There’s More to a Garden than Vegetables!
Early spring is the perfect time to start a backyard garden. Getting kids involved in the planning and preparation of your outdoor space provides a unique, rewarding experience, and allows for a much deeper understanding of where food comes from.
Integrating animals into the setup, however, can add a whole other dimension to the “farm to table” concept. Backyard laying hens are a great way to incorporate animals into a garden with limited space and can create an exciting example of a sustainable food system within city limits.
Benefits of Adding Chickens to Your Garden
Emily Herb, Corvallis mother of two, currently has 12 chickens and three ducks in her backyard. Her husband has built a movable “chicken tractor,” which allows the Herbs to pull the coop around the yard and garden. The chickens sleep, roost and lay their eggs in the structure, and are able to forage in the attached “chicken run” made out of chicken wire, electrical conduit and wood.
Herb and her kids have experienced a multitude of benefits from having chickens in town. “The kids benefit from understanding how the chickens help us grow food. The chickens clean up our garden beds by eating leftover plant material, while at the same time turning what they eat into chicken poop that we can use as fertilizer,” shares Herb.
Learning how to care for the animals has created a sense of pride for her kids and a profound connection to life cycles and food appreciation. In addition to learning how to catch and calm the birds, “They know how to feed them and give them clean water, as well as put them to bed at night. They have a unique relationship with the chickens and ducks that is different than a dog or cat relationship,” says Herb.
Jamie Petts, Corvallis mother of three, has four chickens and four ducks on her property. She has a home-built coop with a fenced-in run and a nesting box. The coop is raised off the ground with a drop down ramp that can be pulled up at night. Petts also sees the benefits of her kids connecting with their food source and learning to care for the animals. “We have raised multiple rounds of chickens from chicks, and our kids have loved seeing the chicks grow, learning about feeding and taking care of animals and collecting the eggs,” says Petts. She recommends keeping the chickens off the ground with proper fencing and all the food secure to avoid predators and rodents from entering.
Do Your Research and Be Prepared
Keeping chickens and ducks can be an affordable, rewarding venture, but it is important to learn about them and communicate with your neighbors before acquiring a small flock. Depending on where you live, there may be specific laws and regulations regarding what types of birds are allowed and how many are permitted per lot.
- Chickens in Corvallis: Corvallis doesn’t limit to the number of hens, as long as they stay on the property.
- Chickens in Albany: In Albany, families can have two chickens on a 7,000 square foot property and one more bird for every additional 3,000 square feet of lot area. Of course, if you are renting it is always a good idea to get the go-ahead from your landlord.
In addition to following local guidelines, families need to be aware of the commitment required for animals. Herb explains how important it is to understand the responsibilities involved. “You have to be there to care for them every morning and every night. They don’t require lots of attention, but they do require care at least twice a day. Read books and talk to people that have experience. Most people with chickens love to talk about their experiences!”
By Sarah Nieminski