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If your garden fantasies involve chickens, Jessi Bloom, author of FREE-RANGE CHICKEN GARDENS: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard (Timber Press, paper, $19.95), is here to make those dreams come true. Chickens bring out interesting characters. My new heroine is Elizabeth Zumwalt, a chicken whisperer, educator and entrepreneur who blogs about her family’s Bantam hens, sells eggs and gives half the proceeds to charity. She pulls a red wagon, topped with a chicken house, when she heads out to educate people about her birds. Elizabeth is 9 years old.
By the time you’re done with Bloom’s clever book, you’ll know almost as much about chickens as Elizabeth does. And maybe more about what chickens like than what your children do. You’ll be looking for bug logs and creating dust baths. You’ll know that chickens like to have mirrors hanging in their gardens — but take care with the angle, since they have eyes on the sides of their heads. There is no end to the vanity of a chicken.
“Experienced free-ranging chickens” — now that’s a real sign of the times; do chickens no longer have a tribal memory of roaming? — will know not to eat toxic berries, but Bloom is an expert guide for the untutored. Somehow, I’m sure that chickens prefer heirloom vegetables to any other variety. And while your flock may break free to cross the road, you’ll be relieved to learn that (unless they have an unfortunate encounter with a car) they’ll probably be no worse for the wear. Chickens don’t sweat.
Bloom genially celebrates geodesic domes and shingled coops with stone chimneys and even clean-lined modernist coops. She also writes about “naughty” chickens: “Chickens are social and hormonal creatures, and when we have them living in ways that are different from how they would live naturally, they are prone to behaviors that can be damaging to themselves or that are simply normal but just catch us off guard.” You might have thought she was talking about teenagers, but I now see that they’re easier to raise than chickens. I’m thinking . . . roast chicken with that rosemary?
"Essential guide that will bring your dream home to roost."
"This well-thought-out and thoroughly comprehensive new book covers the topic so efficiently and completely that it is bound to become the gardener's go -to reference when chickens are the focus."
Kate Baldwin lives and gardens in Portland, Oregon. She has contributed to gardening books, newspapers, and magazines including Portland Monthly, where her column, Dig, and gardening blog, Plantwise, appear.
Jessi Bloom is an award-winning ecological landscape designer, professional horticulturalist, and certified arborist. She is lead designer and owner of N.W. Bloom—EcoLogical Landscapes, known for innovation in sustainable landscape design, construction, and maintenance. Jessi is committed to educating others and now spends much of her time teaching, consulting, and speaking nationwide in addition to designing landscapes. Her best-selling book Free-Range Chicken Gardens has been praised for being informative and inspiring, changing the way people integrate animals into their landscapes. Recognition for her work includes awards from the Washington State Department of Ecology, the American Horticultural Society, Pacific Horticulture magazine, Sunset magazine, the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association, and the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals. She lives north of Seattle with her sons on her permaculture homestead.
I recommend this book to anybody who is new to having back yard chickens. I've had a tiny flock of three that I call my girls and I was always worried about doing it right and... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Benoit Dufour