Do you watch BBC Gardener’s World? There was a segment in an episode late 2017 about scientific studies proving that growing plants close to buildings helps insulate a building, there is the micro climate they create plus so many other benefits.
I think we may have all realised that to some extent but a scientific study proving it is another tick for the Save the Environment: Plant More Trees, Shrubs, Climbers, Annuals & Perennials Team. I can’t help but think that a hen house or chook pen or aviary or what ever else you choose to call it is such a great opportunity to also do this.
The Hen House yard is such an under utilised area, by adding plants & trees the hens instantly have places to shelter, rest in the shade on a hot day and have an interesting environment to spend their time in. Much nicer than an empty yard where the ground can become compacted often becoming a mud pit in colder wetter months & too hot to be in during the summer months.
The Hen House yard also becomes a garden that attracts wildlife, beneficial insects & bees.
Springtime in the Hen House yard.
Most of the plants in this garden in our Henhouse yard are from cuttings, plants grown from seed and plants shifted here because they didn’t grow well somewhere else or needed to be fenced off from rabbits or wallabies. We bought the fruit trees and climbing roses.
Little Dutchie is the only Dutch Bantam in this yard, about the same size as a pigeon he doesn’t do any damage.
One of the ways we guard the plants from being damaged by hens scratching is we mulch heavily, the mulch comes from the hay used in the nesting boxes, then goes to the chook pen floor, then to the garden, by then seeds from the hay or seed scattered from the feed bowl are eaten, even if they do germinate the hens love the fresh shoots.
There are some other ways we use to stop hens scratching up a plant or damaging roots:
* Making a teepee from fruit tree cuttings to guard small establishing trees, plants & dahlia tubers.
*Placing 3 or 4 logs from the wood pile around the base of the plant, cut side down to stop the hens getting a splinter in their foot if they walk on the logs.
*A tree guard large enough to cover the plant or tree’s root system.
*Putting rocks or pine cones around the base of the plant.
*Three hay bales placed in a rectangle shape around the base of the tree, the hens love sunbathing on them and it’s an instant seat to plonk yourself on in between garden jobs for a chat with the chooks!
We keep our flock numbers low to prevent over crowding.
The little Silkies & Pekin’s have feathered feet, so don’t do as much damage as a larger hen.
This garden wouldn’t be half as successful if there were larger hens spending their time in the yard (eg. Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds, Legbars, Barnevelders) but they would go well in a small orchard or garden that doesn’t have ground covers or fragile plants. Just use secure tree guards large enough to cover the young tree’s root system and mulch well, at least 10cm thick.
When we do plant something we plant it deeper than usual, there was a segment on Gardening Australia that Angus Stewart did on this subject some years ago that proved planting deeper than usual the more resilient the plant was, so this evidence coupled with the fact that the surface roots
of a plant are harder to reach plus having a thick layer of mulch on top seems to do the trick!