Urban Farm Challenge: Growing Food for Your Chickens

We are excited to be participating in the Sustainable Eats Urban Farm Handbook Challenge this month! Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols have written a fantastic  new book Urban Farm Handbook: City Slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading, and Preparing What You Eat, which my new favorite Urban Farming resource.  I have been recommending it to clients and to friends since I first got my hands on a copy!UFHChallenge

Not everyone can garden *with* their chickens (for pest control, aeration etc), but gardeners with chickens can certainly grow food for their flock.  And in most cases, growing food for chickens means we are growing food for ourselves.  Afterall, what we feed the chickens is ultimately what we eat via their eggs and meat.

So, my Urban Farm challenge is to take a good look at 3 elements of your chicken system and ask yourself some questions:

1) What do you currently feed your chickens? Is your feed a pelletized product trucked from across the country? Is it a local, organic grain mix? What would you do if you were  in a bind if you had no feed?  How much are you supplementing their diet?  How sustainable is your current chicken food system?

2) What is already growing in your garden that you can feed your flock? What can you add to your garden specifically for the chooks?

  • Fruit from trees and cane berries
  • Greens – be it “weeds” or from a special chicken forage seed mix
  • Vegetables you’ve grown or after the leftover kitchen scraps  (go easy on any processed food snacks – we don’t want diabetic chickens!)
  • Seeds from plants you’ve grown
  • A fodder system – a simple way to grow sprouts for the birds in several trays that can be rotated
  • Worms – from your vermicompost systems (red or meal worms)
  • What else are you growing for your hens?

3) Is your garden set up so that plants are accessible for your chickens when you want them to be accessible, and protected otherwise?  How can you make your system easier for yourself to maintain and easier for the chickens to access? Below is a sample drawing from my book of a paddock system. You can fence different areas of your garden for the chickens to be rotated through, this allows the plants to be grazed at specific times of the year and then when the chickens are rotated to another area, the other zones have a chance to recover and grow back.

A sample drawing from my book: Free Range Chicken Gardens

Be sure to comment below about your chicken forage plans and let us know what kind for things you are growing specifically for your flock!  If you have a blog post about what you’ve done be sure to share a link.  And don’t forget to head back over to Sustainable Eats to comment as there will be a lot of great prize to win, including a copy of my book!


Virtual Book Par-tay!

It has been a little over 2 months and I am thrilled to say that my little baby book Free Range Chicken Gardens is growing up and is in its FOURTH printing already!  Holy hen manure! I still haven’t wrapped my head around it. I am just elated that so many gardeners are enjoying the book and learning how to provide habitat that can benefit us and our flock and how to utilize chickens for their natural behaviors.

Since I never had a proper book release party (I was recovering from surgery at the time of release) and spring has hit in full force for me already, I didn’t want to miss out on celebrating the book’s success in a way that everyone can join in!  So, it is wonderful that my publisher Timber Press is offering a special giveaway for two great books: Free Range Chicken Gardens  AND The Fresh Egg Cookbook with many of my favorite bloggers who are all fabulous gardening/chicken keeping/foodie rock stars and if you are not already following them, you should be! Be sure to check out their websites below to have multiple chances to win! I am also including the opportunity to win a subscription to Chicken magazine from my blog along with the books- the party contest will end on April 12th!

Annette at SUSTAINABLE EATS     


To win here you have a few options and multiple ways to be entered – I will pick three random winners on April 12th!

  1. Comment here and mention which prize you’d like to win and why.
  2. “LIKE” the book’s Facebook page Chicken Garden and comment there about which prize you’d like to win
  3. If you already “LIKE” the page, post a photo of your hens enjoying your garden *or*
  4. “SHARE” this blog post on Facebook or Twitter, but be sure you comment here that you did so I can track it! or cc @jessibloom

My favorite photo in 'Free Range Chicken Gardens' by Kate Baldwin

UPDATED: A big huge thank you to everyone who entered this contest and made the virtual book release party a success!! And congratulations to our winners Lorna, Meghan and Regan!  I hope you enjoy the good chicken reads.