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Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard [Paperback]

Jessi Bloom , Kate Baldwin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 23 2012

Many gardeners fear chickens will peck away at their landscape, and chicken lovers often shy away from gardening for the same reason. But you can keep chickens and have a beautiful garden, too! Fresh eggs aren't the only benefit — chickens can actually help your garden grow and thrive, even as your garden does the same for your chickens.

In this essential handbook, award-winning garden designer Jessi Bloom covers everything a gardener needs to know, including chicken-keeping basics, simple garden plans to get you started, tips on attractive fencing options, the best plants and plants to avoid, and step-by-step instructions for getting your chicken garden up and running.

For anyone who wants a fabulous garden where colorful chickens happily roam, Free-Range Chicken Gardens is the guide that will bring the dream home to roost.

Frequently Bought Together

Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard + The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers + The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live
Price For All Three: CDN$ 58.83

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"Essential guide that will bring your dream home to roost."

(Natural Home and Garden)

"Exquisitely produced and artfully photographed." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Bloom's obvious enthusiasm for creative design and for her birds will inspire both novice and experienced chicken owners to create a garden space that hens and humans can inhabit harmoniously. (American Gardener)

"... a manifesto on the many ways to pamper your hens - with plants for foraging and shelter, rain-fed water bowls and eco-friendly lawns." (Sunset Magazine)

"Bloom's obvious enthusiasm for creative design and for her birds will inspire both novice and experienced chicken owners to create a garden space that hens and humans can inhabit harmoniously." (American Gardener)

"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."

(The Republican Journal)

“Numerous illustrations, full-color photos, charts and tables, garden layouts, and useful tips … offer a wealth of practical advice.”

“A comprehensive guide from mating to medicine that will particularly help beginners…Bloom makes a persuasive case.”

“This is one of the coolest books I have had the privilege of reviewing.”

“A fun new book.”

“If you have a backyard flock or you’re thinking of getting one, I would highly recommend this book as part of your poultry library.”

“Everything you want to know about gardening with chickens…is here."

“Exquisitely produced and artfully photographed.”

“Bloom’s obvious enthusiasm for good design and for her birds will inspire both novice and experienced chicken owners to create a garden space for hens and humans to enjoy.”

“Jessi Bloom’s new book is as lush and inspiring as the chicken paradise featured on the front.”

"Jessi Bloom’s new book is as lush and inspiring as the chicken paradise featured on the front."

“Solves the dilemma of having free-range chickens and a vegetable garden.”

“Well-written and would be a true asset to every chicken owner. This book has now become one of my favorite chicken books.”

“I can honestly refer to it as the Chicken Bible for Gardeners. With everything from coop design, dietary needs, to chicken personality explained, this book seems to leave nothing out.”

“Dispenses good, commonsense advice.”

“Tackles the very fear that keeps so many from the enjoyment of raising their own backyard flock.”

“I love this book. It has the two things I look for in any garden book: tons of solidly researched, well-written, detailed information and lots of big inspirational color photos.”

“Complete with gorgeous photos, diagrams, plans, and a very well written and easy to understand approach, you will want to get your hands upon this book if you have ever dreamed of incorporating chickens into your lifestyle.”

“Jessi’s approach is unique in that she’s a landscape designer and a chicken owner.”

“I’ve had chickens for four years and I wish that I could have had Jessi Bloom’s new book in the beginning.”

“Provides a good overview on coop building styles and considerations, very basic chicken care info, do-grow/don’t-grow plant lists for the chicken garden and lots and lots of gorgeous inspirational pictures.”

“The only book I have seen that tells you exactly how you can have your chickens AND your garden too.”

“A great basic guide for first-time chicken owners and chicken owner wannabes.”

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?

"Exactly what we’ve been waiting for—the definitive guide to letting our chickens roam freely without incurring damage to our vegetable or flower gardens."

"Exactly what we’ve been waiting for—the definitive guide to letting our chickens roam freely without incurring damage to our vegetable or flower gardens."

