As I've mentioned before, this summer we are doing things a bit differently with the chickens when it comes to their time free-ranging in the yard. In a perfect urban homesteading world, our chickens could freely wander around our yard and gardens at their leisure, enjoying grass, bugs, sunshine, and shade whenever their little hearts so desired. However, we do not live in a perfect urban homesteading world. Rather, at our urban homestead, the chickens eat my carrot tops, trample and scratch up the rhubarb and hostas, kick mulch everywhere, poop on our deck, pathway, yard, pretty much everywhere, and eat my kale. No, it is definitely not a perfect world over here. So, this year, we're doing things differently and it means a lot less grass-time for these ladies of ours. I read a book on my long Texas road trip a few weeks back called Free-Range Chicken Gardens and it gave me a lot more confidence in our decision to give the ladies a more controlled environment. The reason for this is that in order to have a successful free-range chicken garden, your yard and gardens need to be ready to house chickens! The plants need to be chicken resistant and the plants need to be arranged in a way that allows the hardier plants to protect and shelter the more vulnerable ones. There are also times when it's necessary to protect tender seedlings or ripening fruits and veggies from curious chickens. All of these things confirmed our decision to keep our chickens out of the yard and gardens for a bit. With our landscaping only being a few years old, a lot of our perennials are young and in need of protecting until their roots grow deep and their stems and branches strong. And with our relatively short vegetable garden season, it's important to keep the ladies out of there during pivotal points of the season, such as when tender seedlings are sprouting or when tomatoes are ripening. So, for this year, our chickens are getting to free-range for a just a few minutes at a time, and under very supervised conditions. So far, it seems to be working well and everyone seems to be happy! (The cat has also been enjoying his free-range moments!)
My hope is that in the years to come, free-range time will become easier and easier, especially in the middle of the summer when the plants are thriving and strong. Until then, our limited "free-ranging" is working just fine.