so how often would be optimum.
    Peace in Christ,

  5. Hi there, Just keep in mind that chicken might carry salmonella amd pass it on through their exrements. In case only adults eat your veggies the risk is relatively low, but keep in mind elderly and infants have a lower tolerance for food contamination.

    • Dan, thanks for pointing that out! I would recommend being very careful and waiting until you are sure that the manure has decomposed. Right now I still use my chickens in my family garden but no longer use them in my market garden just so I can be above reproach. For my market garden I use finished compost.

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