About the Author

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 landscape designer, a certified professional horticulturist and arborist, as well as a long-time food gardener and animal enthusiast. She is the owner of the Pacific Northwest–based landscape design firm N.W. Bloom — EcoLogical Landscapes and has been praised as an innovator in sustainable landscape design. She lives in Mill Creek, Washington.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
T his book was terrific. A good buy. We have used it with our yard and the chickens love the plants that were added. When they can't get out of the yard, due to preditors, they have things to scratch in, plus the yard looks lovely. I have loaned this to friends who have gone on to buy their own copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a lovely looking book the pictures are beautiful. Having had chickens for the last 11 years and letting mine free range I decided to give this book a try to see what advice it would give. My hens are great but they do tend to go to areas of my garden I wish they would not (normally the newly laid mulch or prize flower beds) I have read mixed reviews on this book but I still went ahead and purchased. Yes if you have had years of experience with chickens some of the literature given you will of read before, but you will get this with most books. I could relate to the author who has used her expertise and improvements to write this book and I found some information in here that is not in other books. I enjoyed this book and if you are looking at free ranging your hens and other poultry/ducks this is a good book to start with it incorporates gardening and poultry two great things to do (in my world anyway!)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nature's landscapers March 19 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 about what's good for them and what's not. Turns out I was doing pretty good and this book confirmed what I was doing is correct and game me ideas to let me girls be even happier by giving them some landscaping jobs.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good resource book - Dec 27 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent easy to read information and Jessi has thought of all the details and potential challenges. Goof information and a very easy read! I wanted to run out and get my chickens as soon as I read it - it inspired me!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  155 reviews
156 of 162 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty pictures, but not for homesteaders April 22 2012
By Orion - Published on
Free-Range Chicken Gardens has stunning illustrations that are worth the price of the book, but the text is nearly useless for homesteaders. The author's focus is on mixing chickens with ornamental gardens, and her brief forays into discussing chickens and vegetables leave a lot to be desired. Mostly, she just tells you to fence your flock out of the vegetable garden when there are seedlings or ripening fruit present (which is most of the time if you have an intensive garden of edibles.) She mentions not giving tomatoes and other edibles as treats to your flock if you don't want the chickens to learn to eat these goodies off the vine --- I can tell you from experience that chickens never given tomatoes as treats *still* find the garden tomatoes in short order if let out of their pastures.

It's also a bit tough to tell which of the plants the author says work well with chickens are ones she's actually tried. In several places, it sounds like she's just repeating conventional wisdom, and from my own chicken experiments, I've discovered that conventional wisdom is often wrong. I would have found it much more helpful if the author had made a point of distinguishing between facts she was reporting from personal experience and those she'd just read.

The useful side of the book is the way it considers the garden as an entire ecosystem. She does a good job of telling you which permaculture layers work well with chickens (the tall ones) and which don't (shallow-rooted shrubs, annuals, and herbaceous perennials in the spring). And, as I said before, the photos are beautiful if you want a coffee table book.
116 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Chicken-Loving Gardeners and Garden-Loving Chickens! Jan. 31 2012
By JMS66 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book combines two of my favorite things: Chickens and Gardening...with numerous photos to drool over! And excellent information and tips!
Is it Spring yet??? I can't wait to get out there!
I have always been an avid gardener, and the decision to keep a few hens in my yard was a natural extension of that. New to chicken-keeping, with a small flock of 5 laying hens (now 7 months old) in a small suburban, almost urban, backyard, I have quickly become quite passionate about my new hobby! Even though I probably can't let my girls free-range the yard completely, this book has given me many ideas for chicken-friendly plantings and ways to better incorporate my coop and run into my property.
The author lists plants, shrubs and groundcovers that can be grown for food/forage, as well as chicken-resistant plants that can add color to the garden, but are not likely to be eaten or trampled by your hens. This information alone is worth the price of the book. I've not seen a more comprehensive listing elsewhere, and the internet forums are filled with conflicting data/opinions as to which plants are edible or toxic.
I'll also be re-seeding my "lawn" areas with what the author calls eco-turf, an ecological seed mix containing clover, that will provide excellent forage for my girls.
The color photos throughout the book are so lovely that I know I'll be keeping this book close at hand for the remainder of the winter, as I plan and dream about creating my own, beautiful chicken garden this spring!
109 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I thought I'd get a few ideas...this book is amazing Feb. 15 2012
By Chandler - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love to look through decorating books and magazines, gardening books and magazines, chicken books (yeah, I've even read a few chicken magazines too--for reals) and I tend to feel them "worth it" when I take away a few ideas. I expected the same from this having felt it a novel idea to have a beautiful chicken-friendly yard (seeing as how I'm nothing short of a chicken activist I'm so chicken friendly) I was wowed. I came away with SO much more than a few ideas.

