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Book Review: Free Range Chicken Gardens

I love the idea behind this book.

While most chicken keepers also keep a garden, the two often seem at odds with each other, and most either end up fencing the garden or fencing the chickens, or both.  Honestly, even I fenced my garden this year, mostly because of the tender times- when seeds have been sowed, or when tender new seedlings are growing.

But I love the idea that chickens can actually work with your garden, especially in the context of this book- the entire yard is your garden.  Yes, you might want to temporarily shelter certain plants or beds during certain parts of the season, but it doesn't need to be permanent.

While I thought this was a lovely book with beautiful pictures and stories and a decent series of ideas for developing or expanding a "chicken garden," I wouldn't recommend it to those who are already advanced in their chicken keeping- if you're into permaculture or you are already comfortable allowing your chickens to free range through most/all of your gardens, at least part of the time, then you already get what's going on in this book, and besides a few less than comprehensive lists of useful plants, you're not going to to get much out of this book.

However, if you're new to chickens and would like to start out with a more comprehensive than normal approach (beyond the typical run and coop or basic tractor), this is a great resource.  It includes a wealth of coop and garden layout ideas, as well as a variety of outdoor accommodations, from rotational paddocks to true free range, and explains in depth the importance of a varied habitat for your birds, with overstory and shrubs for shelter and a variety of food producing plants for a varied diet.  In fact, this could be THE book you buy on keeping chickens since most of the very basic information (like info on brooding and feeding) is easily found for free around the internet.

In addition, if you've had chickens for a while but have limited yourself to the old coop and run system, but are looking to change, this book may inspire you to do so while giving some great guidance.  One of the biggest reasons people don't free range their birds is fear of predators- they don't realize that there are a number of ways to help protect birds from predators while free ranging.  In fact, (knocking on wood right now, so I'm not jinxed) my one and only predator loss since getting chickens over a year ago was a loss to a hawk... who snatched a juvenille hen right out of my run (which I have since covered, as well as providing the birds with cover to hide under in the run).  But since starting to free range last fall I haven't had a single loss- because the birds spend most of their time scratching around in or near cover, and the second one sounds a warning its like a magic trick- suddenly all 55 chickens seem to disappear.

In summary, if you're new to chickens or looking to change to a more holistic, natural approach to keeping them, definitely check out this book.  If you're an old pro and already comfortable with your chickens in and around your garden, then peruse it well before buying.

This post has been shared at Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.

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