Thursday, April 7, 2011

I love/hate chickens.

I love chickens – when they are closed up in a pen. When they wander freely, I hate the little, feathery clucks! Chickens and gardens absolutely do not mix. We have 13 acres crawling with bugs hidden beneath leaf clutter and brush. But where do the chickens yearn to be? In my flowerbeds.

To the left, note craters left by dust-bathing chickens. The scattered rocks used to be
under the drip line. Bottom right is supposed to be a little morning glory bed. 
Open areas covered with nice, loose mulch to be scratched are irresistible to chickens. Flowerbeds also make lovely locations for dust baths, in which a chicken squats and flings dirt onto her feathers by scratching and flapping. It’s actually fun to watch a chicken bathing this way, but not so much when she is doing it in a flowerbed.

The chickens are really my husband’s and daughter’s pets, but I am wholly in favor of having them. We all like the idea of free-range chickens chasing down bugs and greenery. Their pen, dubbed “Gitmo,” was built with incarceration/protection in mind after dog depredations. However, 10 to 12 chickens make short work of any living organism in an enclosed space. Not a blade of grass survives in their pen, and any self-respecting bug long ago emigrated. We felt sorry our little darlins’, confined all day to such a barren place, so my husband began letting them out to roam.

I have fumed over the free-range chicken problem for months. I debated giving up on gardening (awww), weed-whacking everything (drastic), opening up my husband’s vegetable garden gate (entirely too mean). My sweet husband has tried to help, by putting poultry wire over a few beds. For birdbrain critters, chickens are remarkably adept at getting around such obstacles.

The iris bed seems to have exploded onto the sidewalk, 
courtesy of you-know-who.
One day last week I planted three purple oxalis in a bare area under the crape myrtle, and watered well. The next day the chickens came rampaging through, scratching up one plant entirely, covering another, and destroying the Moses’ boat that was just coming up. That was the final straw. 

Over breakfast the next day, I asked that the chickens be kept penned, except for a few hours in the evening. Gardening is my thing, I said, but every time I went outside to do my thing I became angry, and that’s not really how one’s thing should make one feel. We agreed to build a prison yard for the chickens so that they would have more room to roam.  Two postholes have been dug so far (no mean feat in limestone country).

Dan and I try very hard to accommodate each other’s interests, hence my long fume over asking him to contain the chickens. Figuring out how to live together peacefully while pursuing our own (sometimes conflicting) activities can be challenging. But we’ve been working at this co-existence for 25 years (as of March 22). No flock of featherheads will get the better of us!

Time to garden!
Favorite spot in the garden:

After the deep freeze of 2011, I expressed concern for the fate of my Anacacho orchid tree (Bauhinia lunarioides). I am pleased to report that it survived and is now blooming madly! Some dear gardening friends gave me this tree as a housewarming present. Dan hacked a hole in the limestone and we plopped it in five years ago. Astonishingly, it has survived and flourished. I have seedlings popping up here and there, and had considered transplanting some. Yesterday I resolved that instead of transplanting (not my best skill), we will harvest the seeds and go fling them out in the woods.  This plant is native to canyons in western central Texas, and is 6 to 12 feet tall (ours is nearing 12!).


  1. Would you fling a few seeds my way, por favor? Love, Louie

  2. Here dust bath holes are made by wild turkeys. Thank goodness it is somewhat rare because they make a bigger mess. My husband has often thought about having a chicken tractor. This is a portable pen that can be moved from place to place so the chickens clear an area of bugs and weeds, fertilize it , and make it ready to develop new garden. So far I'm not convinced.

  3. @ Becky - one of my neighbors has that. We occasionally hear turkeys, but none have taken a dust bath in my garden, yet!

  4. You have a gift for writing and your wit is drier then this Texas spring! Now I understand why my spouse put the kabash on my dream of raising chickens on the homefront.

    Libertate Gitmo, eat more chikin :>

  5. @ Anon - thanks so much for your kind words. You have a wise spouse. Eat more chikin!!