This is not about simply making a yard friendly for hens. This is about having a gorgeous yard, with plants hens don't eat (and many they can!) that give your yard beauty and them shelter, having a yard that is stunning with beautiful coops, having a yard that is charming rather than barren...

This is not one family's ideas of how to combine free-range chickens, natural fertilizer, organic pest control, soil aeration, fresh eggs if ya want those too, and thriving gardens...this is actually pages and pages of photos and ideas of many homes, yards, and gardens that are easy to recreate and are truly a uptopia for both owner and the winged who share it. (And by "free range" I do not mean no coop. That would be cruel and the hens would likely not live a week. Night predators such as raccoons etc are no match for a sleeping hen and hens know this so at dusk each night they put themselves to bed in your coop and wait for you to lock the door. And they hate rain. Whether part-time free-range and safely tucked away at night, or free-range inside a pretty run full-time, this still means daytime only of course)

It's not easy to have a yard you want to wander through in beauty and hens who love to nibble sharing it. My side yard proves it. They love to hide under and not eat the Texas sage but I have barren areas of things they found far more palatable. And this isn't about someone who wants their chickens to wander and not care for shows beautiful chicken runs, it has truly valid advice on health and predators, and the very real danger of cedar few still know about that has been proven, and how to keep your hens protected in your yard whether truly free range all day and in a coop at night, or in a large run-- just thoroughly researched facts right along with hundreds of photos.

And I must say, I was convinced I'd built the most gorgeous and spacious run on the planet earth until I realized some in this book had me totally beat! I literally searched the internet for months trying to find ideas for coops and runs that looked pretty in the yard and found NO runs that I liked so I designed my own and I never thought anyone could integrate chicken living in an urban area better, but they did--in both urban and suburban and country. These yards are simple to do but breathtaking, coops, runs, plants and all!

While I thought I'd have a few good "takeaways" and ideas, I literally spent evenings combing through this and marking pages. I want a gorgeous yard but I want well protected hens, gorgeous coops that don't scream "farm", and the combo of the two that make anyone want to wander through a yard doubly charming by having all of the above (charming hens meet yard and garden and human utopia)

This book was on my "suggested" page from Amazon based upon other books I'd bought and, with only one other review at the time I bought it, I simply did not expect a book so thorough and full of great READING in addition to photos that make me want to visit the garden center, plan out a design, mark off paths, and enjoy the fact that it tells me how to easily do it all--even with diagrams and proper plant species for your area.

And yes, you can even have a veggie garden and hens that roam it!

And, should you know nothing about chickens, it even tells you great ones to pick-- And where to find everything else in the book too as far as seeds, nurseries, coops, (many of these coops are personally designed but easy to copy) other shelters etc

I especially loved one idea that was like an A-style frame on the ground with feeders on both sides (trough style, painted white) that the chickens could climb up but was perfect shelter from the sun and predators underneath yet attractive. I have two adirondack chairs that have horizontal slats that are painted bright colors the chickens adore and look cute in the yard...they climb up the foot rest base and sit all together on the chairs and arms and hide underneath...this was right along those lines. (I bought a kit for the chairs at Hobby Lobby in a box dirt cheap)

Fortunately the silkies were listed as a good suggested home garden hen because I consider them the best little beings God ever put a beak on.

Have kids and pets? It even suggests how to integrate them, not meaning sharing the coop or anything... It should be noted, however, that the #1 predator to chickens is family dogs. Not because they are mean or hungry, but like a dog getting into the trash, sometimes well trained dogs decide to give in to instinct and play or chase. But one clamp on a chicken and it's over for the hen.

There are walkways, gates, ramps, covered areas, flowers, composting bins, how to integrate chicken fertilizer into the garden to make it a circle of giving..., and garden ideas galore.

And the coops! My gosh, my dream coops they are so stunning! I thought MY coop was gorgeous and now I am going to totally redo it.

