Our chickens have a coop with a save outdoor winter cage, and in the other seasons they can forage in their chicken garden. They eat it empty in fall. The garden gets a rest in winter, when the chicken go into their small caged outdoor area.
The chicken garden in 2014
The chicken garden is a 6x9 almost oval, fenced area. The fence (1m60 high) is closed; the chickens cannot get out and walking predators like foxes cannot get in. (But flying predators can!)
Also little birds like sparrows, titmice and blackbirds like to attend the garden.
The area is sloping to the south-east. Over a length of 10 metres the slope is 1,5 metre.
The stable is situated on the north side. On the east side is the vegetable garden, on the south side is grass with a few fruit and nut trees and on the west side we have space to park cars.
Map of the chicken's garden
The garden is situated on the top of a hill in inland Croatia. Land climate. In summer it can get up to 43º Celcius and in cold winter nights it can be -20º Celcius.
The garden gets a lot of sun all year round. Only under this walnut tree and at the foot of the fence there is some shade.
The garden is quite secluded; there is not very much wind. Only in summer, the southern winds can blow into the garden. The chickens never seemed to mind the wind.
With heavy rain, the water flows south, downhill, and under the stable roof you can see a water run off erosion gulley.
With drought the upper (west) part of the garden is the most dry.
There are no frost pockets and cold air can't be trapped because the fence is an open structure.
On the north-east side there is the wooden stable. It is a 5 metre long, 4 metres high open wood structure with a 45º angle tiled roof. There is no rain gutter; rain from the roof falls directly into the garden. The roof overhang and drip line is 50 cm around the stable.
2 Wooden walls of the stable stand in the chicken garden.
Attached to the stable (and the chicken coop) there is a little fenced cage where the chickens can forage safely in winter. This cage is 2 metres wide and 3 long. It takes only a little of the chickens garden space because the chickens can walk up the roof. It starts at 30cm hight and ends under the stables roof (2 metres high).
The fence is made of sticks and metal wire. Sticks are easy to replace when you loosen the wire.
There are 25 segments, connected with bigger poles. Each segment is approximately a meter wide.
The stable has an entrance door to the garden and on the east corner the fence has another entrance.
The plant diversity is poor. There is blackberry growing all over the garden and there is only one clump of thoug grass left, and a rosemary shrub.
The garden has 1 fast growing walnut tree, 4 metres tall and about 3 metres wide. I guess now, in 2015, it is 5 years old.
Near to this walnut tree, next to the cage, there is a young plum tree growing. It is not planted; it's growing from the roots of a big tree that is cut down. It looks healthy.
In the middle of the south part of the garden grows a small, almost dead plum tree that doesn't have much leaves. The branches are growing almost vertical, close to the tree, because of strangling bramble and other climbers. There is also a fungi growing on the trunk.
There used to grow grass in the chicken garden but the chickens ate it all. There is only one type of grass left at the moment.
In the chicken garden there is an old wooden box (30cm wide, 60cm long, 20cm high on inside).
There are 4 or 5 logs of rotting wood lying around. The chickens love to catch the bugs in it.
Now there is a plastic box on the drip line, to catch some water that runs off the roof. The water is used as drinking water for the chickens and rabbits, or as cleaning water if it's unsuitable to drink. When the chickens forage in their garden, they use this box for drinking.
The rabbits in the stable live on straw. That straw and their droppings don't need to ferment before using in the garden so the straw can immediately be applied as (rich) mulch when I clean the rabbit housing.
This zoning map is made out of human's point of view. The chickens use all zones almost evenly.
Zone 0: stable.
Zone 1: closest to the entrance from the stable. Used especially when it rains.
Zone 2: the path between the stable and the garden door.
Zone 3: this is where I plan to grow things for the chickens.
Zone 4: not there
Zone 5: you could say the roof of the cage is a zone 5.
Zones map of the chickens garden
At the moment the chicken garden is an ugly part of the terrain. The soil is bare where there are no brambles growing. There is a tipi made of sticks that is partly collapsed; some strangling vines are keeping it upright.
The chickens don't have much to do in this garden and there is no food growing for them. The only good thing is that when they brush the rosemary, it will help them stay clean from mites.
Right now the garden is too slippery in wet weather. No problem for the chickens, but it is for us. It is a mess with all the blackberry and the trees are not in their best shape. The bare soil looks poor and there are holes where I dug up the blackberry roots.
Bogata Suma's vision is to create beauty through love, dedication and celebration. At the moment there is hardly any beauty in the chickens garden and that shows that there was no dedication.
At Bogata Suma we also aim on self sufficiency. We live more and more food self sufficient, but about 90% of the food for the chickens we still buy.
If we can grow (a part of) the chickens food (corn, grains) in their own garden, that would be great.
The chicken garden should be a nice and natural area where the chickens can happily forage. The garden should also be good for their health. Herbs against mites and lice and vegetables for extra vitamins.
The chickens garden should be a safe place, where they have shelter from flying predators. Maybe their safety is allready guaranteed when there are shrubs and no landing/take off strip for birds.
We wish for an easy way to get rid of the rabbits straw & droppings, and for the chicken poo that needs to ferment for at least a year before we can use it. Also kitchen waste could go here because we walk between the kitchen and the stable 3 times a day anyway. Two compost boxes, easy to reach, also when it rains, would be great.
Compost is also nice for chickens to find some extra food and scratch around. So they should be able to access the kitchen compost. But not their straw-sawdust-chicken shit compost!
If there is a water storage in the chicken garden, it should be accessible for humans without getting (too) wet when it rains, and the path shouldn't be slippery.
When we're working in the chicken garden, the chickens cannot go there. They would be in the way and it would be dangerous for them. They will probably also make work undone by curiously scratching and picking around.
- Beautiful garden
- horizontal & safe paths, not slippery
- garden adds to the chicken's health (food & herbs)
- place to grow their food (corn & grains)
- safe from predators
- compost boxes with access for chickens
- solution for rabbits straw
- ready before end of April
We don't want to spend money on the chickens garden and we think we have enough materials. We have forests with wood, leaf compost and soil, we have pallets, screws and nails for compost boxes and we have many seeds and herbs in our nursery. We can also take root cuttings from plants to multiply them.
For the work we can get the help of WWOOF volunteers or we can organize a weekend workshop where people can learn about designing and implementing a permaculture design.
If we can organize a workshop where people pay, we use that money for the project.
The focus of the design is to make the chicken garden a beautiful, low maintenance source of health for the chickens.
Beauty: if the terrain is well looked after, carefully built up with nice looking herbs like lavender, rosemary, lemon balm, marjoram and easy flowers like marigold and sunflowers, it will easily look good.
Low maintenance: when the soil is well looked after and the slope is stabilized by making terraces, the nutrients will stay in place.
We can add nutrients by applying the rabbit straw & manure as mulch. But take note: chickens love to scratch the mulch around and it will definitely not stay neatly in the beds or around the plants. Dividing the garden beds from the paths is not an option because only a divider of half a metre high will keep the mulch off the paths. Therefore it's much easier to keep it all the same. Paths and beds will be mulched with rabbit straw. And since it is most likely that the straw will be scratched down hill, there should be a good wheelbarrow path to the upper side to start the mulching there.
Health for the chickens: good food and good herbs.
The herbs should be placed so that the chickens brush against them
DOCUMENT UNDER CONSTRUCTION!