Chickens are amazing recyclers of organic material, gobbling up food scraps as well as waste from the vegie patch and fruit trees – quickly turning it all into a valuable source of manure and nutrition for your soil. They make a meal of unwanted weeds too, whether you let them free range in your garden beds or pull up a few weeds as part of a daily offering of fresh garden greens for your girls. You can even put them to work clearing a patch of grass or scratching up a spent vegie bed ready for planting. They rarely object to cleaning up unwanted plants and insect pests, and will also fertilise the ground at no extra charge! Chooks make wonderful family pets too, and they’re great for teaching kids about care and responsibility, and the natural cycles of life.
There’s a bit to know about keeping backyard chickens, and in the February issue, we launch a two-part chook series that continues into March. This month, it’s all about getting started, with expert advice on setting up a space that’s secure, sheltered and safe from predators, along with choosing suitable breeds for your needs, based on their egg production, temperament and, of course, their good looks. Also, Gardening Australia presenter, Sophie Thomson, shares some delightful stories about her life with her ever-increasing flock of 30 chooks, seven ducks and 14 geese.