Monday, April 6, 2009

Bucolic Bliss?

I've got a secret to share -- chickens and gardening aren't simpatico. Oh sure, everyone loves the dream of a perfect bucolic setting...a well kept veggie patch with happy hens pecking about, eating all those nasty cabbage worms and mosquitoes. How tranquil. Well, maybe.

Last summer I happily watched my young flock "free-range" about the yard chomping on the lawn and dashing in and out between the lettuces and peas. They seemed so happy and it made me feel so good to see them in the yard. Ahh, this is what it's all about - gardens, chickens, sunshine!

One day I noticed that my rainbow chard was under attack by some type of bug which happened to be taking pretty big bites from the leafy stems -- what could it be? Hmm, you guessed it (especially if you already have chickens). It was not an infestation of beetles, but the flock of voracious Velociraptor's that I was raising in my backyard. I finally caught them - all six, lined up along the row -- feasting. Hello! They are chickens - they love greens - and reds and yellows! They quickly determined what they did and didn't like; most things ended up in the "liked" column.

Thankfully this all came about at the end of the gardening season and things were winding down (as were all my hostas -- an especially tasty treat). During the winter, they came out on occasion and flapped about, but of course there was no plant life uncovered by snow. All was safe until just last week when spring finally arrived in northern Idaho.

Which brings me to my current dilemma: chicken in/garden in; chicken out/garden out. My options are simple -- fence off the garden, go chicken tractor, or leave them in the coop. All three are valid options. The fourth - forget the garden - is not.

The girls so love to "fly the coop" and march about the yard. When they see me coming they press against the wire like convicts waiting to be released from prison -- "oh freedom, an egg for sweet freedom!" I'm a cruel warden these days.

I know there is a happy middle here - I just need to decide which option works best. Until then, I'm keeping my tender hosta sprouts safe from the likes of my domestic Jurassic Park felons!

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Thanks for reading and sharing your comments! Candace

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