I totally stumbled upon this while I have no doubt my review makes it sound as though I wrote it myself and I am a pen name...but when I find anything, product or book so well done, I am a raving fan. The information in here will take me a long time to read through but it's all written so lighthearted and there are full color photos throughout...

More importantly, it is all things I saw NOWHERE on the internet and I cannot tell you the hours or weeks or, in all honesty, months I have spent looking.

This is chicken living for today--where they can integrate beautifully with beauty and never be housed cruelly in a tiny box just for egg production again and even make your yard more charming. Who knew there were so many plants that could assist in a charming chicken yard---where plants and hens are safe and gorgeous and you simply want to meander through and drink your coffee there daily. This was my goal for my yard but the vision here was far deeper.

My wheels are turning and my ideas are so greatly enhanced!

it's one of those books you flip through but then can't put down.

Note: Although the book discusses water features which hens like, if you have silkies, keep them away from ANY open water...because they do not have barbs in their feathers, water weighs them down if they enter it and they will drown. :-( If you want something they can cool off in, you can fill a kiddie pool just shallow enough so their feet get wet but they cannot drown. Their drinking bowls should be the ones with just rims sold specifically for this purpose, with no open water. I have personally seen chicken owners dispondant over a drowning.
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great pictures and helpful info! Feb. 15 2012
By Sarah M. Noggle - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm always cautious about ordering books that have only 1 or 2 reviews, but I ordered this one anyway. It is awesome! The pictures are gorgeous!

We just bought a small farm that has very little landscaping and this will be my guide. I like that this book is about designing the garden/yard from the beginning. It is written from the point of view of a gardener, who incorporates chicken keeping into the garden design, not a chicken person who manages to grow a few veggies on the side. I really want to get a few hens to help with garden pest control and composting, but I want my yard to be attractive too. This book shows you that this is possible. I love the garden layout ideas.

With all the animals we have here already, I like that she includes a section on keeping chickens with dogs, cats, horses, goats, etc. There is also a section on using other poultry and water fowl in the garden.

I also bought City Chicks, which is pretty good, but if I could buy just one book, Chicken Gardens would win hands down.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Think this book is about planning a garden to specially suit your chickens' needs? Think again. Feb. 20 2013
By Jennifer L. Myers - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has pretty pictures; that is the book's only positive trait. The book has numerous flaws, which have been covered by other reviewers. However, other reviewers haven't discussed the problem I had with this book: a severe lack of focus.

Instead of focusing on the book's supposed subject--"How to Create a Beautiful Chicken-Friendly Yard"-- the author apparently decided she would rather superficially talk about many, MANY other topics. They include:

1. Coop design (lots of pretty pictures, only one "how to do this" plan with measurements)
2. Predator descriptions and deterrent methods (Mostly accurate info, but why is this discussed in a garden design book?)
3. How to pick chicken breeds (In every basic chicken keeping book in the world--why waste valuable space in this supposedly specialized book with a rehash of that same information??)
4. How to clip a chicken's wings, etc. (What does this have to do with garden design? The author may have her reasons, but doesn't explain them.)
5. A brief rundown of other poultry types, including turkeys, geese, and ducks. (Huh?? Why are ducks discussed in a book that is supposed to be about chickens??)
6. She wraps up the book by listing common chicken diseases and parasites. (?!?)

I have had my chickens for almost 2 years and own many basic chicken keeping books; I didn't need another one. What I DID need was tips on how to incorporate my chickens into a garden--what plants to avoid, what plants they'd love, what plants would benefit from the extra nitrogen from chicken poop. Unfortunately, there is very little information of this sort included in the book, and what little there is is VERY difficult to find, even if using the index.

In addition to all the unnecessary and unwanted basic chicken keeping advice, the author decided to include basic gardening and composting advice--again, losing focus of what this book is supposed to be about. This book reminds me of a high school freshman's first English essay: cluttered, unfocused, and ultimately unhelpful.

If you're actually interested in what the book claims to be about--successfully incorporating poultry into a holistic garden design--a better choice would be "The Small Scale Poultry Flock", by Harvey Ussery.

However, if you're just interested in a cute coffee table book, I suppose this may fit your needs.
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