We’ve finally built a compost bin, and while it’s not totally complete just yet, we’re using it. Finally, there’s a place for filthy chicken bedding, yard waste and kitchen scraps other than directly in the garden.
Every afternoon, I take out the day’s kitchen scraps, food the kids didn’t finish or threw on the floor: apple peels, oatmeal, tea bags, coffee grounds, you name it. Anything and everything, except meat and dairy.
The whole flock goes bonkers for compost time. All day long, and especially at treat time, they dig and dive and vie for the best goods, apple peels especially, and who knows what else lurking underneath.
Not a day has passed that I’ve had to turn the compost myself, in the bin or in the garden. They’re doing all the work, happily, eagerly, almost rabidly.
Chickens are more than egg machines. We’ve been cultured to believe that thousands of birds in cages stacked to the rafters in warehouses is normal, and that conveyor belts carrying eggs from oviduct to processing in a facility that lets in not a ray of sunshine is somehow humane. Chickens are animals with physical needs, desires to forage, and they are unstoppable workers. I’d go so far as to argue that chickens have more purpose than any other animal kept as a pet, although I do have a chicken bias.
If you haven’t already read it, the book City Chicks by Patricia Foreman is an outstanding resource for taking your flock beyond breakfast and putting it to work on the yard and garden. Foreman is making an encore appearance in Louisville, Ky., soon for a backyard chicken class, providing chickeneers and wannabes face-time instruction on how to get started, keep it going, and make the girls earn their keep around an urban or suburban lot. If you’re in or near the Louisville area, contact Fresh Start Growers Supply for more information about Foreman’s backyard chicken class.
As we’re just getting started with composting and using our chickens, I’d love to know how your flock is working for you. Our girls spend a big part of their day in the compost bin, so there must be magic happening. Have you had to aid the process? Do you find your chickens eating too many of your food scraps? Does it impede the decomposition of other materials? What do you love and hate about using chickens in the yard?
I’m looking forward to your thoughts, readers!
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Photos: Rachel Hurd Anger