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Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard Paperback – January 23, 2012
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If your garden fantasies involve chickens, Jessi Bloom, author of FREE-RANGE CHICKEN GARDENS: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard (Timber Press, paper, $19.95), is here to make those dreams come true. Chickens bring out interesting characters. My new heroine is Elizabeth Zumwalt, a chicken whisperer, educator and entrepreneur who blogs about her family’s Bantam hens, sells eggs and gives half the proceeds to charity. She pulls a red wagon, topped with a chicken house, when she heads out to educate people about her birds. Elizabeth is 9 years old.
By the time you’re done with Bloom’s clever book, you’ll know almost as much about chickens as Elizabeth does. And maybe more about what chickens like than what your children do. You’ll be looking for bug logs and creating dust baths. You’ll know that chickens like to have mirrors hanging in their gardens — but take care with the angle, since they have eyes on the sides of their heads. There is no end to the vanity of a chicken.
“Experienced free-ranging chickens” — now that’s a real sign of the times; do chickens no longer have a tribal memory of roaming? — will know not to eat toxic berries, but Bloom is an expert guide for the untutored. Somehow, I’m sure that chickens prefer heirloom vegetables to any other variety. And while your flock may break free to cross the road, you’ll be relieved to learn that (unless they have an unfortunate encounter with a car) they’ll probably be no worse for the wear. Chickens don’t sweat.
Bloom genially celebrates geodesic domes and shingled coops with stone chimneys and even clean-lined modernist coops. She also writes about “naughty” chickens: “Chickens are social and hormonal creatures, and when we have them living in ways that are different from how they would live naturally, they are prone to behaviors that can be damaging to themselves or that are simply normal but just catch us off guard.” You might have thought she was talking about teenagers, but I now see that they’re easier to raise than chickens. I’m thinking . . . roast chicken with that rosemary?
"Essential guide that will bring your dream home to roost."
"This well-thought-out and thoroughly comprehensive new book covers the topic so efficiently and completely that it is bound to become the gardener's go -to reference when chickens are the focus."
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More About the Author
Her best-selling book Free-Range Chicken Gardens has been praised for being informative and inspiring, changing the way people integrate animals into their landscapes. Her work has appeared nationally in Better Homes and Gardens, Sunset, NY Times, PBS's Growing a Greener World TV, Martha Stewart Living, Mother Earth News and many other large media outlets. Recognition for her work includes awards from the Washington State Department of Ecology, the American Horticultural Society, Pacific Horticulture magazine, Sunset magazine, the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association, and the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals. She lives north of Seattle with her two sons on her permaculture homestead.
You may also be interested in the author's own Web site, www.nwbloom.com.
Top Customer Reviews
It's also a bit tough to tell which of the plants the author says work well with chickens are ones she's actually tried. In several places, it sounds like she's just repeating conventional wisdom, and from my own chicken experiments, I've discovered that conventional wisdom is often wrong. I would have found it much more helpful if the author had made a point of distinguishing between facts she was reporting from personal experience and those she'd just read.
The useful side of the book is the way it considers the garden as an entire ecosystem. She does a good job of telling you which permaculture layers work well with chickens (the tall ones) and which don't (shallow-rooted shrubs, annuals, and herbaceous perennials in the spring). And, as I said before, the photos are beautiful if you want a coffee table book.
Is it Spring yet??? I can't wait to get out there!
I have always been an avid gardener, and the decision to keep a few hens in my yard was a natural extension of that. New to chicken-keeping, with a small flock of 5 laying hens (now 7 months old) in a small suburban, almost urban, backyard, I have quickly become quite passionate about my new hobby! Even though I probably can't let my girls free-range the yard completely, this book has given me many ideas for chicken-friendly plantings and ways to better incorporate my coop and run into my property.
The author lists plants, shrubs and groundcovers that can be grown for food/forage, as well as chicken-resistant plants that can add color to the garden, but are not likely to be eaten or trampled by your hens. This information alone is worth the price of the book. I've not seen a more comprehensive listing elsewhere, and the internet forums are filled with conflicting data/opinions as to which plants are edible or toxic.
I'll also be re-seeding my "lawn" areas with what the author calls eco-turf, an ecological seed mix containing clover, that will provide excellent forage for my girls.
The color photos throughout the book are so lovely that I know I'll be keeping this book close at hand for the remainder of the winter, as I plan and dream about creating my own, beautiful chicken garden this spring!
This is not about simply making a yard friendly for hens. This is about having a gorgeous yard, with plants hens don't eat (and many they can!) that give your yard beauty and them shelter, having a yard that is stunning with beautiful coops, having a yard that is charming rather than barren...
This is not one family's ideas of how to combine free-range chickens, natural fertilizer, organic pest control, soil aeration, fresh eggs if ya want those too, and thriving gardens...this is actually pages and pages of photos and ideas of many homes, yards, and gardens that are easy to recreate and are truly a uptopia for both owner and the winged who share it. (And by "free range" I do not mean no coop. That would be cruel and the hens would likely not live a week. Night predators such as raccoons etc are no match for a sleeping hen and hens know this so at dusk each night they put themselves to bed in your coop and wait for you to lock the door. And they hate rain. Whether part-time free-range and safely tucked away at night, or free-range inside a pretty run full-time, this still means daytime only of course)
It's not easy to have a yard you want to wander through in beauty and hens who love to nibble sharing it. My side yard proves it.Read more ›
Instead of focusing on the book's supposed subject--"How to Create a Beautiful Chicken-Friendly Yard"-- the author apparently decided she would rather superficially talk about many, MANY other topics. They include:
1. Coop design (lots of pretty pictures, only one "how to do this" plan with measurements)
2. Predator descriptions and deterrent methods (Mostly accurate info, but why is this discussed in a garden design book?)
3. How to pick chicken breeds (In every basic chicken keeping book in the world--why waste valuable space in this supposedly specialized book with a rehash of that same information??)
4. How to clip a chicken's wings, etc. (What does this have to do with garden design? The author may have her reasons, but doesn't explain them.)
5. A brief rundown of other poultry types, including turkeys, geese, and ducks. (Huh?? Why are ducks discussed in a book that is supposed to be about chickens??)
6. She wraps up the book by listing common chicken diseases and parasites. (?!?)
I have had my chickens for almost 2 years and own many basic chicken keeping books; I didn't need another one. What I DID need was tips on how to incorporate my chickens into a garden--what plants to avoid, what plants they'd love, what plants would benefit from the extra nitrogen from chicken poop. Unfortunately, there is very little information of this sort included in the book, and what little there is is VERY difficult to find, even if using the index.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My favorite chicken book, purchased before and got my chickens, was helpful - loved the photos and different types of settings. Great condition well packedPublished 2 months ago by Kimberly Gee
The advice is not very practical in most cases. I have chickens and I have a garden, and I bought the book hoping for some real-world solutions to managing to get a harvest... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mad Hen
A nice fantasy. I went out to Home Goods and bought a ceramic chicken for the kitchen, but I loved the book.Published 3 months ago by Howard K. Pfeferman
I absolutely love this book. I have looked through it so many times that I had to re-tape the binding! Highly recommended!!Published 4 months ago by Tiffany Ballou