Keeping Poultry at Home in the Garden

Have you ever considered keeping chickens either for eggs or as pets? Possibly not, though there are many good reasons to do so as they make surprisingly good pets and ones that actually give a little back in the form of fresh eggs on your breakfast table.

Raising chickens can be reasonably in-expensive and very satisfying providing you follow a few basic guidelines. Have the kids been pestering you for a pet? Then chickens may well just be the answer. Most hobbyist chicken farmers will tell you that they love it and wouldn’t go back to not keeping chickens.

Here are my top 7 tips for getting the most out of your chickens and the best ways to ensure their long life and fruitful egg production. Depending on the amount of chickens you intend to keep really can make a difference to how you keep your chickens, this guide covers keeping 3 to 4 chickens in an average sized back garden keeping to a minimal budget:

1) The Chicken’s Home or Coop: If you are already considering keeping chickens then you probably already have an idea of what your chicken coop should look like, some people imagine a picturesque hen house complete with weather vain, chicken run and a loyal family pet dog standing guard over your new brood. This can be a reality for less cost than you might imagine.

Make sure your chicken coop is Sturdy and weather proof, chickens like nothing more than being kept warm and dry.

2) The Chicken Run: Any self respecting urban chicken farmer will have a chicken run, we have all seen the film so there are no excuses. Your chickens are lively creatures and enjoy a bit of space to roam around, scratch, peck and generally to be a chicken in. It is quite safe to let them roam around your garden, you will enjoy throwing some grain on the lawn and watching them potter about. Though, if you are a keen gardener, chickens really do love the taste of flower petals, I get the impression that the more colourful the tastier they seem to the chicken.

3) Your Chicken’s Welfare: To keep them warm and give them somewhere to sleep, place a good amount of straw or hay on the bottom of the coop, you can get this at any pet shop or superstore. They will make their own nests with it and it will keep them warm and dry. Make sure they have a constant supply of food and water, your eggs will dry up if they are not kept well fed. Chickens, like any animal, may (very rarely) get ill, do not let them suffer take them to a vet.

4) Food and Water: We use a large pet water drip feeder, the sort you might use for a rabbit or hamster. The chickens naturally peck on the shiny ball at the end and soon learn that they can get water from it.

5) Eggs: Your chickens lay eggs regularly, when they are laying well you can expect at least one egg per day from each laying chicken. Their welfare is of great importance to their laying, an un-happy chick will not lay eggs.

6) Do They Make Good Pets?: In a word, yes. Considering the size of their brain they seem remarkably intelligent and definitely have their own character. I used to work in the poultry industry and my opinion of these feather brained creatures has drastically changed from a dumb thoughtless animal to ones with their own personality and quirks.

7) Myths and Misconceptions: Your family pet you call a chicken is not actually a chicken, it is a hen. More commonly a brown hen, a chicken is what you see in the supermarket and roast on a Sunday. One of your chickens (I will continue to call them chickens as i prefer it) would not taste very nice roasted, besides the amount of edible meat on one would not make it very worthwhile unless you were particularly desperate.

If you do get tempted to eat your family pets then you would need to boil it after plucking, gutting and washing it. Do not be too surprised to receive little thanks from the family after serving up their beloved Beatrice on a platter for Sunday lunch though.

All in all I find chickens make a great addition to the family and are a great pet, they provide a means to show your children the need to look after them and teach them a bit of responsibility whilst having an amusing pet and one that rewards you for your care. I would highly recommend having chickens as pets. Keep them warm, dry, fed and happy and they will give you endless entertainment and a nutritious and healthy source of breakfast.

Art in the Garden

What does your garden say about you? Is it whimsical and carefree or prim and proper? One easy way to give your garden a bit of personality is to dress it up with garden art and structures.
The first thing most of us think of when we hear garden or yard art is plastic pink flamingos and brightly painted ceramic gnomes. But garden art can be much more than just kitsch.

Garden décor should reflect the style and personality of the garden, the gardener, and the surrounding architecture (i.e. your home). If you live in a Tudor and tend a traditional English garden then accessorize with classic garden structures like arbors and outdoor furniture with a more formal feel. If you live in a country cottage with a bright and rambling wild flower garden, get a little funkier with your décor by accessorizing with ornaments made from recycled materials and colorful statuary. No matter where you live or what your style may be, there a few basics that we all should think about when decorating our gardens.

Scale is important. Small decorations get lost in big landscapes and when placed en masse create a cluttered effect. Larger embellishments such as garden structures like gates and obelisks tend to stand out in big gardens. Vice versa, smaller gardens can be overwhelmed by large pieces and often just need one or two well placed objects to liven them up.

Garden art and accessories are meant to accent or draw attention to a specific area. They lead the eye from point to point and provide a visual bridge through every season, so put the same amount of effort into planning your garden décor as you do into planning your garden.

