Monday, May 19, 2014

Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom: A review

Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly YardFree-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Throughout several years of the 1990s and early 2000s, we kept a flock of chickens in our suburban backyard. They were never completely free-range, although we did let them out of their pen almost every day and they lived for those hours!

Chickens are actually quite interesting creatures, unlike the stereotypes of them. They have personalities and curiosity and they can be companionable and affectionate if allowed to be. I had grown up on a farm and taking care of the chickens was my job when I was little. I learned to enjoy them early in life and I was delighted to have them back in my life during those years.

We finally gave up on keeping chickens because of the predator problem in our neighborhood. It was a constant and often losing battle to keep our charges safe. So, the first thing that anyone considering the option of keeping chickens needs to know is this: YOU MUST HAVE A PREDATOR-PROOF COOP AND/OR PEN TO KEEP THE BIRDS SAFE AT NIGHT! Otherwise your chicken project will end in heartache, because everybody likes chicken and the world is not a safe place for an unprotected hen.

This book covers all the basics of keeping chickens safe and happy. The author writes of the space requirements for chickens, the necessities for a coop that will be chicken-friendly, and some designs for those coops. But most of the book is taken up with gardening with and for chickens.

Chickens, of course, love green stuff and they can be quite destructive in the garden if not handled properly, but it is actually possible to allow chickens at least limited "free" range and still maintain a beautiful garden. Jessi Bloom tells her readers how it is done. The reward is wonderful fresh eggs, as well as the companionship of interesting pets.

Bloom gives a list of plants that work best in a chicken-friendly garden and some that should be avoided. She is a garden designer and she offers her readers some simple garden plans that have been proven to work with chickens, along with step-by-step instructions for getting the chicken garden up and running.

Keeping backyard chickens in suburban and even urban settings has become a trend and often a cause-celebre in recent years. Around the country, neighbors are frequently banding together to legalize the keeping of poultry in situations where it is presently illegal, and, with the "slow food" movement and self-sufficiency becoming a more and more popular ideal, people see that chickens can be an essential part of that movement.

Those who are eager to become a part of the movement will find an essential guide in this well-organized handbook. It is an easy and quick read and the novice keeper of chickens can certainly refer to it often for information on how to provide the necessities for his/her birds. Best of all, it tells the chicken gardener how to make those birds extremely happy by allowing them free range and still be able to have a garden that one can be proud to show off to visitors. It is a very useful addition to the gardener's bookshelf. I only wish I had had it back in the 1990s.

(A free copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in return for an honest review. No other compensation was provided. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.)



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