What you choose to dress up your garden with doesn’t just have to reflect your style, it can reflect your interests too. If you’re an avid birder, accent your garden with bird feeders, bird houses, and bird baths to keep your feathered friends happy. If you love to entertain, create an outdoor dining area with attractive and weather resistant furniture.

No matter what your “garden style”, keep in mind that gardening isn’t just a way to turn plain into pretty. It feeds the soul, nourishes our love for beauty and our urge to create. Our gardens are our own pieces of paradise, our own works of art that are reflections of ourselves.

Garden Art at The Grower’s Exchange: Our garden decor items are carefully crafted by artists who take immense pride in the items that they produce and who make a living wage. Taking pride in their art means our artists stand behind their work and want you to receive the utmost joy from their creations.

Using quality materials, our artisans create garden art that is solidly constructed and meant to give years of service in your garden, yard or home.

Garden Tips in the Garden

Hi everyone

What a week I have had this week with all the rain, that even the gardens are sighing and saying enough is enough, we want the sun.

Anyway, where should I start I wonder? At the beginning would be good I hear you say. Well, you know how one small thing can start a chain reaction, that is exactly what happened on Monday morning.

I went to one of the amenity sites, where we are contracted to keep the grass and hedgerows cut back for visibility for people going in and out of the site.

I started cutting the grass as usual with a John Deere F1145 four wheel drive ride on machine, running alongside a ditch when suddenly I felt the ground move and the front of the mower started to sink.

No problem I thought, just stick it in reverse and out it should come, theoretically. Boy was I wrong! When I tried to reverse the back wheels started to sink and slide into the ditch. OK I thought, still no problem, go on site and get the big 20-ton loading shovel to pull me out. I was thinking this is a good start I think I would rather be back home in the garden

The loading shovel came round, we hooked the chain on the mower and started to pull me out, out it came without any problems, great I thought until I looked at the loading shovel, it had started to sink and lean over sideways.

The driver said not to worry as he would get the 360 degrees 20 ton excavator hooked onto the loading shovel and pull it out. Thank heavens I thought, but to my horror the loading shovel slid down deeper and leaning over more, to such a point that it was in danger of completely turning over, I just looked away in disbelief and shook my head.

After several minutes of deliberation it was decided the only form of action was to call in a crane to lift it out. Some hours later this massive 100- ton road crane turned up. Guess what? No it did not get stuck, turn over or anything else like that, but the major road the site is one had to be closed for an hour while the recovery took place. This was because the only safe way to pick the loading shovel up was by the crane standing full width of the road. The good news is the loading shovel came out with only some minor scratches, the road was reopened and everything was hunky dory again, apart from me now waiting for a very large bill to turn up. That is certainly what I call a chain reaction and that Monday morning feeling – blasted rain! I hope your Monday was not quite so eventful.

Have you been able to get in your garden this week in between the deluges?

A good garden tip is to check your plant containers to make sure they are getting enough water, I know this sounds really silly with all the rain we have been having, but often containers are close to the house and especially hanging baskets, and are sheltered by the walls and eaves.

Also the denseness of the leaves can deflect the rain water from the potting medium, allowing it to dry out which can be detrimental to the flowering ability of your plants. Hanging baskets can be soaked in a container, or in your garden barrow for half an hour or so till they have absorbed enough water.

Another handy tip is to carry a pair of scissors with you, whether you are popping to the washing line or just admiring the garden. My wife always has a pair to hand to snip off dead heads and yellowing leaves, especially in the green house.

Scissors are often easier to use than secateurs unless it is woody, and great on small-headed annual plants in containers, and is quicker than nipping out.

Do not forget to nip out those side shoots on your tomato plants. Keep an eye on all you greenhouse plants for insect infestations and have your soapy water spray ready to go.

The cucumber plants are growing quickly at the moment and need regular tying up to a sturdy support, we have been doing this every couple of days.

The squashes likewise are putting on a good growth spurt but allow these to trail around your greenhouse, as the squashes are very heavy and if staked upright are likely to snap the plant. Another good garden tip is to turn flowerpots upside down and slightly support the main stem so that the young squashes start growing off the ground until they are half the size of harvesting.

Have a good look at the roses, as this cool damp weather creates the ideal climate for mildew, rust and black spot on the foliage. The new growth is most susceptible to mildew whereas the older leaves are where black spot and rust could be a problem. Trim away affected shoots and leaves for burning, and collect any leaves that have fallen due to the heavy rainfall recently.

Your lawns should be in tiptop condition at the moment thanks to the rain, just keep them tidy by trimming regularly and strimming the edges.

I hope you found a dry spell to be able to treat those clover areas and if you did it should be taking effect now. Like always in the gardens if you find something is wrong or needs attention strike while the irons hot it is always easier and quicker.